Proposed Hutchinson school boundaries move hundreds of students

Hutchinson Board of Education (KSN File Photo)

HUTCHINSON, Kansas – UPDATE: The elementary school boundaries in Hutchinson will soon change. On Tuesday, parents and community members sounded off on the proposals as district leaders explained why the changes are necessary.

Close to 70 people with a stake in the future of Hutchinson elementary schools showed up to the meeting to look over the two options. Parents and kids both enrolled, and not yet ready for elementary school, were on hand as district leaders showed the maps and discussed the pros and cons of each proposal.

Rachel Kammerer clearly supports one plan over the other. She says she lives 8 blocks from her child’s current school, but under one proposal that distance will increase.

“About double the distance and totally unfeasible of a walk because it’s across major streets,” she explained.

The first option will impact just more than 300 students. The second plan impacts closer to 530 students. Both plans are intended to address concerns of classroom sizes, involving moving students into schools with more classroom space to spare in the south side of the city while freeing up crowded classrooms on the city’s north side.

Parent Jacob Hood says there are flaws in both plans.

“I don’t know if it’s going to really change anything over time because a lot of people just lie or find a way to get the kids into the school they want them to go to anyway.,” Hood said.

Superintendent Shelly Kiblinger said the boundary changes are necessary to save the district money. She says with declining enrollment some of the district buildings aren’t being used to their full capacity. Kiblinger is hearing concerns from a lot of parents and says she’s working on ways to make it easier on the hundreds of families affected.

“How do we make people feel like the new school is good it’ll be a good place for their school do we have some open houses some tours what can we do the spring to help use those stresses of the transition,” Kiblinger.

District leaders say time is on their side as parents will have several months after a decision is made to adjust to the new boundaries. They expect to make a decision by Christmas. The changes go into effect for the 2016-17 school year. there are no more planned public meetings on this topic.

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Parents and community members will get the opportunity to voice their opinion on proposed boundary maps for elementary school students in Hutchinson Tuesday evening.

The school board expects to establish the new boundaries in December for the 2016-2017 school year.

“One of the criteria of the board is to impact the fewest number of students possible, but at the same time, they want boundaries that will last,” said USD 308 superintendent Dr. Shelly Kiblinger. “We don’t want to redrawing boundaries again in another two years. We want to give stability to students going forward.”

McCandless Elementary school will be losing one of their three sections of K-6th graders. Kiblinger says the change would let them get rid of seven teacher positions through attrition, saving $350,000 a necessary move for the district going forward.

“We’re doing it because we have to. As we look forward financial needs that the district has, we know that there won’t be any any money coming to us, it looks like next year, to help keep up with inflationary pressures on the district,” Kiblinger said.

There are two other major issues the district is dealing with: a decline in enrollment that is expected to continue and an imbalance in classroom size. However, no matter how parents feel about the changes, officials say they’re necessary.

One of the biggest differences with this redrawing of boundaries is that there are no guarantees that students will be able to stay in their preferred schools.

“This is very different from any redrawing of boundaries that this community has done in the past, in that, we’re reducing the number of sections. So to be able to say, well we’ll just grandfather students in, that likely won’t be able to happen.”

For more information and to look at the maps, click here.

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