Emotions ran high this week as parents, some in tears, protested the Coeur d’Alene School District’s proposal to redraw attendance boundaries next school year at elementary and middle schools.
At a public forum Tuesday evening at Lake City High School, parents complained that the proposal would uproot children, cause transportation problems, split up neighborhoods and decrease property values.
“It’s the friendships and stability that build confidence in our children,” said Annetta Michaels, adding that her elementary-age child struggled with switching schools three years ago. “There must be another answer. It’s hard on our kids.”
The boundary adjustments are meant to prevent overcrowding, especially in the northwest portion of the district, and reduce forced transfers in the coming years.
This is the second time since spring 2006 that enrollment zones will be modified to balance the lopsided student populations in the north and south sides of town. The proposed changes affect 369 elementary and 54 middle school kids, according to the district.
Since October, the attendance zone committee has met seven times to hammer out a recommendation, said committee chairman Sam Hunter. The committee, which includes parent representatives from each school, considered factors such as demographics, growth patterns, stability for the long-term, transportation issues and fiscal concerns.
“Changes are difficult, and we want you to know that we don’t make these decisions lightly,” said Lynn Vershum, the parent representative from Skyway Elementary.
The attendance zone committee will meet this Tuesday to discuss parents’ oral and written comments. The committee plans to give a recommendation in March to the school board, which has final approval.
If the number and location of schools don’t change in the coming years, another boundary modification likely will be necessary, committee members said. The school district is asking voters this spring to approve a school construction levy, but the district can’t play the “what-if game,” Hunter said.
Parent Lisa Aitken told the committee she understands the growing pains the district is experiencing. But she worries about the devaluing of her home in Dalton Gardens, losing a sense of community and the effect on her elementary-age child.
“I can adapt to change. I read ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ or whatever that book is called,” she said. “But kids haven’t read that book.”
Woodland Middle School student Marissa McPherson told the committee that she is upset about getting bused to Lakes Middle School, especially because of her involvement in after-school activities.
Woodland is less than a mile from her home, and she often walks back after volleyball practice, she said.
“Lakes is four miles,” she said, “and all those crazy streets.”