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Land swap means some students will attend Freeman schools

The Central Valley School District and Freeman School District have agreed to swap a small piece of land containing a handful of homes on a ridge at the end of Jackson Road. CV students who live in that area will join the Freeman School District.

Palomino Estates resident Phyllis Harrington launched the petition drive to switch school districts even though her son graduated several years ago. “There’s no Central Valley bus that comes up here,” she said. “I don’t know why it wasn’t done a long, long time ago.”

A Freeman bus already goes up the ridge, where houses across the street from each other are in different school districts. Where the bus turns around is actually in the CV district. The only way for parents to get down from the small development is to drive several miles south to connect to Highway 27, then north to Central Valley. While en route, they come within a couple miles of Freeman schools.

“Why should our tax money go to CV when we don’t really have the availability to get there?” Harrington asked.

Harrington’s son, like many who live on the ridge, attended Freeman schools through the district’s choice option. But the choicing-in process must be repeated every year, and there’s no guarantee a student will be accepted. Harrington said she knows of one family that tried repeatedly to send their child to Freeman schools, but weren’t allowed because that particular grade was full.

Freeman has been reducing the number of choice students, said district Superintendent Sergio Hernandez. “As our classrooms fill up, we’re limiting the number of choice students,” he said. “In some grades we have wait lists.”

Harrington, who works for Windermere Real Estate, was tired of explaining to people looking at homes in the area that they weren’t in the Freeman district. She asked her neighbors if they were interested in signing a petition to switch districts.

“I think it’s just the right thing to do,” she said. “Everybody that wanted to be in it signed the petition and got in it.”

Hernandez said letting the dozen or so homes join the district just made sense. The bus route won’t have to change and it seemed silly to have next-door neighbors in different districts. “When people see it, they understand,” he said.

The land swap has been approved by both school boards and will go to the Educational Service District for final approval. If OK’d, it won’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2009.

The move won’t affect tax money collected in Central Valley, said Jan Hutton, the school district’s executive director of finance. “We place flat amounts on the tax rolls every year,” she said. “That’s divided among all the property value of the district. It doesn’t impact negatively or positively the tax money collected in either district.”

The loss of so few homes in the populous Central Valley district will only result in a tax increase of four tenths of a penny, Hutton said. That works out to 80 cents per year on a $200,000 home. Since Freeman is more sparsely populated, the addition of new homes means that the tax rate will drop $9.76 per year on a home valued at $200,000.

“There’s minimal costs involved,” Hernandez said. “Most of the cost will be in creating new maps.”

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