Boundary changes draw concerns
Parents respond to a proposed new outline for SMSD schools
At a public meeting last week, parents had a chance to sound off on proposed boundary changes that will affect several Shawnee elementary schools in the Shawnee Mission School District.
The district proposed the boundary changes to address overcrowding at some schools, while utilizing others which may be under capacity.
If passed by the board of education this summer, the changes will go into effect for the 2018-19 school year.
Students will have the choice, however, to switch schools for the 2017-18 school year if they wish.
All 2018-19 sixth-grade students will be able to remain in their 2017-18 attendance boundary, but no transportation will be provided.
On April 11 at Shawnee Mission Northwest High School, hundreds of concerned and inquisitive parents showed up at the meeting to learn more about the potential boundary shifts.
Maps and poster boards revealed the changes. Principals from the affected elementary schools were on hand to greet parents. District officials scattered throughout the open forum to answer questions and alleviate concerns.
One of the most popular sections of the meeting room was centered on Benninghoven Elementary School, 6720 Caenen Ave.
Shawnee parent Chuck Pewe has a son who is supposed to attend kindergarten at Benninghoven in August, but the proposed boundary changes will place him at Christa McAuliffe, 15600 W. 83rd St, Lenexa, a year later.
“It (McAuliffe) seems like a nice school,” Pewe said. “My only concern is that the boundaries don’t change again in the near future, so he doesn’t have to switch schools once he starts. I want his education to be consistent.”
A couple district officials at the meeting assured him he shouldn’t be concerned.
For Shawnee mom Lucy Yearout, the proposed boundary changes will affect her two young daughters in an indirect way.
Her family lives in the Benninghoven area and the changes will keep them, and a small portion of their block, in that school.
But the rest of their neighborhood is being switched to Christa McAuliffe.
“They (my daughters) will have a lot of neighborhood friends who will be going to a different school,” Yearout said. “I understand why they need to make these changes, but the way they’re doing it is disappointing because I thought they wanted to keep neighborhoods together.”
Another popular focal point at the meeting was the new Lenexa Hills Elementary on the northwest corner of West 87th and Haven streets in Lenexa.
Shawnee mom Erin Aldridge said that currently her children are in the Christa McAuliffe boundary, but if the changes go through, they’ll be attending Lenexa Hills.
She told the Dispatch she would prefer her kids to stay at Christa McAuliffe.
“McAuliffe has the capacity to handle incoming students from Benninghoven and keep us as well,” she said. “I just feel like they’re trying to fill up the new elementary school.”
To attend the new elementary school, her kids route will take them across I-435 and Shawnee Mission Park, which she finds very inconvenient.
Also, they miss the cut-off for bus service to Lenexa Hills by a hair.
The proposed changes are disheartening to Aldridge who said her family moved to Shawnee after her husband left the military.
“We’ve been nomadic for a long time and we wanted stability for our kids,” she said. “This is our school home and we spend our time and money on our school and now it feels like we’re getting kicked out. My daughter will have to leave her friends.”
Despite her frustration, Aldridge hopes district officials value parents’ input.
A couple of them told the Dispatch they are taking the feedback seriously.
“What they have to say is very important because we know maps and numbers, but they know the neighborhood,” said SMSD superintendent Jim Hinson. “People love their school and change is hard. It’s an emotional experience, which is why having their opinion is so vital.”
Deputy Superintendent Kenny Southwick agreed.
“We would not take three hours out of our time if this feedback wasn’t very important to us,” he said. “The reality is we can’t make everyone happy. All we can do is try to make the best decisions possible.”
After the meeting, district officials planned to study the feedback for consistent concerns.
They will do the same after the next public forum, which is scheduled for 6-7:30 p.m. May 3 at Shawnee Mission West High School, 8800 W. 85th St, Overland Park.
A final boundary recommendation will be presented to the school board for a vote at the May 22 meeting.
The boundary changes will affect the following elementary schools: Broken Arrow, Christa McAuliffe, Lenexa Hills, Mill Creek, Rhein Benninghoven, Rising Star, Shawanoe, Sunflower, East Antioch and Overland Park.
Here is a look at how the changes will affect Shawnee:
Broken Arrow students living in Red Oak Hills will move to Lenexa Hills. Currently there are approximately 21 students living in this section.
The area will remain in the Shawnee Mission Northwest area feeder pattern for middle and high schools.
There are currently 439 students at Broken Arrow. Under the boundary changes, that number would drop to 417.
Rhein Benninghoven students living from 71st to Blackfish Parkway, between Pflumm and Lackman, will move to Christa McAuliffe. Currently there are around 83 students living in this section.
These students will remain in the Shawnee Mission Northwest feeder pattern.
Christa McAuliffe students living in Forest Park Estates will move to Lenexa Hills. Currently there are approximately 27 students living in that area.
McAuliffe currently has 394 students. Upon the change, it would have 451.
Lenexa Hills is a new elementary school set for the northwest corner of West 87th and Haven Streets in Lenexa.
The school, which will be part of the Shawnee Mission West high school attendance area, will feature a district-level special education program and a Pre-kindergarten program.
Sunflower students living west of I-435, from 103rd Street to Midland Drive, will move to Lenexa Hills. There are approximately 165 students in this area.
Broken Arrow students living in Red Oaks Hills will move to Lenexa Hills. There are currently 21 students living in this section.
The area will remain in the Shawnee Mission Northwest feeder pattern.
Christa McAuliffe students living in Forest Park Estates will move to Lenexa Hills. Currently there are 27 students living in this area.
If the boundary proposal goes through, Lenexa Hills is anticipated to have more than 197 students.
Rhein Benninghoven students living from 71st Street to Blackfish Parkway, between Pflumm Road and Westglen Lane, will move to Mill Creek. Currently there are approximately 17 students living in this area.
Shawanoe students living west of Quivira will move to Mill Creek. Currently, there are around 74 students living in this section.
Students from both of these areas will remain in the Shawnee Mission Northwest feeder pattern.
Mill Creek currently has 374 students and after the change, would have 464.
With the upheaval of students sent to Mill Creek and Christa McAuliffe, Rhein Benninghoven’s student population will drop from 567 to 467.
Rising Star students living in The Meadows Apartments from 76th to 77th, between Quivira and Monrovia, will move to Shawanoe. Currently, there are 85 students living in this section.
These students will remain in the Shawnee Mission Northwest feeder pattern.
Shawanoe currently has 500 students. After the change, it would have 510.
For more on the boundary changes, or to see maps, visit www.smsd.org.
To offer feedback on the proposed changes, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org oar attend the May 3 meeting at SM West.