Elementary school boundary changes approved
New plan for Shawnee Mission schools goes into effect next year
Hundreds of Shawnee area elementary school students will be affected by significant boundary changes, which go into effect for the 2018-2019 school year.
During a special meeting on Thursday afternoon, the Shawnee Mission School Board approved Plan A, the district’s initial set of boundary changes, which affect several nearby elementary schools.
A second set of changes called Plan B, which was proposed by the district a couple weeks ago, was criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas for having the potential to “increase racial segregation” at Rising Star Elementary in Lenexa.
In a letter sent to the school board, Chief Counsel and Legal Director Doug Bonney stated Plan B would increase minority students at Rising Star from 54 percent to 63 percent, while demographics in other schools in the plan would change by no more than 3 percent.
Ultimately, the school board voted 5-2 to adopt Plan A, citing it was the best fit to meet the district’s goals.
Board members Patty Mach and Brad Stratton were the dissenting votes.
Mach, who at the May 22 school board meeting expressed concerns with Plan A, which eventually resulted in the creation of Plan B, told the board she still had her reservations.
Although the outcome wasn’t the one she hoped, Mach said she is optimistic.
“I know that no matter what happens, our students will be taken care of,” she said. “Our students are resilient and they will adapt.”
The boundary changes were initially proposed to address overcrowding at some schools, while using other school facilities that are under capacity.
They also address new construction of homes and apartments that will increase the student population. They also address the construction of a new elementary school, Lenexa Hills.
At the meeting, a few school board members expressed sympathy to parents regarding the boundary changes.
Board member Donna Bysfield told parents in the audience that the transition is difficult until the family begins to really belong to the new school.
“Boundary changes, like school closings, are never easy,” she said.
Her sentiments were echoed by board member Cindy Neighbor.
She thanked the community for the hundreds of emails outlining concerns and she also thanked the district’s administration for all the time and hard work they put into the changes.
Mach told administrators she was also appreciative of all the public meetings they held in regards to the changes.
She was also moved by the passion displayed among the families in the district.
“I really appreciate parents who advocate for their children,” she said. “I think that is a very high calling and that’s what you’re supposed to be doing.”
To see the details of Plan A, visit smsd.org.