An independent demographer tonight presented to a Rockford School Board committee the first draft of new attendance zones for elementary schools. Robert Schwarz of RSP and Associates presented the draft to the Facilities Oversight Committee. New elementary zones need to be drawn in the Rockford Public Schools because of natural population shifts and changes under the 10-year facilities plan, which includes the potential construction of two new schools, plus 13 additions and closure of eight schools. The draft plan redraws the 26 existing elementary attendance zone boundaries into 21 zones.
RSP and Associates, which specializes in school planning, was hired in December 2014, the month after the School Board approved the construction timeline for the district’s 10-year facilities plan. It’s common for school districts to hire such firms when redrawing attendance zones and for long-term planning. Demographers are experts in how families relocate and how population shifts occur.
The new zones will be implemented in a staggered fashion over the next five years; full timelines will be available for families at registration for the 2015-16 school year. At that time, parents will learn which zone they live in and what changes to expect in the coming years, including elementary school upgrades. Administrators will also work with building principals to schedule school community meetings to discuss the rollout. Zones for the middle and high schools will remain the same.
The plans and maps presented tonight are preliminary. Changes could be made before the School Board approves the zones in July. The full board is expected to consider the draft plan at its next meeting June 23 in the third floor board room at the Administration Building, 501 Seventh St. A vote is expected at the board’s July 14 meeting.
Elementary student assignment plans were last updated for the 2011-12 school year. The assignment plan then moved from a modified choice plan to attendance based on geographic zones so students attend a school closest to their home. The new zones also take into account students who walk to school, bus routes, and enrollment in specialized programs.
Additional details of note:
- All schools will remain open for the 2015-16 academic year. Building closures will begin the following academic year.
- Students and staff will not move during the school year. All moves or changes will happen during the summer break. The first move because of building closures will happen in summer 2016. The facilities plan – including school closures and staff/student moves – will not disrupt the learning environment.
- When possible, staff will move into buildings with the students they’re working with now. The Administration is working with the Rockford Education Association to ensure staff and students will stay together.
- The timeline the School Board approved in November includes closing Walker, King, Nelson, Kishwaukee, Dennis, Cherry Valley, Thompson and White Swan schools. Marsh Elementary School will eventually house the district’s Maria Montessori program, and students at Washington Academy will move to the former Maria Montessori building.
- New construction could replace a few consolidated schools, pending board approval: Students in the Kishwaukee and Nelson zones could consolidate into one new elementary school building. Students in the White Swan, Cherry Valley and Thompson zones could consolidate into a second new elementary school building. Nashold and Beyer – currently elementary schools – will become Early Childhood centers. (Fairview and Summerdale Early Childhood centers will remain.)
- The Rockford School Board will decide whether students will be grandfathered into the new zones; this might be addressed on a case-by-case basis, depending on building capacity. Grandfathering means, if there is building capacity to allow it, a student could continue attending a school he/she is currently enrolled through elementary school, even if his/her neighborhood school changes, based on the new attendance zones.
For more information, visit our construction website.
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