July 24, 2008

Rochester, Minn., Parents Express Concerns About New School Boundaries

By Elliot Mann, Post-Bulletin, Rochester, Minn.

Jul. 23--While discussing new elementary school boundaries, area parents voiced concern about what will happen to their students already enrolled in the district.

Rochester's Attendance Boundary Adjustment Committee solicited community input Tuesday night, with a smattering of parents turning out at the Edison Administration building. The new guidelines are needed with the planned construction of an elementary school in northwest Rochester, tentatively named after George W. Gibbs Jr.

With families entrenched in certain schools, the process can sometimes take a contentious turn, with many reluctant to change where their children learn their ABCs. However, that dissension has been absent from the task force's meetings so far.

The committee will take the comments expressed and try to incorporate them into the development of new boundaries, said Phil Wheeler of the Rochester-Olmsted County Planning Department, who also acts as the task force's facilitator. At this point, the committee has not finalized any boundary recommendations, but will look to do so with two meetings in August, he said.

Alison Bruce, a parent of three children in Rochester public schools, recalled when her children switched schools during the last widespread district boundary shift in 2002. She hopes that her 9-year-old will be able to study at the same schools as her other two children have, ages 14 and 17.

"I'm not happy anticipating another change," Bruce said.

Sarah Myren doesn't have kids enrolled in Rochester schools yet, but in 2009-2010 -- when the boundaries take hold -- she'll have a kindergartner at his first day of school. While there "isn't a big buzz now" with parents she talks to, Myren is interested in how the district will sort out the removal of a boundary with Longfellow Elementary.

Other parents and district staff spoke of the possibility that Rochester will be looking at similar issues in the somewhat near future. The Rochester-Olmsted County Planning Department estimates that 193,000 people will live in the county by 2040, with Rochester having a population of 152,800 at that time.

The Attendance Boundary Adjustment Committee will meet twice in August to finalize new enrollment guidelines. The meetings, open to the public, will be on Aug. 12 and Aug. 26. Both meetings are set for 7 p.m. at the Edison Administration building.


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