FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — As Northwest Allen County Schools (NACS) gets ready to add another school to their district, they are re-evaluating how to divide students up.
Aspen Meadow Elementary School is set to open up this fall, and so for the first time since 2008 the district is trying to figure out how they are going to divide up the houses in their district. Focus groups involving NACS parents and students came up with three options to alleviate overcrowding in the schools. Now, the district is holding meetings to discuss the maps, referred to as Option Circle, Option Triangle, and Option Square, with parents to get feedback before they pick one.
Superintendent Chris Himsel said the major question was whether to move students from the western part of the Huntertown area to Aspen Meadow or to move students from the east side of the school district. Both sections are currently dealing with over crowding issues. The school currently has six portable classrooms around the district to alleviate the problem Perry Hill and Huntertown Elementary Schools.
Depending on which one the school board picks in the end, 15 to 20 percent of students will be switching schools. Himsel said it is good that the majority of students will be unaffected and that they expect there to be some unease with parents whose children will be transferred to different schools.
Option Triangle would see the most students moving schools with an estimated 20 percent that would be affected among the seven current elementary schools. Option Square would have the smallest impact with 15 percent of students transferred to other schools.
The district is hoping to keep neighborhoods and subdivisions as intact and together as possible, but some will have to be split in the end. The Windsor Woods subdivision, which is located off of Lima Road, will almost definitely be switching over to Hickory Center Elementary School. Himsel said the school had 77 open spaces and Windsor Woods currently has 75 elementary students.
That neighborhood has been switched in the past and was originally in Hickory Center’s attendance map. Parents from that subdivision who were at the meeting were concerned about their students who will be going into their last year of elementary school being separated from the friends they have developed in their current schools. Several of the parents said that they had also established a relationship in the school as active members of the Parent-Teacher Association and were concerned what moving schools would mean for that.
Himsel said they expected there to be some unhappy families but also that it is an unavoidable step for the district as it grows. Since the last time the school district changed attendance maps, Himsel said the district has grown by around 1,600 students. Part of the challenge is trying to predict the future.
“There are so many subdivisions being developed at this time so because of that I don’t think anyone in the community wants to come back and revisit this conversation in one or two years,” said Himsel. “They did try to come up with several options that hopefully will get us several years down the road before we have to come back and revisit.”
Himsel said the bright side of the situation is that it shows parents are happy with their current NACS elementary schools. He hopes that enthusiasm will transfer with the students starting as Aspen Meadow in the fall.
“We’re blessed to have seven great schools and as soon as we open Aspen Meadow I’m sure we’re going to have eight great schools for our parents to choose from,” said Himsel. “The good news is, our parents really love the school that they’re in now and they really feel connected and they would like to keep their child there. That’s the good news, and I have confidence that for that small number of kids that are going to go to a new school, that they’ll be able to adapt into that culture, or if they’re at Aspen Meadow, create a new culture.”
The next meetings will be:
- Friday, January 24: 9 – 10:00 a.m. at Carroll High School in conference room, enter door 1
- Saturday, January 25: 9 – 10:00 a.m. at NACS board room at Perry Hill, enter door 3
- Tuesday, January 28: 3:15 p.m. – 4:15 p.m. Oak View cafeteria
- Friday, January 31: 12 – 1:00 p.m. at NACS board room at Perry Hill, enter door 3
- Monday, February 3: 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. at Cedar Canyon Elementary cafeteria
- Tuesday, February 4 : 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. at Arcola Elementary cafeteria
- Tuesday, February 4: 7 – 8:00 p.m. at Huntertown Elementary cafeteria
The school is also accepting online feedback submissions for anyone who is unable to make the meetings. It is the same form they hand out at the meetings.
Himsel said the school board is planning on voting on it on February 10 because they understand that families want to know their future as soon as possible. Once the 2020-2021 school year starts and the district has a solid number of how many students are in their schools, they will open up discussion on the middle school attendance maps.