Stop the redistricting of Great Falls Schools
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The Great Falls School Board has moved forward with meetings intended to redistrict many of the Great Falls schools including the elementary, middle schools and high schools. The district hired an out of state company, Cropper GIS, to compile a study on school safety, geographic boundaries (such as busy roads and rivers), overcrowding of schools, transportation and socioeconomic diversity when proposing initial maps and options. The school board also appointed a small committee "study team" composed of community members to discuss and propose changes. The initial meeting for the committee began September 11th 2017 and it has since engaged in minimal public discourse other than the Great Falls Public School's website in which the public can write and submit comments.
The school district claims overcrowding is an issue currently affecting several schools and causes the need for change however, in the executive summary of the demographic study by Cropper GIS it states in #6 "the elementary enrollment will begin a very small but consistent decline after 2018-19 school years". Currently we are at 5,818 students in K-6 and by 2026 we will be at 5,583. So why redistrict for overcrowding if we are heading for a decline? Or why not move our 6th graders to junior high if overcrowding in the elementary schools is of great concern?
There will be no final answer on whether permissive transfers will be granted or whether students will be grandfathered into the school they are currently attending until the boundaries have already been decided by the school board. Parents used to have the option under Title 1 No Child Left Behind Act to move their children from low performing Title 1 schools (Great Falls unfortunately has several that do not meet the Annual Yearly Progress) to higher performing schools within the district. However, this option will most likely change with the new Every Child Succeeds Act. tax paying parents could be forced to put their children in consistently VERY LOW performing schools simply based upon their residence and be given no other options except private schooling. Unfortunately this negatively affects many families that intentionally purchased homes or took up residence in boundaries within their school of choice and are now being forcibly redistricted to lower performing schools in which they never intended to send their children when purchasing their home.
Thus far MAJOR changes have been proposed in the district's boundary options and the changes have often contradicted the initial reasons for redistricting such as "safety". One example of the changes include the latest options for Belview Palisades (behind Home Depot) this neighborhood's children are proposed to be moved from the Meadowlark Elementary to West Elementary. These students would be transported across major highways and forced to travel greater distances. How is this safe? A couple of the "study team" committee members claim this is an effort to promote socioeconomic diversity. But contrary to their stated commitment to "socioeconomic diversity" lets look at downtown...
For years a pocket of the downtowns (lower socioeconomic) students have been transported via bus to Lincoln Elementary (a higher performing AYP school) in an effort to create greater socioeconomic diversity. These students have thrived with this integration, however with the proposed redistricting these students will be reassigned to Whittier a consistently poor performing school, stopping the socioeconomic diversity integration that has successfully been in place for a decade. One proposed option will bring all the Black Eagle children to Whittier, this will further increase Whittier's enrollment with no discussion on additional resources to help with such an influx, this appears catastrophic to an already burdened school and creates a larger lower socioeconomic boundary in downtown. Again a contradiction to the district's commitment to helping socioeconomic diversity throughout the district.
In closing the redistricting creates pockets of lower socioeconomic areas and does little to strengthen schools such as Whittier that clearly need additional support. It moves students from Belview across dangerous interstates and many miles from their homes. It claims overcrowding is a concern yet projections show a decrease in elementary enrollments over the next few years. These are only a few examples of issues and inconsistencies with the districts plans, please consider signing this petition and say NO to redistricting our schools.
Also please be aware that even if you don't have children affected by the redistricting it could AFFECT HOME VALUES and neighborhoods cohesion. If you don't feel comfortable signing the petition please consider making a comment on the website
Or attend one of the upcoming meetings:
Study Team Meeting #4 - November 28th, 2017 - 6 - 8 PM - Aspen
Study Team Forum - December 12th, 2017 6-7:30 PM - Paris Gibson Cafeteria
Study Team Meeting #5 - January 9th, 2018 - 6 - 8 PM - Aspen
Study Team Meeting #6 - January 30th, 2018 - 6 - 8 PM - Aspen
Study Team Report of Options to the Board - February 12, 2018 - 5:30 PM - Aspen Conference Room
Board Vote - March 2018
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