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Farmington boundary proposals cause concern

Concerns about divided neighborhoods, service levels, even the abilities of schools to raise money came up last week when the Farmington School District brought its plan for new attendance boundaries to the public.

The district is looking at three plans to adjust its boundaries starting in the 2014-15 school year. The changes are necessary in part because attendance is unbalanced at several elementary schools — North Trail Elementary is currently at 105 percent of its capacity while Meadowview and Riverview elementary schools are both at 89 percent of capacity — and in part because the district needs to create space for the introduction of an expanded all-day kindergarten program starting next year.

An attendance area change committee has put together three options for the board to consider. It also conducted an online survey to get feedback from residents.

Much of the discussion at a Nov. 13 meeting to discuss those options focused on students who live on Camden Path, Camden Court and Camden Circle. Under all three options, the 37 elementary school students in that area would move from Farmington Elementary to Riverview. But parents argued the new boundaries divide the neighborhood in ways that do not make sense.

Parent Janee Rivard-Johnson said all three plans would “segregate and isolate” those students from others they would go to school with. All of the other Riverview students live on the other side of County Road 66 and Highway 3, she pointed out.

“They are not within their community,” Rivard-Johnson said. “I wouldn’t let my kids cross Highway 66 or Highway 3 to play with their friends. They would never be able to play with their friends from school.”

North Trail principal Steven Geis said part of the attendance committee’s job was to figure out how to use the extra space at Riverview Elementary, which was built as a middle school and is larger than the district’s other elementary schools.

Ultimately, district representatives said it would be impossible to make changes without impacting neighborhoods.

“There is going to be a neighborhood that is broken up. There’s going to be an area that’s pulled out and pulled into another school,” said Tom Severson, manager of Marshall Lines, the company that provides the district’s buses. “Regardless of how you do it, there’s going to be an area that’s impacted.”

Other parents at the Nov. 13 meeting, the first of three the district scheduled to discuss the boundary changes, were worried about other issues. Some were concerned the shift of families from one school to another would move busy fundraising parents from one school to another. Others raised concerns about watered-down services.

Most were concerned about whether the proposed changes would last long-term, or whether the district would be back in four or five years making adjustments again.

District administrators didn’t make any promises about the longevity of the changes. After several years with little growth, construction is kicking back into gear in the city, and schools that had seen drops in attendance are filling up again.

“Attendance area changes aren’t easy on us,” said Jane Houska, who led the boundary change effort for the district. “It’s a lot of effort, a lot of concern.”

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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