By Emily Younker
About 200 elementary school students in Joplin could be affected next school year by a proposal to redraw the district’s attendance zones to balance school enrollments.
The plan, presented Tuesday to members of the Board of Education, also would affect where some elementary students attend middle school.
Jason Cravens, the district’s director of instructional services, said the overall goals of redrawing the boundaries included balancing enrollment numbers at the middle schools while freeing space at crowded elementary schools, and keeping neighborhoods together.
“It wasn’t something we took lightly,” he said. “We understand that redistricting affects families and kids and lives.”
Cravens, who led a committee of parents and school principals in creating the plan, said redistricting became necessary after the May 2011 tornado, which destroyed several schools and thousands of homes.
Under the proposal, all elementary students who lost their schools in the storm would attend their newly rebuilt schools. Emerson and Irving students will attend the new Irving School on McClelland Boulevard; students from Duenweg and Duquesne schools will attend the new elementary school adjacent to East Middle School on East 20th Street.
Additionally, some of the existing elementary school boundaries are to be redrawn to help ease overcrowding at schools already stretched to capacity, such as Cecil Floyd and Stapleton, and to free space at schools located in the tornado zone where growth is expected, such as Kelsey Norman and the new East elementary, Cravens said.
The redrawn boundaries, which dictate the schools that students attend based on their addresses, would mean that:
• 24 students from Jefferson would be moved to Columbia.
• 28 students from Cecil Floyd would be moved to Irving.
• 22 students from Stapleton would be moved to Irving.
• 84 students from McKinley would be moved to the elementary school at East.
• 47 students from Royal Heights would be moved to McKinley.
Affected students in kindergarten through fourth grade will have the option of remaining in their current schools, Cravens said, but transportation will not be provided by the district.
The plan also would change the middle schools into which four elementary schools currently feed students. Under the proposal, Cecil Floyd students would attend North instead of South; Royal Heights students would attend East instead of North; Kelsey Norman students would attend South instead of East; and Emerson students (as a result of being combined with Irving students) would attend South instead of North.
Cravens said those changes are necessary to balance enrollment at the schools. He said South Middle School in particular — already the largest of the three middle schools — would not be able to handle additional students from the combined Irving-Emerson school on top of taking in students from Cecil Floyd and Stapleton, the largest elementary schools.
Currently, South Middle School has an enrollment of 648 students, compared with 472 students at East and 572 students at North.
Under the proposal, East — based on current student enrollment — would have 487 students during the 2013-14 academic year and 500 students during the 2014-15 academic year. North would have 602 students and then 575 students, while South would have 630 students and 585 students during those two years, respectively.
Any current middle school students will not be affected by the changes, Cravens said. This year’s fifth-graders will attend their new middle school — unless they have a sibling who attends their current middle school, in which case they also could attend the current school, he said.
Board members on Tuesday said the plan is necessary, but they acknowledged that some parents might not be happy with it.
“We know there are going to be issues out there,” said Randy Steele, president of the board. “We know there are going to be a lot of concerns out there.”
Said member Michael D. Landis: “This is never an easy task when you talk about redistricting.”
The plan is scheduled to come before the school board on Feb. 26 for final approval.
THE JOPLIN BOARD OF EDUCATION on Tuesday approved a bid of $8.7 million from P1 Group, which has a Joplin branch, for electrical work at the new Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center.