By Emily Younker
Fourteen people — mostly parents whose children attend Cecil Floyd Elementary — spoke Monday on a proposal to redraw school attendance zones during a public hearing held by the Joplin Board of Education at the administration building.
Many voiced their unhappiness that their children would attend a different middle school under the proposal, while others called for a slower, more community-oriented approach to the procedure of redrawing district boundaries.
One parent, Neal Smith, whose children attend Cecil Floyd and South Middle School, said he does not favor the redistricting proposal.
“Is this really worth causing more change and emotional uprooting for our area who has been affected in such a way by the tornado, and now we’re going to go ahead and move all our kids?” he said. “My kids love our schools, and we don’t want to go anywhere.”
Administrators have said the plan was spurred by the consolidation of several schools after the May 2011 tornado as well as the post-storm population shift in the city. They also have said the changes are an attempt to balance enrollment, particularly among the middle schools; to ease overcrowding in schools already filled to capacity; to free space at schools located in the tornado zone, where growth is anticipated; and to balance percentages of students eligible for free and reduced-rate lunches.
The redrawn boundaries, which dictate the schools that students attend based on their addresses, would mean that 24 elementary students from Jefferson School would be moved to Columbia School; 28 students from Cecil Floyd and 22 students from Stapleton School would be moved to Irving School; 84 students from McKinley School would be moved to the elementary school at East Middle School; and 47 students from Royal Heights School would be moved to McKinley.
The plan also would change the middle schools into which four elementary schools currently feed students. Cecil Floyd students would attend North Middle School instead of South Middle School; Royal Heights students would attend East instead of North; students at Kelsey Norman School would attend South instead of East; and Emerson School students, combined with Irving School students, would attend South instead of North.
The plan was drafted by a committee of administrators, principals and parents and was unveiled earlier this month. Parents with students in the affected areas were notified by letter earlier this month.
Many of the parents who spoke publicly Monday on the redistricting plan said they were unhappy that their children, mostly Cecil Floyd students, would attend a different middle school.
Wendy Brueckner-Post, whose children are third- and fifth-graders at Cecil Floyd, said her older child didn’t react well when he learned that he would attend North next year. She said she didn’t like the district springing that news on him halfway through this academic year.
“My fifth-grade son was very upset learning that he would have to go to another school,” she said. “I think if we had told them at the beginning of the year they would be going to another school, it would be very different.”
Stacey Iorio, a North Middle School parent, did not address the board at the hearing but instead addressed other parents.
“I welcome anyone to come over to our wonderful school and take a tour. I think you would be surprised,” she said. “Maybe if you keep an open mind, this process that we have to go through to balance out (student) populations may not be such a bad thing.”
Patrick Martucci, who has two children at Cecil Floyd, said his concern was not a North vs. South issue, but rather the speed at which the plan has been developed.
“This is an issue of slowing down and considering the options for kids who have already had a lot happen to them in the past two years,” he said.
Travis Smith, also a parent of a Cecil Floyd student, urged district officials not to rush the proposal.
“We do seem to be moving awfully quickly without a lot of notice,” he said. “It doesn’t give parents much option by August to do something different if they want to stay with the school they are comfortable with.”
Rick Benson, parent of students at Cecil Floyd and South, said he’s not worried about the schools his children attend. He said his primary concern is the construction of the new Mercy Hospital at 50th Street and Hearnes Boulevard, which he thinks will generate a population shift to the southern part of Joplin that eventually could cause a significant increase in enrollment at South, already the largest of the three middle schools.
“Are we looking at this for the long term? Are we making the decisions now for 10 to 20 years down the road?” he said. “In five years, will we still be having discussions about South being overcrowded?”
THE JOPLIN BOARD OF EDUCATION will consider the realignment plan during its Feb. 26 meeting. If the proposal is approved, it will take effect this fall.