Dr. McCann Shares Boundary Recommendations
Posted January 31, 2019
Superintendent Dr. Blane McCann has shared the boundary recommendations he intends to present to the Westside Board of Education for consideration at their next public meeting on February 4, 2019. These proposed changes impacting the Loveland, Sunset Hills and Swanson communities, if approved by the Board, would go into effect for the 19/20 school year.
After careful reflection and discussion with the Westside Community, the recommendation for the expansion of the Sunset Hills attendance boundary is to include two areas:
- the area including and west of 87th Street between Pacific Street and the Papio Creek;
- the area west of 90th Street to 102nd Street between Pacific Street and Leavenworth Avenue.
Additionally, it is recommended that all current K-5 students at Loveland and Swanson be grandfathered into their current school. Younger siblings not yet of school age could also enroll at the current school, as long as the family still had a child attending that building when the younger child begins Kindergarten.
The purpose of this summary is to explain the RSP boundary process, RSP enrollment data, boundary options considered, and a recommendation to modify the Sunset Hills attendance boundary beginning July 1, 2019.
Over a two-year period, District Administration studied a number of boundary options and enrollment data associated with each option. In year two, the district hired RSP & Associates to facilitate a District Boundary Committee. The Committee was made up of District residents (both parents of current students and empty nesters) and District staff. The Committee reviewed enrollment data, including free and reduced populations, neighborhood configurations, and safety considerations, to develop options to be considered by the entire committee.
Beginning in September 2018, the Boundary Committee met five times, with the final meeting on November 29, 2018. The Boundary Committee, with the facilitation of RSP, developed four distinct options for review. The Committee reduced that to two options, which were shared with the Westside Community at two public Community Forums.
I then met with each impacted school’s Community Club (Sunset Hills, Swanson and Loveland) to collect additional information and listen to community concerns. I reviewed the boundary adjustment options generated by the Boundary Committee. Of the four options that emerged, the committee focused on two of the options; however, they were unable to reach full consensus on either option. At the suggestion of several community members, I also reviewed the option that was developed by the district’s 2017 Boundary Committee. I asked RSP to review enrollment and other boundary-related data for that particular scenario.
In making this recommendation, I have evaluated all input, responded to concerns raised throughout the process, reviewed future projections (in an attempt to balance enrollment among the three schools), and fully considered the Board’s prioritized boundary criteria that include:
- 1) Projected Enrollment / Building Utilization
- 2) Fiscal Operations (staffing)
- 3) Neighborhoods Intact
- 4) Contiguous Attendance Areas (tied with #5)
- 5) Students Impacted (minimize)
Many have asked that the decision be delayed. However, the BOE has charged me with developing a modification to the Sunset Hills attendance boundary, so delaying this decision is not an option for me to consider.
In drawing the boundary in this way, we preserve an element cited as important by all three community clubs I met with in December: respect for neighborhoods and their school communities. By moving only narrow areas contiguous with Sunset’s current boundary, these proposals pull small strips of Loveland and Swanson into the Sunset attendance area, rather than cutting deeply into the middle of an existing neighborhood. Further, because student mobility is an important factor in the educational progress of learners, the grandfathering provision allows parents the option of keeping currently enrolled student(s) in their current building.
With this decision, we will better balance our class sizes, fostering a stronger academic environment for all of our students. We understand that, as Sunset Hills grows into a full twosection school, it will also impact the District’s operational budget. That impact depends on how quickly the growth occurs based on the number of families that opt for the grandfathering, as well as the turnover of homes in the Loveland and Swanson attendance areas.
District 66’s current total enrollment is approximately 5,850 students, and we strive to maintain a district enrollment of approximately 6,000 students. This number allows the District to remain a Class A high school with a large number of rigorous course offerings. Further, it allows us to keep all 10 of our elementary schools open, each with a number of non-resident students (enrolled through the state’s option enrollment program) topping off classrooms that may be under capacity. It is important to note that the option enrollment program, which reimburses the enrolling district for expenses related to non-resident students, has directly impacted Westside’s ability to sustain our optimal enrollment number and maintain our neighborhood schools.
Finally, we understand that traffic safety is an important consideration and are continuing our discussions with the City of Omaha to ensure safety measures in these areas. We do realize that a significant number of parents will continue to choose to drop off and pick up their children at school. Due to the lack of sidewalks in many of Westside’s residential neighborhoods, it can make it difficult for parents to allow their children to walk or bike to school. CLICK HERE for a map showing the proposed recommendation being made to the Board of Education.