23 Feb 2018

Several Bozeman schools to change attendance boundaries

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Due to Bozeman’s explosive growth, school boundaries are always subject to change. There will be even more changes as Bozeman’s second high school is built. See halfway down this article for links to proposed map changes.

Several Bozeman schools to change attendance boundaries
By Gail Schontzler Bozeman Daily Chronicle Feb 20, 2018

The Bozeman School District is changing attendance boundaries for six schools next fall to keep some from becoming too full as the student population continues to grow.

The changes will affect only new students who aren’t yet enrolled, Superintendent Rob Watson wrote in a letter to parents Feb. 7.

“We will allow those students currently enrolled at one of our K-5 school to stay at that school,” Watson wrote. The same holds for middle school students.

In addition, if younger children would have to attend different schools than their older siblings because of the boundary changes, the school district plans to grant transfer requests for next year so kids in the same family can be in the same school at the same time.

Boundaries are being changed for Hyalite, Meadowlark, Emily Dickinson and Whittier elementary schools, plus Chief Joseph and Sacajawea middle schools.

“These types of decisions are never fun,” Watson wrote to parents. “As an educator I know that school transitions can be difficult for children. For those families that were impacted by this most recent decision, I apologize for the disruption.”

Bozeman school officials reported last November a new enrollment record of 6,852 students in all grades. That was 1,100 more kids than six years before.

Bozeman’s newest school, Meadowlark Elementary on the fast-growing northwest side of town, grew to 529 students, making it Bozeman’s biggest school. Since it was built to hold 554 students and is nearly full, school officials said that something would have to be done for Meadowlark. It’s on Durston Road, next door to the site of the planned second high school.

School district maps showing the changes have received more than 1,400 online views. Watson said Monday that he had heard some questions and reactions from parents to the changes, but not a lot.

The main things school administrators considered in changing boundaries, Watson wrote, were: schools that were at or near capacity; neighborhood growth; keeping neighborhoods together whenever possible; school demographics, which usually means trying to even out numbers of affluent and low-income children; safe routes to schools and bus routes; and keeping contiguous boundaries and avoiding creation of attendance “islands.”

Maps showing the changes are online for elementary schools (http://bit.ly/2ojfIZa) and middle schools (http://bit.ly/2sBBs8g). Here are the changes affecting new students next fall:

1. Students living south of Gallatin County Regional Park will attend Emily Dickinson School, rather than Meadowlark. They will still attend Chief Joseph Middle School. The area is east of Ferguson Avenue, to the Davis Lane-Fowler Avenue line, between Durston Road and Oak Street.

2. Students living west of the Gallatin Valley Mall will go to Hyalite School, rather than Meadowlark. Their middle school will change from Chief Joseph to Sacajawea Middle School. This area is bounded by Huffine Lane, West Babcock Street, Ferguson Avenue and Love Lane.

3. Students living east of Riverside Country Club will attend Whittier School rather than Hawthorne. They will continue to attend Chief Joseph Middle School. The area is bounded by Springhill Road, Sypes Canyon Road, McIlhattan Road, Manley Road and Frontage Road.

4. Students living in neighborhoods near Bozeman High will stay at Whittier Elementary but switch to Sacajawea Middle School from Chief Joseph. The area is north of Main Street to Oak Street, between Willson Avenue and North 19th Avenue.

With Bozeman’s rapid growth, Watson wrote, “It does not appear that these types of changes will stop.”

Next year administrators expect to start drawing new boundaries between Bozeman High School and the second high school, expected to open in the fall of 2020, “which will impact most of our community,” he added. And a ninth elementary school will likely be needed, possibly by 2020, which would require more boundary changes.

Each school is unique, but they all have dedicated teachers and principals who care about kids, Watson wrote. As a parent, he said he felt nervous when boundaries were changed four years ago with the opening of Meadowlark School, which affected his youngest daughter.

“Fortunately, she handled the change with grace and resiliency,” he wrote. “I credit the staff and principal at her new school for creating a welcoming and comfortable environment for her to learn and grow.”

Gail Schontzler can be reached at 406-582-2633 or gails@dailychronicle.com.
Source: Several Bozeman schools to change attendance boundaries

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