Concerned parent Janice Morrow questions the board about how the district lines were redrawn at Monday's meeting. (Staff photo by Carol Brimm)
Redistricting plan approved
School board faces concern, tries to ease fear about changes
Mustang School Board approved a plan to redraw elementary district lines Monday night after a lengthy discussion with concerned parents. Due to the opening of the new elementary on Czech Hall Road this fall, students will now be divided among six elementary schools. Mustang Elementary will have approximately 557 students, Trails 692, Creek 711, Valley 507, Lakehoma 688 and the new elementary (yet to be named) will have 437 students. Mustang Superintendent Karl Springer said 300 students would be able to walk to the new elementary school.
Parents addressed the board raising questions regarding who participated in the study to determine how the new lines would be drawn, how the number of students at each school was determined when next year’s first graders are not yet enrolled, and public perception that the lines were drawn based on socioeconomic issues rather than geographic ones, variance in test scores between schools and traffic concerns near Mustang Elementary.
Parent Janice Morrow told the board that parents of children at Valley Elementary were concerned about moving their children from a school with the highest test scores to Mustang Elementary, a school with the lowest test scores. She said a dip in the map to keep the Bitter Creek subdivision in Valley’s district when those around that area are being moved to Mustang Elementary “doesn’t look good”.
“Perception is something you need to deal with,” Morrow said. “We have not received the information we need and will have no opportunity to respond unless the board decides not to vote on this tonight.”
Catherine Callahan, parent of a Mustang Elementary student who will attend Valley under the new plan, responded to the concerns of Valley parents saying they should have faith in Mustang Elementary.
“Your kids will be in good hands at Mustang Elementary,” Callahan said. “Remember the best way to predict your children’s future is to create it. Get involved. Don’t bring your pre-conceived prejudices with you. I believe my family will lose out because we will be going to Valley.”
Springer assured parents that there is only a 2 percent variance in test scores between all elementary schools and assured them in an impassioned speech that their children would receive a quality education in Mustang no matter what school they attend.
“Last year Mustang Elementary had the highest reading scores in the district,” Springer said. “To teach in Mustang you have to be a quality teacher. We have people who care about kids. It is not dependant on where you go to school. You can go to any one of our elementary schools and the parents are pleased with the education their kids are getting.”
Jim Burkey, Director of Construction and Bonds, told parents and the board that a committee of administrators and parents considered the number of MAPS students at each site, geographic boundaries, the number of students each site could handle, future construction on existing sites, future student population, all day kindergarten and the need to prevent students from passing one school to get to another.
“We need to have MAPS students at each site,” Burkey said, “and the rate of growth near Mustang Valley and on SH 92 and the concentration of kids in the Heights were our biggest problems. We tried to use section line roads and natural barriers. We didn’t want to split additions with kids across the street from each other going to different schools.”
According to Burkey the committee was comprised of administrators: Maxine Morris, Belinda Rogers, Dianna Calvert, Pam McLaughlin, Laquita Semmler, Neal Womack, David Steiner, Sondra Bivens, and Megan Wilson. Parents volunteers were: Angela Rodgers, Cathy Jo See, Christi Vela, Christina Culver, Crystal Jopling, Deborah Petty, Kari Kelly, Katherine Callahan, Kendal Young, Kim Weber, Lupe Sheppard, Scott Copelin, Shannon Yerby, Sherry Jones and Sondra George, according to Burkey.
Burkey said the committee used Oklahoma City demographic information and learned where most of the new additions will be going up to determine the number of future students in each district.
“With the amount of construction going on within a mile of Valley,” Springer said, “We will have 800 kids there soon if we don’t do anything about it.”
Burkey said the Bitter Creek addition was left in Valley’s district at the request of the transportation director. Other transportation considerations were made regarding students living in a small section east of Wal-Mart and students living in the Fieldstone apartments.
Gina Nelson, parent of a Mustang Valley student that will be moving to Mustang Elementary, said her concerns were adequately addressed and she appreciated the open and honest discussion regarding the issue.
“We didn’t get the information early enough,” Nelson said. “Notice of the PTA meeting was only given the day before and the study had already been performed and the lines drawn before that meeting. We didn’t know who participated in the study and that’s critical information. Our fears that the lines were drawn on socioeconomic lines instead of geographic lines could have been alleviated if we had known this information ahead of time.”
Nelson said her comfort level was helped by the school board’s open response to questions and discussion regarding this issue. Jeff Lucero, parent of a first grader being moved from Creek to Valley, said he also feels a little better after the school board meeting but still has some issues to work through.
Burkey told the board the redistricting is only a temporary fix and the board will need to look at another elementary school in the eastern part of the district at some time in the future.