Public hears change

Close to 150 parents of Bethlehem students carefully reviewed five new redistricting boundary scenarios presented by the firm hired by the school district to draw up new lines to include a new elementary school next year.

We have a lot of information to present tonight, said Doug Hamlin, VersaTrans president, who presided over the meeting with school board and redistricting committee members looking on.

Three large screens were used in the high school cafeteria on Tuesday, Nov. 6, to present the new maps and track work that has been done by the committee since September. When the presentation ended, parents spilled out into the hall, where the five new maps, along with the current district boundaries, were set up for display.

Each scenario was based on criteria agreed upon by the committee and the school board that includes establishment of the appropriate school enrollment, and achievement of more rational boundaries. Parents also asked VersaTrans to look for ways to lessen the walking distance to school for students.

"The current average walking distance from home to school is 2.25 miles," said Hamlin. "With the five new scenarios, that average walking distance is down to 1.83 miles."

If one of the five boundary scenarios were ultimately approved by the school board, anywhere between 418 to 519 students currently in grades one through four would be affected by the change.

New district boundary lines are being developed to accommodate the addition of Eagle Elementary School, which is expected to open in the fall of 2008. The new redistricting boundaries also take into account the implementation of full-day kindergarten at each of the six elementary schools.

"Hundreds of students will be in a new school next year no matter what we do, so there will be a lot of change," said school board president James Lytle. "I hope we keep in mind it's important for students to feel good about the decisions we will be making together."

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