Committee starts work on revising boundaries for Lindbergh schools

Open forums tentatively set in early December, CFO says.

By MIKE ANTHONY

A Lindbergh Schools parent committee was scheduled to begin work earlier this week on redrawing elementary-school boundaries and establishing new middle-school boundaries, according to Chief Financial Officer Pat Lanane.

The new boundaries, which will be effective for the 2011-2012 school year, are necessitated by the district’s efforts to ease overcrowding at Sperreng Middle School, which has more than 1,300 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders jammed into a building that was designed to accommodate 800 pupils when it opened in 1970.

With the goal of providing a long-term solution to space concerns at Sperreng, the school board placed Proposition R 2008, a $31 million bond issue, on the November 2008 ballot.

More than 72 percent of voters approved the measure, which did not increase the school district’s debt-service tax rate, but extended the existing rate of 38 cents per $100 of assessed valuation an additional five years.

While Sperreng will remain a sixth- through eighth-grade middle school, funds from Prop R 2008 are being used to convert Truman Elementary School to a sixth- through eighth-grade middle school, add onto Crestwood and Long elementary schools, convert Concord School to an elementary school and construct a new Early Childhood Education building next to the Administration Building at 4900 S. Lindbergh Blvd.

Work is well under way on Concord School and the new ECE building.

The board voted in December to award a $15,503,500 contract for the two projects to Diestelkamp Construction Co., the lowest bidder. Thirteen bids were submitted for the two projects.

The board voted in May to award a $6,374,000 contract to Tri-Co Inc. Commercial, the low bidder, for work at Crestwood and Long elementary schools.

Lanane told the Call that the first meeting of the 13-member Parent Boundary Committee was scheduled Monday night — after the Call went to press. Lanane is serving as chairman of the panel, which will have two co-chairs — Long Elementary School Principal Brian McKenney, who also is the district’s director of elementary education, and Sperreng Middle School Principal Jennifer Tiller.

All of the remaining committee members are parents, Lanane said, including three from Truman Elementary School, which will become the district’s second middle school for the 2011-2012 school year, and three from Sperreng Middle School. Also serving on the panel will be one parent each from Crestwood, Kennerly, Long and Sappington elementary schools.

The committee’s job, he said, is to implement Prop R 2008.

“… That’s what we’re doing now is the nitty-gritty nuts and bolts of making Prop R 2008 work,” Lanane said. “So that’s what this is all about. It wasn’t because: Oh gosh, these boundaries have been here a long time. Let’s change them up. No. It has a real purpose and it’s to solve the overcrowding problem at Sperreng.”

As proposed, the committee will complete its work and submit the revised elementary-school boundaries and the new middle-school boundaries to the Board of Education on Feb. 8.

“… We have quite a bit to get done between now and the February board meeting. That’s when we want to present this to the board,” Lanane said. “… We are going to have at least two open forums and basically we’re just going to listen … We’re actually going to go to those meetings with pretty much a blank sheet of paper other than remember how this all came about: We’ve got to stop the overcrowding at the middle school. In order to stop the overcrowding at Sperreng Middle School, we need a second middle school. That’s Truman and now that Truman’s becoming a middle school we have to make those boundaries and we also have to redivide up all the Truman kids …”

The open forums tentatively will be conducted sometime in early December, he said.

“… I want it to be fairly early in December because I want to hear from just the parents before we start forming too many of our own opinions. I want to get that big opinion out there …,” Lanane said, adding the goal is to obtain “as much input as possible.”

Based on that input, he said the committee intends to develop and prioritize criteria to formulate the proposed new boundaries.

“… One of our tenets is going to be we don’t like driving past one school to get to another …,” Lanane said.

Other criteria could include such issues as curriculum, transportation, balanced school populations and growth projections for the district’s schools.

“I’m thinking it’s going to be between 12 and 20 criteria. Then we put them in an order and then we try to make that criteria become a map,” Lanane said.

The overall goal is to have roughly 500 pupils at each elementary school, he said, noting elementary enrollment could range from 475 to 525 per school. For the two middle schools, the goal would be to have roughly 700 to 750 per school.

Lanane anticipates all of the current elementary school boundaries will change, noting that more than 800 pupils currently attend Truman Elementary.

“So I do think it will have some effect on all the elementaries,” he said. “For the most part, it will be adding kids and so it’s not going to be an I-got-moved syndrome. It will be: Oh, we’re getting a-few-more-kids syndrome.”

The Parent Boundary Committee will work closely with a Board of Education subcommittee that was appointed last week by school board President Ken Fey, Lanane said.

Board Vice President Vic Lenz and board members Don Bee and Kara Gotsch were appointed to the subcommittee by Fey.

“… That board subcommittee, we’ll be checking in with them a couple times,” Lanane said. “When we get the criteria, we’ll say: Now here’s what we’re thinking about. What do you all think of this? Are we kind of on the same page or are we going somewhere where you have a lot of questions or concerns?

“And the same with the map. Once we get one that we think is kind of OK, then we want them to look at it …”

Ultimately, the chief financial officer said, the new boundaries will enhance the district’s goal of having neighborhood schools.

Specifically citing the new Concord Elementary School, Lanane said, “… What this allows us to do is we’re now moving more toward the neighborhood-school concept. So that if you live near Concord and if you’re in the Concord neighborhood, you go to school in Concord …”