Lindbergh board approves new boundaries for ’11-’12

New zones as close to perfect as possible, Simpson tells Call.

By MIKE ANTHONY

Lindbergh Superintendent Jim Simpson believes that while the school district’s new elementary-school boundaries aren’t perfect, they’re “as close to perfect as possible.”

The Board of Education voted unanimously last week to approve new elementary-school boundaries and new middle-school boundaries.

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.

The district’s Parent Boundary Committee, which began meeting in November, had recommended that only Truman Elementary School pupils be moved. As a result, pupils currently attending Crestwood, Long, Kennerly and Sappington elementary schools will continue to attend those schools for the 2011-2012 school year. The roughly 800 pupils who now attend Truman Elementary School will be divided among three of the existing four elementary schools and the new Concord Elementary School.

Roughly 500 of the 800 pupils now at Truman Elementary will attend Concord Elementary next year with the remaining pupils divided among Crestwood, Long and Sappington elementary schools. Kennerly Elementary currently is over capacity.

As for the new middle-school boundaries, Crestwood and Long pupils and pupils residing in the south Interstate 270 area of Concord will attend Truman. Kennerly and Sappington pupils and pupils residing in the Concord area around Concord Elementary School will attend Sperreng.

Proposition R 2008, a $31 million bond issue approved by district voters in November 2008, is funding the long-term solution to space concerns at Sperreng.

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 at 4814 S. Lindbergh Blvd. Work is well under way on Concord Elementary while the new ECE building recently opened to pupils.

Chief Financial Officer Pat Lanane served as chairman of the Parent Boundary Committee. Early in the process, he had said one of the goals would be to send pupils to the school closest to their home. But during a Jan. 25 public forum at which the proposed boundaries were unveiled, he conceded that was an impossible goal because of how students are distributed throughout the district.

During the Feb. 8 Board of Education meeting, two parents who live on Kramper Lane voiced their concerns about the new elementary boundaries that will send their children to Sappington Elementary instead of the new Concord Elementary, which is closer to their homes.

Steve Cox asked why the committee presented the board with only one recommendation.

“… They’re only giving you one choice and with the deadline that’s been imposed, you really don’t have a choice and I have a major problem with that. They came up with a solution that they thought was best in their minds, completely ignoring what the parents had said at some of the forums …,” he said.

Jim Gebken told the board, “… We live four blocks from Concord and we were told months ago, our kids were told, the community was told, we live in Concord, we live by Concord school, we’re going to Concord. That’s not what happened to us. You know, my wife and I were talking this afternoon. She said it’s called the neighborhood schools transition program, and she said, you know, maybe it should be called displacing Truman students program.

“And I think she’s on to something. The Lindbergh Promise is: If anything isn’t right, we promise to do our best to make it right. You guys have control to make this right tonight. There’s a lot of people upset that aren’t here tonight. They didn’t want to come. Our children were lied to. They were told by Pat that they were going to Concord. One of the core principles of the neighborhood school concept was to go to school near your home. Again, did not happen …”

He later said, “… Trust me, you failed us and the kids and the community miserably. The people I’ve talked to on my block, couple streets down, they think this is just a disservice to the community …”

Lanane later told the board, “We’ve had over 7,500 people come on (the district) website and view those maps and look at the presentation materials. We also then had an e-mail portal that allowed people to send in comments, questions and I probably received somewhere in the vicinity of maybe 130 e-mails … Most of those were questions. We had somewhere around 35 that expressed concerns. We had about 15 that were simply: We like what we see …”

Gary Borkowski, a member of the Parent Boundary Committee, discussed the process used in formulating the boundary recommendations.

“… I think one of the most frustrating things right off the bat we realized that it wasn’t going to be a perfect plan and that was frustrating because we’re all parents and our kids are all in this district and we knew there was going to be some issues. We knew we couldn’t make everybody happy and that was incredibly frustrating …,” he said.

Once the committee formulated a preliminary plan, Borkowski said, “… We did dissect it. We did try to come up with alternative plans … So it really wasn’t a first-time out, OK, here it is. We’re done. Let’s present it and go home. We really did agonize over it quite a bit and as I said, came up with — tried to come up with several alternatives, again knowing it wasn’t going to be perfect.

“So at this point what we have presented we feel is best for the good of the general district and knowing that there’s going to be as stated earlier by some citizens, there’s some problem areas. We know that, but we did the best we could for the general public …”

In response to a question, Lanane said that since the public forum took place, 35 additional transfer spots are available at Concord Elementary School through the district’s open-enrollment program.

“… What’s been really kind of remarkable is that for the most part the ins and outs have just about been equal in every school …,” Lanane said of the transfer program.

Of the parents dissatisfied with the new boundaries, Simpson told the Call, “They have a great point. It didn’t seem to work for them, but we don’t know how to make it perfect to where 100 percent would say it worked for me because it’s just that kind of project. So we’ll work with those people.

“We understand what they’re saying. We actually agree with what they’re saying. They are closer to Concord than they are Sappington. But the committee worked, worked, worked to try find ways to get it just right and this is as close as they could come.

“And as we all know, that boardroom could have had hundreds and hundreds of people upset in it … I think we got as close to perfect as possible. In other words, if perfect is defined as the highest percentage of people who feel that it works for their family, we’ve got a very, very, very high percentage — well over 95 percent … We just wish it could have worked for everybody, but it just couldn’t work for every single person.”