Parents battle over class sizes in Shawnee Mission District - KCTV5

Parents battle over class sizes in Shawnee Mission District

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A smiling face was hard to find Wednesday night among parents with a stake in the Shawnee Mission school board's decision on boundaries. Some wanted fewer boundary changes. Some wanted more. A smiling face was hard to find Wednesday night among parents with a stake in the Shawnee Mission school board's decision on boundaries. Some wanted fewer boundary changes. Some wanted more.
OVERLAND PARK, KS (KCTV) -

A smiling face was hard to find Wednesday night among parents with a stake in the Shawnee Mission School Board's decision on boundaries.

Some wanted fewer boundary changes. Some wanted more.

At the close of the meeting, two women with opposite views strained to remain polite while standing their ground. But the board made a move on just two schools and left everything else up in the air for close monitoring.

"We're really going to have to monitor over a period of time the enrollment numbers we do or don't see," Superintendent Jim Hinson said.

At issue at the packed meeting was overcrowding and class size.

"All scrunched together, anxious, scared," one woman said, quoting her daughter, a student at Mill Creek Elementary, on the 30 student per classroom limit.

Enrollment has been dwindling in Shawnee Mission schools for decades, but a recent uptick in the number of elementary students has hit some sections of the district more than others.

Briarwood Elementary is one of three named by an independent demographer as over capacity.

"Way over capacity," said Kirstin Byrd, a parent of three at Briarwood Elementary. "Security, education - all compromised."

The superintendent's proposal for Briarwood was to decrease the student population with two changes: relocate the English Language Learner Center and move the students attending on in-district transfers, who are students who live in the boundaries of a different school.

He said the two changes should remove about 50 students from the building.

"We've heard from a lot of parents who don't want boundary changes," Hinson said. "And so the boundary changes are something we try to do as a last resort."

Boundary changes are often greeted with resistance, because it uproots kids from their peer network, among other things. But the one boundary change the superintendent did propose brought no vocal opposition Wednesday.

Instead, the parents speaking out Wednesday night said the piecemeal solution at Briarwood and the wait-and-see approach at other schools is like putting a band-aid where a tourniquet should be.

"You're over capacity and it's only going to get worse," Byrd said. "Dr. Hinson's proposal does not get us there."

"Larger class sizes increases the risk that our own district families move to neighboring districts or seek private school options," Mill Creek parent Rachelle Hesterlee said.

"I know boundaries are painful and things that boards don't like to deal with," another parent Chris Gralapp said. "But I think it's something the district needs to take a look at throughout the whole district."

The board approved the one boundary change the superintendent recommended. About 100 children in a four-block-square area will move from Brookridge Elementary to the nearby and less populated John Diemer Elementary.

The board decided to postpone a decision on his proposal for Briarwood Elementary.

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