SMSD parents weigh in on planned school boundary change

Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 9:36 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. (KCTV) - Overcrowding at a school in Prairie Village has prompted the Shawnee Mission School District to redraw boundaries, sending at least 100 children to a new elementary school.

Tuesday night, the district held the first of two listening sessions on the topic.

The change in boundaries for the Briarwood and Tomahawk elementary schools hopes to balance enrollment at the two schools. Currently, a district spokesperson said, Briarwood has 100 more students than district guidelines prefer. That’s causing staffing and scheduling issues, and creating a less than ideal learning environment.

“They have a difficult task at hand,” said Briarwood parent Javier Centonzio.

“I don’t envy the committee members in any way,” echoed Emily Allison, who has three little ones ages 5 and younger.

She just bought a house in July right across the street from Briarwood, assuming her three kids could walk to school in just a few steps. That’s what appealed to her about the location.

“For us, personally, it just is a really hard thing to understand that we could walk so very close to an elementary school and not potentially get to go there, whereas our other option would never allow our kids to be able to walk to school,” said Allison.

She and other parents milled around Briarwood’s gym Tuesday night, looking at the two map options drafted by a boundary work group comprised of parents, teachers and staff from both schools. They asked parents which they preferred and why.

“And that ‘why’ is probably even more important than the specifics about which proposal,” explained David A. Smith, the district’s chief communications officer. “What do the people in this community care most about? And, how can we use that information in order to make the decisions together?”

Centonzio mentioned economic diversity as a key factor to consider. Allison cited proximity and safety. Both said they wanted to minimize disruption.

“As they’re developing friendships and they’re building relationships, even with teachers and in the community, you want to do what you can to mitigate any changes or challenges to that,” articulated Centonzio, who currently has a second-grader and kindergartener at Briarwood.

The shift will happen in 2025, when the new Tomahawk Elementary opens. So, this will impact kids in the Briarwood boundaries who are currently second-graders or younger. The schools are K-6, but sixth-graders will be allowed to stay at their original school for the first year of the transition.

“We know we can’t make everybody happy. We’ll never be able to do that. But, we’re listening and I think that’ll help us to make the best decision,” said Smith.

There is one more listening session on Nov. 3. The final recommendation will be made on Nov. 14. If you can’t make it to the next session, there’s also a survey online in English and Spanish.

You can find a timeline and the survey link here. The survey window closes on Oct. 14.