Archive for Wednesday, October 22, 2003

District to study overcrowding

Committee concerned with Deerfield overflow

October 22, 2003

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The Lawrence school district's boundary committee Tuesday decided its first task would be to study student crowding at Deerfield School.

Deerfield's enrollment of 533 students makes it the district's largest elementary, surpassing the second biggest, Prairie Park School, by more than 100 children.

The bulging population at Deerfield results from new residential development and the school board's closure in May of Riverside School, said Tom Bracciano, who is chairman of the boundary committee.

The board split Riverside's students between Deerfield and Pinckney schools.

Bracciano, the district's director of operations and facility planning, said options at Deerfield included redrawing school territory lines to shift students to other buildings, including Quail Run School.

Moving children to Quail Run, with an enrollment that's fallen by more than 100 students since 2000, would be an irony, he said.

"Part of Deerfield (territory) used to be in Quail Run. It was moved because of overcrowding," Bracciano said.

The 12-member boundary committee plans to submit to the school board recommendations on the Deerfield problem by January. Any changes must be adopted by the school board. No changes will come before public hearings are conducted.

"There will be plenty of discussion before the first of the year," Bracciano said.

Committee members also were asked by the board to improve the division of students from the 15 elementary schools into the four junior high schools.

Changes to boundaries should reflect two goals: Avoid splitting an elementary school's students between junior high schools and retain a policy of crafting boundaries that bring economic diversity to the junior highs.

"The problem with the junior highs, from a numbers standpoint, is you've got overcrowding everywhere but Central," Bracciano said.

Other issues on the panel's menu include identifying sites where new schools might be built and evaluating consequences of closing three elementary schools this year.

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