“There isn’t a way, in my professional opinion, that you will be able to provide a cohesive feeder pattern unless you provide a neighborhood boundary for Rancho Elementary, given where your schools are located and where your students are located.”
That’s what Jamie Iseman of Jack Schreder & Associates told a crowd of about 60 at San Marin’s Emily Gates Student Center Wednesday, February 15. It was the second of three community meetings scheduled as part of the boundary study component of the facility master plan the Novato Unified School District is undertaking. Iseman made that statement as she led attendees through a presentation on the proposed boundaries and likely recommendations by the Facility Committee.
Tentative boundaries for the secondary level were posted on the district’s website last week. Based on input from community members as well as discussions by the Committee, adjustments were made to the original recommendation, “Scenario A.” Now, the border delimiting Novato High and San Jose Middle from San Marin High and Sinaloa Middle has shifted farther along to include Tamalpais Road. (Maps and data reflecting this change are to be posted on the district’s website Feb. 16.)
The secondary boundaries produce demographics that Iseman characterized as not changing “too significantly” at the high school level, in terms of school of residence, and only slightly shifting at the middle school level. Later, Iseman clarified her remarks in response to a query from an audience member, noting that there were changes. (San Jose Middle will increase from 41.5% receiving federally subsidized lunches to 46.4% while Sinaloa will correspondingly decrease from its current 28.9% to 25.9%).
Iseman’s colleague, Cheryl King, presented information regarding turning Olive Elementary into a K-8, like Hamilton currently is. Based on the current capacity of Olive, the fact that it is already beyond capacity and is the only elementary school projected to increase in enrollment under current boundaries, the limited space available, and the lack of funds, the Facility Committee is not expected to recommend that conversion.
A table presented on the demographic make-up and enrollment numbers with Rancho as an elementary school showed the biggest changes in demographics, from an area of residence standpoint, for Lu Sutton (increasing in the number of Hispanics from 36.1% to 43.6%) and Olive (decreasing in the number of Hispanics from 34.5% to 23.1%). Rancho, which currently does not have an area of residence, would have 38.0% of Hispanic background. That would place Rancho as having the fourth-largest population of Hispanics, behind Lynwood, Loma Verde and Lu Sutton.
Members of the audience asked a number of questions, many regarding the elementary school boundaries presented. These boundaries had only just been provided to the Facility Committee earlier in the day so were being seen by many for the first time.
Schools of choice, surveys of parents regarding what schools they would like their children to attend, hierarchy of Program Improvement transfers vs. siblings being able to attend the same school as an older sibling on an intra-district transfer, and others, many posed by parents of Rancho students, were all asked about. Several people also asked about a perceived lack of concern for creating more diversity under the proposed boundaries as presented.
Iseman said, when discussing the secondary level boundaries, “Unless you want to start drawing boundaries that incorporate enclaves from far away and start basically forcing students in one neighborhood to a school very far away, you’re not going to be able to achieve socioeconomic balance because of where your students live and where your schools are.”
NUSD Superintendent Shalee Cunningham noted at the outset that there will be another community meeting, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., on Tuesday, March 6, at the Hill Alternative Education Center. Later in the day, there will be another meeting of the Facility Committee. That evening will be the first of what Cunningham believes will be three Board meetings where the recommendations are discussed. If you would like to send comments to the committee, emails can be sent to email@example.com. (A PDF of a selection of those comments received so far is on the NUSD website and uploaded here.)
[With Editor Brent Ainsworth out on medical leave, I'm doing my best to check my opinion at the door when writing what happened at the meeting. Stay tuned to this space for future snark. - PM]