The Eastern Carver County school board finalized plans brought forth from the attendance area task force on Dec. 6 for the 2022-23 school year.
While the boundary changes recommended in November were maintained, there will be flexibility for some fifth-graders currently enrolled at East Union Elementary and some pre-K students at Victoria Elementary.
What will change:
- With East Union Elementary in rural Carver County closing, the roughly 108 students will be shifted to Clover Ridge Elementary in Chaska. The path with secondary schools would be Chaska Middle School West and Chaska High School.
- Pre-K classes in the district will shift from Victoria Elementary to Bluff Creek Elementary for the 2022-23 school year. Three classrooms will be available at Bluff Creek. This change affects roughly 10 returning students to pre-K.
- The AIM Program will move from Carver Elementary to Chanhassen Elementary for the 2022-23 school year. The program has 17 current students that will be affected.
- New growth in Carver and Victoria will stay in current boundary.
Allowances being made include current fifth-graders from East Union being able to choose between Pioneer Ridge Middle School and Chaska Middle School West, with busing available to both schools for all three years.
Additionally, students currently in the pre-K Victoria Elementary program, with a kindergarten arrival in 2023-24, will be given a chance to finish out at the current location. Students currently enrolled, but will not be kindergarten eligible in 2023-24, must enroll at Bluff Creek or Family Learning Center.
"It's never easy to move buildings, for anybody," said School Board Vice Chair Lisa Anderson.
"We do not like imposing change, but we are tasked with managing constraints with the resources we have. That's the reality, and we try and create the least amount of change as possible," Board Member Tim Klein said.
The task force heard feedback with two community engagement sessions, as well as a meeting with East Union families. A survey was also sent to affected families.
A middle school choice for current East Union fifth-graders and Victoria pre-K students came about from themes from the feedback work sessions.
"We specifically requested feedback on what were the positive aspects of the recommendations, what were the challenges and concerns, and what were ideas to improve the recommendations," said Meyer of the feedback sessions.
WHAT ABOUT AIM?
Chaska resident Garret Zayic believes the AIM Program was inadequately represented in the task force discussions.
Zayic met with district administrators last week. His takeaways included that center-based programs are legally considered district level programs, which means they are a student in the program, and are not attached to a community school, Zayic said in an interview following the meeting.
"My son is assigned a classroom teacher. On paper, in the yearbook, he's among the other children. That's what the world sees, but none of it is real. He's never had any interaction with that teacher. He is not part of that class," Zayic said.
The district can move the location of the program as needed, according to district officials, and many times families are notified after the decision has been made.
Laura Pingry-Kile, director of specialized education services, said this will be the fifth center-based move from building to building in her 15 years in the district, but the first time it was discussed in a boundary change conversation.
In this case, Eastern Carver County Schools said in response to feedback, they are committed to working with program staff and district architects to review and update spaces at Chanhassen Elementary to meet the needs of the current and future AIM students.
Meyer said the AIM Program currently uses 1-1/2 classrooms for 17 students. It is expected that the program will need more space as soon as next year, potentially up to as many as four classrooms.
"We can accommodate that at Chanhassen Elementary because of the available capacity we have. We cannot at Carver Elementary," Meyer said.
"It really relies on natural environments and space needed for one-on-one programming, positive behavior supports, sensory activities, and breakout calming activities," said Pingry-Kile of center-based programs.
AIM is a center-based program with a vision to model and teach students lifelong independent living skills and social and behavioral regulation to be productive members of their school and community. The vision also states that students will be provided exceptional, personalized learning with structured and supportive specialized education services to meet individual student needs.
Students in the program have unique needs that include cognitive impairments and most have significant needs in the areas of social, emotional, sensory, and behavioral development and regulation. Students typically receive specialized educational services for more than 60% of their school day, according to the Eastern Carver County Schools website.
"Parents of students in the AIM program will be engaged throughout the process and will have opportunities to include input into each individual's unique transition plan," Meyer said.
The task force felt it was the best choice forward, connecting it with the Discover program, which already has staff located at Chanhassen Elementary.
Zayic asked the school board to table the AIM Program part of the boundary change until January to have further discussions.
"My son will lose his speech therapist. Someone he's developed a relationship with. He trusts," Zayic said. "It's something I wish we had more time to organize and have conversations about for these students."