Shakopee Schools Assistant Superintendent David Orlowsky presented on possible district rezoning options for the 2020-2021 school year at the Sept. 23 school board meeting, following lopsided headcounts between East and West Middle Schools — a result of budding developments throughout the community, Orlowsky said.
As of this year, there are 1,173 students enrolled at West Middle School and 746 students at East Middle School. Each building was designed to hold about 1,000 students. And Orlowsky said the projected student population between the two schools continues to show a margin of about 400 students, putting West Middle School over its capacity indefinitely unless the district makes a change.
The district currently operates under a “feeder model” for its middle schools. Students who attend Red Oak or Sun Path Elementary will attend East Middle School. Students who attend any of the other three elementary schools — Eagle Creek, Jackson or Sweeney — will attend West Middle School.
“These attendance areas have been in place for nine years now,” Orlowsky said. “It’s caused West to continue to grow, and East has declined.”
The difference in student attendance causes roadblocks with the school district in terms of staffing, scheduling students’ classes, a crowded lunchroom and hallways at West Middle School and transfer requests.
In 2017, the district looked into the possibility of opening the vacant Pearson Sixth Grade Center as a sixth elementary school to help mitigate the populations at the middle schools. But the school board voted in January 2018 against opening the elementary school to help alleviate budget pressure.
“It made sense that we changed that plan, because we didn’t have the number of elementary students we expected to have,” Orlowsky said, adding it still wouldn’t make sense to add another elementary school due to elementary attendance numbers.
Sample rezoning scenarios were presented at the Sept. 23 school board meeting. Orlowsky made it clear that some of the scenarios presented were not realistic, and were only provided to address questions parents and families might ask about rezoning options.
One of the most logical options for rezoning the district would be to divide the district down Marschall Road, with students on the west side of the line attending West Middle School, and students on the east side of the road attending East Middle School, Orlowsky said. With this scenario, East Middle School would have 939 students, and West Middle School would have 878 students. In order to accommodate this change in zoning, 521 middle school students would need to switch schools.
Another option presented by Orlowsky was to create a split north and south of Highway 169. This rezoning option would still create a large discrepancy between the middle school population, however, because there are significantly more students who live south of the highway, Orlowsky said.
Two other possible scenarios presented were to split the district from east to west, using Marschall Road as a guideline with some minor adjustments. These would each allow for a margin of less than 100 students between the two schools, and it would mean between 494 and 580 students might have to switch middle schools.
The school board decided to discuss and endorse a handful of the most viable rezoning options at the Oct. 14 school board meeting. Those options will then be presented to parents and families in the following two months.
The district hopes to vote on an official district rezone by January.
Some of the issues the school board would need to discuss after the rezoning option is chosen are how to address potential staff moves, open enrollments, transportation and how to introduce the plan. The board already started tossing around ideas at the Monday meeting for options to allow students who have attended the same school for two years to remain at the same school so less children would have to switch schools.