Leader Blues

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

TOP STORY >> Cabot board agrees to boundary lines

(Click on graphic to enlarge)
The Cabot School Board has drawn up an attendance map for the new Mountain Springs Elementary School (top left).


Leader staff writer

The Cabot School Board last week tentatively approved changes in boundary lines for elementary schools in anticipation of opening the new Mountain Springs Elementary.

The proposed changes in boundary maps will be available for viewing during two open houses at the administration office at 602 N. Lincoln from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 9.

Boundary information also will be available in all elementary school offices today and a map will be posted on the districtís Web site at http://cabot.k12.ar.us. Board support of the maps for public viewing was unanimous. But the lines wonít be approved until the March meeting. After the lines are approved, the administration will allow no waivers except for the children of employees. All others will attend their assigned schools.

In anticipation of the questions parents will have about the changes, the school district provides the following information:

Who makes the final decision on boundaries?

The Cabot Board of Education makes the final decision on boundary changes within the district. This approval will be based on recommendations by administration after several months of planning and research. Boundary changes are a decision that our administration and school board takes very seriously since we understand the impact of change on our community.

Why are the boundaries being changed?

All areas of the Cabot School District are increasing in student population. This increase varies from approximately 2 percent annually in some attendance areas to 10 percent annually in other areas. When a new elementary opens, it is necessary to look at the entire district and try to give all elementary schools a proportional amount of room for growth. The state requires the district to maintain regulated class sizes.

When will the new boundaries take effect?

Boundary changes will take effect beginning with the 2010-2011 school year.

How can I find out if I live in an area that has been changed?

The district will notify parents of each K-3 student impacted by rezoning to inform them of their child's assignment for the upcoming school year. A map of the attendance zones will be posted on the district's Web site and published in local newspapers.

Will parents have the opportunity to review and provide feedback on the proposed boundaries before they are finalized?

Yes. Parents will have two opportunities to review the boundary changes, ask questions, and provide feedback. Administrators and school board members will be available on Tuesday, March 2, between 2 and 5:00 p.m. and on Tuesday, March 9, between 4 and 7:00 p.m. at the Central Administrative Offices located at 602 North Lincoln. In addition, boundary information will be available in all elementary school offices today. A map identifying proposed boundaries will be posted on the district's Web site at http://cabot.k12.ar.us/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=347


Why is school capacity important when rezoning?

District leaders recognize personal relationships with students and parents are essential in maximizing the quality of a child's social, emotional, and academic experiences in the primary grades. It is difficult for staff and administrators to remain connected with students in larger schools. The Cabot School District has determined the capacity for a K-4 school should not exceed 600 students. This number has been set as a guideline and is not firm.

How does the district consider the location of new schools?

Several factors are considered before determining the location of a new school. First, the district looks at area schools that experience the greatest growth and have difficulty staying within class size standards. Second, the district identifies a parcel of land large enough to meet the state's requirements and located geographically close to the overcrowded school. Third, the district determines utility access (e.g. adequate water, sewer, gas and electricity to support a large building). If utility access is unavailable, can it be developed to an appropriate level within reason? Fourth, the district determines the accessibility for car and bus traffic.

How does the district determine the number of students living in each neighborhood?

The district uses an advanced computer program to determine the number of students in each neighborhood. The program uses Cabot School District property maps and assigns an address to the property description. The file is merged with the districtís student database. The program allows the district to highlight a house, street, or neighborhood and reports how many students are enrolled in each grade level. District administrators form boundaries based on this information.

How does the district determine student enrollment for each school?

The district identifies student enrollment based on the number of regular classrooms available in each school. Availability is determined by taking the total number of classrooms and subtracting the number of classrooms specified for other purposes (art, music, science, etc.). The new school will have 30 regular classrooms in addition to those constructed specifically for activities. Enrollment trends and projections for each school are also considered.

I live in an area that's being reassigned due to boundary changes. Does my child have a choice to remain at his/her current school?

Since boundaries are established with target numbers for each school, student choice is not an option. The district must accurately establish school enrollments for every child in the designated boundary while considering projected growth.

Can my child stay at his/her current school if he/she will be in the last year offered at that school during the 2010-2011 school year?

The district's administrators and school board wish this choice could be an option. However, all of the district's elementary schools must be in compliance with state standards. It would not be appropriate to send a student whose home is in one attendance area to another school because of boundary waivers. Students impacted by boundary changes will transition to new schools for the 2010-2011 school year.

Will boundary changes decrease the number of students per classroom?
No. Boundary changes will decrease the number of students enrolled in each building, but not the number of students assigned to each classroom. The number of students per classroom is regulated by state standards.

Will boundaries change for middle and secondary schools?

No. Middle and secondary boundaries will not change.

I live in an area that's being reassigned to a different school. I've heard there will be additional new schools built which will open after the 2010-2011 school year. Will my child be reassigned again?

An additional K-4 school will not open in the district for at least three years. It is possible your child may be reassigned at that time. The district uses the most current data available to make boundary decisions.

Is it possible some students could be assigned to three different elementary schools in five years?

Yes. Unfortunately, the need for rezoning is one aspect of the rapid growth experienced in the Cabot School District. Cabot is the only district in the state, outside of northwest Arkansas, that has experienced consistent three-digit annual growth.