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Parents want district to look at alternatives to redistricting

But Marty says tough decisions must be made

Sept. 23, 2009

Menomonee Falls — Parents fighting the school district's proposed redistricting plan are urging administrators to come up with an option that doesn't including moving 240 students out of Ben Franklin Elementary School and more than 40 out of Riverside Elementary School next school year.

Administrators on Tuesday took their lumps, as one parent put it, during an informational meeting on a plan to change elementary school boundaries.

As was the case at a similar meeting last week, more than 100 parents attended Tuesday's session.

Questions at both meetings ranged from test scores, timing, nonresident students, class sizes, busing, transitions and finding another location for an early childhood/4-year-old kindergarten center.

After a flood of questions Tuesday, one parent asked bluntly if the plan to redistrict is a done deal. Superintendent Keith Marty responded he will take a redistricting plan to the School Board.

The board decided in May to maintain four elementary schools and open an early childhood/K4 education center at Ben Franklin in 2010-11. To make room for the center, the district has to move more than 240 students out of the school.

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Deanna Budney has a second-grader and a fourth-grader at Ben Franklin. Both would go to Riverside next year.

"I feel it is all about the money," and not about kids, she said.

She lives in the River Heights North subdivision, near the Lilly Creek Highlands subdivision, an area from which the district administrators expected discontent. "My biggest hope is to be heard," she said.

She said she wants another option that does not involve redistricting, but Marty said that appears unlikely.

"Somewhere along the line, we are gong to have to make some tough decisions," he said. "This decision should have been made a lot of years ago."

In the next five years, annual budget deficits range between $1.5 million and $3 million, Marty said. Future options include closing schools, cutting programs and increasing class sizes, he said.

Parents said they felt threatened with the possibility of schools closing in the future because of budget cuts. Marty said he was trying to portray a realistic picture.

Family's plans disrupted

Mike Perinovic's family currently lives in the Ben Franklin attendance area.

Perinovic recently purchased property in the Lilly Creek Highlands subdivision, also located within Ben Franklin's borders, and plans to move there. However, under the redistricting plan, their new home would be shifted to the Riverside attendance area.

Perinovic said he promised his son, who is in third grade at Ben Franklin, that he would not have to go to a new school if the family moved. Perinovic has a child at Menomonee Falls High School and North Middle School, both of whom attended Ben Franklin.

His major concern, he said, is the disparity in the test scores between Ben Franklin and Riverside.

According to 2008 fourth-grade Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination results, Riverside's proficient and advanced students performed 3 to 18 percentage points lower on the five subject areas tested than Ben Franklin students.

"We are concerned about the level of (our son's) academics dropping off," he said, because Riverside teachers would have to accommodate high- and lower-achieving students in the same classroom.

Other parents who said they had researched the school district prior to moving into Ben Franklin's borders had the same concerns.

"Our vision is all our schools achieving at a high level," Marty said. "Your children will be successful (at Riverside)."

Riverside Elementary School Principal Scott Walter said students who attend the school longer, using fifth-graders who have gone to the school since kindergarten, score comparable to students at the other district schools.

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Brooke Erlinder has a kindergartener and third-grader at Ben Franklin. Both would go to Riverside next year.

She said she "understands the need to keep the school district efficient and effective," but wants to make sure the changes are beneficial to all children.

Erlinder, who lives in Lilly Creek Highlands, said she has written to the board, principals and Marty. She said she hopes to see the formation of a committee to make the transition for students easier.

Walter said administrators are working on transition plans. Ideas include pen pal programs, melding events at the schools and having students visit their future school for a day.

Waiting for enrollment numbers

Marty and other administrators won't be able to answer some questions until the district's enrollment numbers are finalized.

Districts statewide counted students on Sept. 18, and district officials hope to have some preliminary enrollment data and how it could affect the boundary changes by next week.

The board is expected to make a decision on the boundaries in November.

By the numbers

113

Ben Franklin students living south of Appleton Avenue, east of Lilly Road, north of Silver Spring Drive and west of 124th Street who would go to Riverside

129

Ben Franklin students living south of Silver Spring Drive who would go to Valley View

43

Riverside students who would go to Shady Lane

Next step

WHAT: School Board to discuss preliminary enrollment numbers

WHEN: 7 p.m. Sept. 28

WHERE: community center, N8645 Margaret Road

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