Muskego - Parents living near the new proposed school boundary dividing lines expressed the most concern about their children being taken away from their friends as about 20 parents reviewed two options last week for redrawing school boundaries.
"We feel most people we know are in a different area," said Angie Bahrs, who has two children at Country Meadows Elementary School in the Muskego-Norway School District. "There will be almost no Country Meadows kids with us in option 1."
Another Country Meadows parent said, "Two-thirds of the kids my daughter knows will go to a different school. That's a huge concern."
The Muskego schools are redrawing the boundary lines of all the elementary and middle schools because the district will close the two oldest schools, enlarging Mill Valley and Country Meadows elementary schools to accept students from those closing schools. The district also will build a new middle school.
The new school boundaries will be effective in the fall of 2018.
Parents not happy with where their children will attend school can request transfers. The schools will try to accommodate those requests. However, there will be no grandfathering, officials said.
The district held three meetings where parents could give feedback on the two school boundary options under consideration. The last one was this week. Now, the administration will confirm projected enrollments with the help of consultant Applied Population Lab and confirm bus routes to ensure that no student is on the school bus for more than 30 minutes. The Muskego-Norway School Board could vote as early as next month on the school boundaries
Then, they will either choose option 1 or 2, using the parent feedback as a guide, or will change the options or even combine them. The maps of the two options the parents reacted to were not released to the public because they are so likely to change, Superintendent Kelly Thompson said. She invited parents who want boundaries changed to contact her and officials will see if they can be accommodated.
Even as Bahrs and neighboring parents stayed after the input meeting, Assistant Superintendent Jeffrey Petersen was to see if their small neighborhood that is oriented more toward Country Meadows Elementary School than Mill Valley Elementary could be included in the new Country Meadows area.
Under both options, Country Meadows Elementary would get students from both schools that are being closed. Even though Country Meadows will be expanded into space that it shares with Bay Lane Middle School so that it can accept more students, some Country Meadows students will have to go. Some will go to Mill Valley and some to Lakeview elementary schools.
The schools that will close are Tess Corners and Muskego elementary schools. Tess Corners students will go to Country Meadows. Muskego Elementary students will be split between Country Meadows and the expanded Mill Valley.
Guiding the boundary drawing were the results of the district-wide parent survey this spring, Petersen said.
Parents' top request was that schools be near home. Next was that elementary students not be split up when they went to middle school, he said. Parents wanted their children to go to middle school with their friends.
Of the open-ended responses, the four main themes were that there be an option for transfers or grandfathering; that students spend no longer than 30 minutes on school buses; that siblings be kept together; and that neighborhoods be kept together, Petersen said.
Officials took grandfathering off the table because grandfathering current students could result in younger siblings ending up at different elementary schools, Petersen said. Grandfathering entire families would make staffing difficult, he said.
Both options 1 and 2 split the district up into three parts for the elementary schools. The northern section will be split between Mill Valley on the west and Country Meadows on the east. Lakeview Elementary will be on the south.
Nearly 20 parents attended one of last week's input sessions. While some said both options hit their families about the same, others had clear preferences.
"I prefer option 2. It seems to keep more Muskego Elementary kids together," said Beth Rohde who has a son at Muskego Elementary.
"Option 2 keeps our children and neighborhood together," said Ben Gill, father of a Country Meadows student.
Others such as Shawn Theesfeld said both options are the same for their children. Theesfeld has a child at Muskego Elementary. He applauded the district's efforts: "They have come up with good options."
Matt Arts, father of two girls said both options would be the same for his family, but his 7-year-old daughter will have to switch schools three times between now and high school. She is now a second-grader at Lakeview but will go to Country Meadows for fourth grade, then to the new middle school for fifth to eighth grades and then to the high school.
While a number of students also will have three transitions, some will have four.
Petersen said research indicates that children are more resilient than adults give them credit for. Parent Ben Gill agreed, but said key to the success of such transitions is whether children make them with a core group of friends. That's why he and his neighbors want their children to stay together, he said.