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CCA committee narrows down new elementary boundaries

By Chris Umscheid
North Liberty Leader
TIFFIN– New attendance area boundaries for the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) school district are taking shape as the Enrollment and Boundary Study Committee moves closer to a consensus.
The committee had its third meeting on Thursday, July 24, with the emphasis on studying and suggesting changes to “Boundary Scenario 1,” which was created in a July 10 meeting.
“Tonight you will really start to see the results of the hard work you did last time,” Robert Schwarz of RSP & Associates told committee members. The goal, in addition to further refining boundary options, was to feel at least 90 percent comfortable with where the committee is regarding the scenario, he said.
Scenario 1 was crafted as a result of homework Schwarz assigned the members after their first meeting: to think about potential boundaries, talk to their neighbors and drive around the district.
Throughout the process, the members have been guided by parameters laid out by the district’s school board. Among the criteria are:
• A desire for better educational opportunity for equitable student experience at each school.
• The realization that change will be difficult but needs to happen to improve student opportunity; grade configurations (PreK-5, 6-8, 9-12) remains the same.
• The district is committed to maintaining the use of all current facilities. Utilization of Amana Elementary means it will draw from a reasonable geographic area– which may not fill the building to capacity– and will strive to maintain reasonable transportation and a community elementary school concept.
• Student transfers are to be an administrative decision.
With the district continuing to experience enrollment growth, a new elementary is being built in Tiffin, as well as an addition to the middle school. Boundary changes will reflect the new school and attempt to alleviate overcrowding at North Bend (NBE) and Clear Creek (CCE) elementaries.
With new data taking into account additional housing developments planned for the area, RSP & Associates presented revised enrollment projections, which show CCE exceeding instructional and structural capacity in the 2015-2016 school year, with a projected enrollment of 528. Instructional capacity refers to the desired number of students while structural capacity refers to what the building can safely and comfortably accommodate. In the 2016-2017 school year, RSP anticipates 559 students at CCE, 591 the following year and 620 by 2018. At NBE, which has already undergone expansion, 531 students are expected in the 2015-2016 school year, 575 in 2016-2017, 604 the next year and 630 by 2018.
The parcel of land at the intersection of US Highway 6 and Jasper Avenue on the east side of Tiffin is large enough for the construction of a second elementary and even an additional middle school, an acknowledgement of several enrollment forecasts showing a continued upward trend.
Before pouring over the “Scenario 1” map, the three groups of committee members relayed what they’ve heard from others regarding the process. Concerns over split towns into two attendance areas and fears of excessive time spent on busses were raised, as well as a desire for the re-districting to be a long-term solution.
As the groups looked at their maps, it became apparent that students may live close enough to physically see the new school, yet could end up at NBE, while students in the western part of Tiffin could end up at CCE. Future growth in North Liberty and mazimizing the capacity at NBE was also a point of concern.
“It’s beautiful that this is not just driven by numbers,” Schwarz said as the members debated shifting the lines.
“You can’t make one community hurt to appease another,” said former school board member Aimee Pitlick.
Schwarz urged the committee to go to various parts of the district and then drive to the proposed schools for those areas in order to get a feel for transport times and to see if the boundary areas truly make sense.
The committee meets again on Thursday, Aug. 7, at 6 p.m. in the high school library. The meeting is open to the public; however, only committee members will participate. A public input meeting is set for Tuesday, Aug. 26, when the committee and the consultant will present a proposal for feedback. The committee will reconvene Thursday, Sept. 4, to review public input and potentially incorporate it into a final recommendation to present to the school board on Wednesday, Sept. 10. The board is expected to adopt a boundary plan at its regular meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 17, and then begin the process of communicating those changes to all affected.