Phoenixville Area School District planning elementary school student redistricting

Phoenixville Area School District

PHOENIXVILLE — As a part of the district’s attempt to address growing enrollment, Phoenixville Area School District has begun talks of redistricting for elementary school students.

“Redistricting: one of my least favorite words but one of the words we need to start bringing up,” Superintendent Alan Fegley said at the Phoenixville Area School Board’s workshop meeting Jan. 9.

Fegley immediately said he was not planning on implementing redistricting for the 2014-15 school year. He said he hoped to have a discussion on it for the next “12 months” and potentially begin the changes in 2015-16.

“This is going to be a process that needs to have community input,” Fegley said. “This is just the beginning where I’m putting out some proposed parameters just to consider.”

Administration in the district will begin coming up with lines and policies at the direction of the school board, according to Fegley.

One of the goals is to allow “projected growth” in all of the elementary school buildings, he said, so that none of the buildings are left at their top capacity.

Among the other proposed guidelines for the redistricting the district listed were keeping movement of students to a minimum and “optimizing” bus and walking routes.

As a part of the redistricting, Fegley said one of the main ideas is to keep students already attending one elementary school at that school until they move on to middle school.

The plan is to “phase in” the redistricting.

Parents of East Pikeland Elementary School children reportedly expressed concern to board members and Phoenixville Area School District administration that their children might be “split up.” However, Fegley said those students would likely be kept together.

“We need to get kids from Barkley and Schuylkill elementaries,” where there is overcrowding and little ability to expand, he said.

When it comes to their siblings, however, more planning will be required. Scenarios in which one student still in fourth grade at one school but living in a redistricted area but has a brother or sister leaving the Kindergarten Center and entering elementary school will have to be addressed. Where that family’s students, and other students in similar situations, go to elementary school poses a problem the redistricting plan must address.

“That’s what we talked about: looking at families with multiple siblings in multiple grade levels,” said board member Irfan Khan.

He said he wanted to see data on how many families were in potential split situations that could pose such redistricting problems before too much work or policy is discussed.

Dan Cushing, the board’s vice president, requested that the redistricting plans go through the building and grounds committee, which he serves as chairman of, to better coordinate the plan with the needs and capacities of the existing and planned buildings.

Additionally, Cushing said the plans should align with the planned opening of the new early learning center/new East Pikeland Elementary,

“We don’t want to redistrict twice,” Khan said. “It has to line up (with the opening).”

The opening of the new building is dependent on the land acquisition of Meadow Brook Golf Club, which is currently halted while a judge weighs legal challenges.

In several presentations to the school board in the past, district administrators have shown growing enrollment numbers and schools beyond capacity using portable classrooms.

“It will be a long discussion. We will try to make it (as unpainful) as possible,” Fegley said.

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno,