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Iowa City School District Backs Off Redistricting Plans

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IOWA CITY, Iowa The Iowa City school board has set aside plans to redraw some school boundaries, a process that had been debated the past couple of months.

The board Tuesday night voted 7-0 to follow Superintendent Stephen Murley's recommendation that there be no changes in elementary school and junior high attendance zones in the 2013-14 school year.

One exception may be sending children from the Lake Ridge neighborhood in southern Iowa City to Hills Elementary School instead of Twain Elementary, where they go now.

Redistricting, as the process is known, was proposed by Murley's administration in early March to ease overcrowding at Wood Elementary in Iowa City and North Central Junior High in North Liberty. To do that, several other schools would have had their boundaries changed.

But the superintendent said Tuesday that reaction from the public caused him to recommend the board pull back.

Murley said several themes arose at forums and through other feedback:

Parents are concerned about how the school district determines enrollment projections. Murley said the district is looking at how it can do this differently.
There is too much uncertainty over Iowa's request for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Law and how, if it is granted, that would affect transfers. Several Iowa City school district schools that have run afoul of the law must allow students to transfer, and 20 percent of the district's students don't attend their home schools.
There is a need to address overcrowding at Penn Elementary immediately.
The district has identified a need for a North Liberty-area elementary school and another on the east side of Iowa City. Changing junior high school and elementary school boundaries are predicated on those decisions.
There needs to be a clearly delineated feeder system.
A long-range plan needs to be developed to address the above concerns.

Murley said the planning process will require the school board to either reaffirm the 2010 vote to eventually build a third comprehensive high school or take the steps to allow West High and City High to handle increasing enrollment.

A district committee studying a new high school is expected to submit its report soon, with the school board likely discussing it in June.

Murley said the district has identified five available temporary facilities to help ease overcrowding now at Wood, Penn and Lemme elementary schools.

In the Lake Ridge mobile home park neighborhood, Murley said many parents have expressed an interest in being in the Hills Elementary attendance zone. Administrators want more time to talk with parents before making a recommendation, he said.

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