Redistricting to take place at elementary level

Elise Keller

Webster Groves School District is looking to reassign attendance zones to accommodate the six elementary schools. The district states the priorities for the new zones are enrollment balance, diversity, distance and safety.

“The reason for redistricting is that because of the incoming changes that would move the sixth grades to Hixson following the 2021 school year, that leaves the current sixth grade center as a full elementary school that is able to take on a lot more students, so we need to redistrict to evenly fill all schools to the best of our ability,” junior Simon Glarner said. 

The Webster Groves School District, previously comprised of five elementaries, will undergo redistricting to accommodate for the addition of Givens Elementary. Photo from Webster Groves School District.

Both Glarner and Grace Patrick, junior, are student advisers to the board and have sat in at meetings discussing the redistricting.

“The factors determining the options for reconstruction are Distance and Safety, Enrollment Balance, and Diversity. It is important to the district that travel distance to school is minimized, to prioritize the safety and health of students. It is also important to the district that enrollment within the schools is as balanced as possible, and that each school is as socioeconomically and racially diverse as possible,” Patrick said.

To ensure the best possible outcome, John Simpson and the school board have invited community feedback in the process.

“There have been several discussion sessions, surveys, and opportunities for public comments during board meetings for community input,” Patrick said about community involvement in the decision.

“While the school board has the final say, they are taking into account how the community is responding to this process, and want to find the best solution for the community as a whole,” Patrick said.
As the zones currently exist, each of the five schools have between 173 and 460 students, the largest being Avery and the smallest being Hudson. Similarly, each school has between a 9 percent and 13 percent free and reduced lunch population. With the addition of Givens elementary in North Webster, an area with the highest density of socioeconomically disadvantaged students, this will change the balance and diversity in the schools.

The first option presented in the survey to the community looked at proximity as the only factor. Photo from Webster Groves School District.

Five zoning options are currently being discussed (found here).

The first option is to send students to whichever school is closest to them, looking at solely proximity. If Givens were to take in only the students closest to the school, it would reach a 39 percent free and reduced lunch population, and the other elementaries would go to between 3 percent and 9 percent. The walking distance for most students with this plan stays under one mile.

The second option is a similar plan, with a focus on proximity, but a bit more balance in terms of socioeconomic disparaging. Givens will have about 29 percent free and reduced lunch, while all others will have between 5 percent and 11 percent.

The third option has a better balance of proximity and socioeconomic diversity, but some community members voiced concerns about the fragmented zones on a survey sent out by the committee to redistrict.

Scenario four, which had low support in the survey, seems to have the best balance of travel distance, socioeconomic diversity, and continuous boundaries. Some who took the survey said that the distance is just too far.

The final scenario received the least amount of support, but was fairly socioeconomically diverse. This plan looked at taking sections from each of the current elementaries’ zones and sending them to Givens, similar to how students from North Webster have been gerrymandered in past district zones. This option impacts the least amount of students. The issue many saw with this plan was the distance traveled for those impacted and chunking up the zones. This option doesn’t seem to create a neighborhood feel.

“I support whichever option minimizes travel distance to school and focuses most on distance and safety for students,” Patrick said.

“Upon first glance, option two seems best suited to have a combination of ease of accessibility with diversity,” Glarner said.

The recommendation for the exact scenario will be made to the board in late spring of 2020.

Elise Keller – Editor in Chief

This will be Elise Keller’s third year on ECHO staff, but she made several contributions while taking journalism class her freshman year.

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