BY COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writer email@example.com
In anticipation of two new schools opening next year, the Bakersfield City School District will hold four informational meetings to spread the word about proposed new attendance boundaries.
Fletcher Elementary School and Cato Middle School are scheduled to open on adjacent campuses in northeast Bakersfield in August 2014.
The Bakersfield City School District will hold four informational meetings next month to answer questions about attendance boundary revisions proposed for the 2014-15 school year.
* 5 to 6:30 p.m. Nov. 5, Sierra Middle School, 3017 Center St.
* 7 to 8:30 p.m. Stiern Middle School, 2551 Morning Drive.
* 5 to 6:30 p.m. Nov. 6, Washington Middle School, 1101 Noble Ave.
* 7 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 6, Sequoia Middle School, 900 Belle Terrace.
The district's Boundary Review Committee will make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 26, with the board scheduled to vote at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 10. Both meetings will be at district headquarters, 1300 Baker St.
If you are unable to attend any of the meetings, view proposed maps online at: http://bcsd.com/bcsd-school-boundaries/
With record enrollment this year, the district said it was time to update its boundaries.
"We looked at the whole district because it's been 15 years since we did the last boundary change, and there's been a lot of growth and people moving around since then," said BCSD Chief Business Official Steve McClain.
A 16-member Boundary Review Committee made up of parents, principals and other school officials has been meeting since August to draft the proposed boundaries, and will hold four November community forums to present the maps and answer questions.
The new boundaries were designed to reduce overcrowding and maximize the number of students attending schools close to their homes, McClain said.
Another priority was to allow as many students as possible from the same elementary school to attend middle or junior high school together.
Under the existing boundaries, for example, students from eight different elementary schools attend Compton Junior High School.
Under the new boundaries, the number of feeder schools at Compton would be reduced to three, McClain said.
BCSD serves about 29,750 students in central and east Bakersfield. Over the past three years, enrollment in the district has grown about 8 percent.
That's a gain of 2,200 students, which exceeds the combined projected enrollment at the two new schools.
"Frankly, we really need at least one more school in our district," said Superintendent Rob Arias.
The district had to hire 109 teachers and 70 classified employees this year, and has leased about 45 more portable classrooms, Arias said.
BCSD's ranks are growing for several reasons.
Some of it is population growth.
Also, during the housing boom, families who could afford to buy or upgrade homes often moved out of the district to newer neighborhoods, but during and after the recession, many of those families returned, McClain said.
Now that the housing market is on the mend, there's also new construction, particularly in the area around the two new schools.
BCSD isn't the only district revamping its boundaries.
Panama-Buena Vista Union School District will be making a decision on its own proposed maps the same day as BCSD.
Both boards of trustees are scheduled to vote on their respective proposals on Dec. 10.
Panama originally tried to update its boundaries last school year. The southwest Bakersfield district was trying to even out an area where some schools are underused and others are overcrowded, but parents complained they didn't have enough input or time to consider the proposal, so the project was put off for a year.
BCSD wants to avoid the same fate with extensive outreach and transparency.
In addition to the informational meetings -- where Spanish translators will be available -- the district has posted information on its website.
Families can enter an address online to see where children would attend school next year if the proposal is adopted.
Arias hopes the process will go smoothly.
"I think most of our parents understand that with the new schools, something has to change," he said. "They trust us."