PISD Debates Redistricting Around Economy

By Randy McIlwain and Greg Janda
|  Wednesday, Oct 21, 2009  |  Updated 9:09 AM CDT
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PISD Debates Redistricting Around Economy

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Plano ISD is trying to rezone it's schools as parents set specific boundaries on where they want their kids to attend school.

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PISD Debates Redistricting Around Economy

Plano ISD is trying to rezone it's schools as parents set specific boundaries on where they want their kids to attend school.
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It’s a bit of role reversal in the Plano Independent School District -- the adults have a lot of homework to do.

Specifically, it's geography they'll need to work on as the district’s board tries to work out complications with redistricting of schools. Parents want to know where their children will attend and why.

Board members are grappling with controversy on it’s east side. As new middle and high schools are under construction, parents who supported bond elections want them both to be neighborhood schools.

"We want to spend time with our kids," said parent Carolyn Alvey. "We want the enviornment to be protected, we want fuel costs to go down for the district, we want the district to spend more money on educating our kids."

The problem is that the eastern portion of the district is a complicated mix or affluence and financially disadvantaged citizens. Currently most students on the east side filter into Williams High School, which has 9th and 10th grade classes only. Many of the students at Williams come from Title 1 schools where students have more financial challenges at home.

Some Williams High School parents are concerned that if the newer Otto Middle School and McMillen High School are indeed neighborhood schools, it will create an educational imbalance on the east side favoring affluent areas, leaving students at Williams with less opportunity and a less than equal education facility.

Their solution is redistricting based on socioeconomic guidelines that would require bussing but would insure no school maintains an advantage in either perception or reality.

”Two balanced, strong high schools is the very best thing for PISD. It's the best thing for out kids ... it's the best thing for our communities,” said Erica Johnson of Parker.

Board members insist no decision has yet been made but concede that any decision involving socioeconomics as a determining factor is new territory for the district and opens PISD to potential legal issues that could impact the district for generations.

“I'm really torn between neighborhood schools versus looking at socioeconomic status for purposes of determining where children go to school,” said PISD Board member Duncan Webb.

In three meetings discussing all the possibilities thus far, hundreds of parents have showed up expressing their own ideas about what’s acceptable, which raised an obvious point for board member Marilyn Hinton.

“If all of our schools were exemplary we probably would not have a room full of parents here,” said Hinton.

PISD also must grapple with redistricting in it’s central-west portion of the district, but the issues don’t involve the financial status of students which one board member referred to as "social engineering" and numerous parents call "an experiment."

Plano’s ISD had hoped to have a decision on it’s redistricting by the first week in November -- that will not happen now as they continue to consider all ideas and research new ones.   A final decision on Otto Middle School must be made by December, but ground has yet to be broken on the new McMillen High School set to open in 2011.

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