EAGLE -- West Ada School District, the state's largest, is considering realigning some school boundaries. But as we know from experience, when districts talk about changing school boundaries, a lot of parents don't like it.
The district's goal is to relieve overcrowding - a problem that's plagued their schools in recent years.
The district hosted a meeting Monday night, and it played out as somewhat contentious. Hundreds of parents showed up to learn about the new boundaries. Dozens of concerns were raised, mainly from parents who learned that under this proposal their students would be going to middle schools far from home, would be separated from their friends or would be bounced around.
This is stemming from Star Middle School opening next fall; voters passed a bond in 2015 to build the new school - with a capacity of 1,000 students - which will relieve overcrowding issues at Heritage and Eagle middle schools. Whenever a new school opens, attendance areas have to be re-adjusted.
The district put together a committee made up of parents and other stakeholders a couple months ago to address that. West Ada School District spokesman Eric Exline presented the committee's initial plan to the public at Eagle Middle School Monday evening, and listened to input from those who will be impacted.
The proposed changes also impact a number of elementary schools in Meridian, as well as move kids from overcrowded Rocky Mountain High School to Meridian High School.
"Moving kids is not easy. It's not easy for the committee to do and it's hard on families and they get concerned about disruption from their current friends, relative distance to schools," Exline told KTVB. "That's part of the challenge is relative distance. That's one thing you consider, but if you're going to get the school under capacity you're going to have to give somewhere."
Under the proposal, hundreds of kids who are on track to attend Heritage or Eagle middle schools will now be attending Star or Meridian middle schools. A number of families who live very close to schools under the current zones spoke out against parts of the proposal.
"There's a lot of very passionate parents; we care about our kids, we care about what's going to happen with our children, we want the best for them. So for me it's about making sure my kid is not in a dangerous position 45 minutes on a bus each way every day across major highways," Eagle resident whose son attends elementary school in the district, Ryan Pritchett, said. "Meridian is really bad about making sure they have enough schools to go with all the building they're doing. Every day there's another neighborhood popping up and there's no schools for those kids."
"I feel like a lot of people felt overlooked. So it hasn't worked itself out," one parent whose kids go to Eagle Middle School, Derek Haver, told KTVB.
Along with creating an attendance area for Star Middle School, the committee was tasked with creating boundaries while balancing enrollment and reducing overcrowding. They considered the following: changes at other grade levels that might be needed to keep peers together as they transition; neighborhood continuity (keeping subdivisions in the same attendance area); safety issues such as major busy roads, canals, etc.; distance for walking and busing zones; current students versus future growth; "bouncing students" (location of future schools at all levels to try to anticipate future attendance area changes); feeder schools (middle school attendance zones).
If you missed Monday's meeting, you have more chances to weigh in. There is another presentation at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 20, at Heritage Middle School in Meridian and a final presentation at 7 p.m. on January 8 at the new Star Middle School.
The committee will take concerns or suggestions into consideration and is expected to present the final draft to the school district board of trustees on January 16.
View the full detailed proposal from the attendance area committee here.