After months of planning and collecting feedback, the Omaha school district is getting closer to changing school attendance areas.

Omaha Public Schools officials presented the recommended changes to the school board Monday night. The changes are necessitated by the addition of five schools to the district, officials said.

District officials also laid out how the changes would be implemented over the next several years as the schools open.

The board is expected to vote on the changes at its Sept. 16 meeting.

The changes would affect all seven high schools and multiple elementary and middle schools in south Omaha.

School board member Tracy Casady said that the district is trying to make the best choice while affecting the fewest families in a negative way but that ultimately, some people will be unhappy.

Several parents representing Picotte Elementary School at Monday’s meeting expressed concerns about students from that school being separated from their middle school classmates when it becomes time for high school.

Friendships, socioeconomic balance, school capacity, transportation costs and more are all weighed when changing school attendance areas, district officials said.

Thanks to a voter-approved $409.9 million bond issue, the district will open two new high schools, one middle school and two elementary schools in the coming years.

The new high schools at 60th and L Streets and 156th and Ida Streets will give OPS a total of nine high schools. The schools are scheduled to open in the 2022-23 school year for freshmen and sophomores.

Under the recommended changes, the 156th and Ida school would prompt attendance area changes for Burke and Northwest High Schools, and the 60th and L school would prompt changes for Bryan and South High Schools.

Portions of the Central High School attendance area would be moved to Benson and North High Schools. And portions of the Benson and North High attendance areas would be moved to Northwest High.

The recommended changes for high school attendance areas would eliminate the shared high school attendance zones and split six elementary schools and eight middle schools at the high school level. Currently, eight middle schools split at the high school level.

The high school currently with the lowest percentage of free and reduced-price lunch participants is Burke. Under the recommendation, Burke would be at 45% free and reduced-price lunch and the new high school at 156th and Ida would be at 38.3%. (Burke was at 51% free and reduced-price lunch in the 2017-18 school year.)

OPS held eight community meetings in May for the public to weigh in on six options for attendance areas — three for the high schools and three for the elementary and middle schools in south Omaha.

Attendance at the meetings varied, the school board was told.

Ten people attended the community meeting for the south Omaha elementary and middle school attendance areas, and the district received 21 responses via the online survey.

A total of about 275 people attended the seven meetings for the high school attendance areas, and the district received 526 responses from the online survey.

People living in the Central High School attendance area gave the district the most feedback, outpacing the next high school, Burke, by 224 responses.

After those meetings, district officials and a consultant held several internal work sessions to come up with the recommendations that were presented to the school board.

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Emily covers K-12 education, including Omaha Public Schools. Previously, Emily covered local government and the Nebraska Legislature for The World-Herald. Follow her on Twitter @emily_nitcher. Phone: 402-444-1192.

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