Millard North High School

Millard North High School students cross between wings of the school at class change in this May 2013 photo.

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Sweeping changes to school attendance boundaries are proposed for Millard Public Schools under a plan unveiled Monday.

And parents are already wondering if their kids can be exempted.

About 80 people attended a forum Monday night at Millard North High School to review the plan developed by a committee of parents and district administrators.

The plan would adjust boundaries at the elementary, middle and high school levels, including shrinking the attendance boundaries of Millard West High School to rein in forecasted overcrowding. That would involve shifting some neighborhoods currently in the West High attendance area to Millard North and Millard South High Schools.

Millard Superintendent Keith Lutz emphasized that the plan, which would take effect next school year, is not final until the school board votes on it in December.

“We want to hear your input,” Lutz told the crowd.

He noted that five school board members were in attendance, adding, “We are listening.”

After a brief introduction, the crowd broke into groups to review maps and ask questions.

Several parents said they understood the need to relieve overcrowding in some schools and make better use of underutilized schools.

But the school board should consider grandfathering existing students to minimize instances of siblings and friends being routed to different schools, the parents said.

“It seems like grandfathering is the number one issue,” said forum attendee Beth Schmidt, who lives in the Millard Oaks neighborhood.

She has triplets in sixth grade at Beadle Middle School. Under the current boundaries, they would attend Millard West High School. But under the new plan, her neighborhood would be assigned to Anderson Middle School and Millard South High School.

Chris Shannon said she moved into the Beadle attendance area three years ago. She has two children at Beadle, one in sixth and one in eighth.

The proposal would “uproot” her younger child and send him to Russell Middle School, she said, after he has made friends at Beadle and become familiar with the teachers.

Shannon said she understands school board members must address overcrowding, but they should also look at the impact on kids.

“I think the kids who are currently enrolled should get to stay there,” she said.

Three school board members said in interviews that they are willing to consider grandfathering. Linda Poole said the district has allowed grandfathering in the past, but there would have to be limits.

“You can't grandfather all the kindergartners,” Poole said. “That's kind of unrealistic.”

Mike Pate, board president, said it's logical to allow limited grandfathering, but the board hasn't discussed possible rules.

Grandfathering would have to be applied consistently across the district and done in a way that didn't undermine the plan, he said.

Board member Paul Meyer said he would rather “grandfather a child than allow an open-enrollment child in.”

Millard has been a popular destination for transfer students through the Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties. Some residents have questioned whether transfers contribute to school crowding.

Meyer said the only option to redrawing attendance boundaries is spending money on new schools.

“Unless you want to pay higher taxes, I don't see that happening,” he said.

A committee of parents and building administrators drafted the proposal after studying enrollment data and projections, aided by the consulting firm RSP Associates.

The consultant forecast continued rising enrollment in the southwestern and western parts of the district but generally flat and spotty growth in the eastern reaches.

Committee members tried to keep neighborhoods intact and set boundaries that could serve into the future, officials said.

At the high school level, boundary shifts are designed to address projected overcrowding at Millard West while taking advantage of some extra capacity at Millard South. Most neighborhoods near Wehrspann Lake would be reassigned to Millard South.

Housing areas north of Zorinsky Lake, currently assigned to Millard West, would be reassigned to Millard North.

Each high school has designed capacity of 2,400 students.

Enrollment in September was North, 2409; South, 2033; and West, 2,395.

Under the boundary plan, enrollments for the 2014-15 school year would be: North, 2,573; South, 2,426; and West, 1,956.

By 2018-19, North would be 2,541, South would have 2,677 students and West would be at 2,310.

The plan would change how middle schools feed into high schools.

Two middle schools would feed each high school: Kiewit and North into Millard North; Anderson and Central into Millard South; and Beadle and Russell into Millard West.

Two more forums are scheduled this week: 6 p.m. today at Millard South and 6 p.m. Wednesday at Millard West.

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