Residents living on the south side of the Center Grove area have concerns about a proposed plan to move 370 of their kids to different schools.
Parents are worried about what those moves would mean for their children, some of whom would have to leave their friends and favorite teachers. These families moved into neighborhoods such as Copperleaf and Woodfield because they wanted their children to attend specific elementary schools such as Maple Grove or Center Grove.
But they’re also concerned about how school officials created the plan and notified parents. At a community meeting about the proposed redistricting conducted Thursday night, multiple Center Grove residents asked Superintendent Richard Arkanoff and school officials why they learned of the plans through an email and why more effort wasn’t made to include the community when creating the proposed plan.
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Arkanoff wants residents to know that school officials value their input and that he views Thursday’s meeting as a starting point to work with the community on managing Center Grove’s enrollment. In the coming weeks, he expects to continue meeting with residents so he can talk about their concerns.
“For us, we’re asking for their input. We have to start somewhere. And we’re asking for feedback,” Arkanoff said.
School officials listened to concerns and questions from dozens of Center Grove residents for about an hour during the 90-minute meeting. The meeting originally was to last 60 minutes, but officials continued to take questions from the steady stream of residents who lined up at the microphone.
The Center Grove school board is expected to approve a finalized redistricting plan at its Feb. 19 meeting, but if needed board members could approve the final plan at a later meeting. The changes would start next August.
One of the many questions residents had was how they could be sure school officials were going to take their concerns into consideration before making the final recommendation.
Arkanoff told the audience that all of their questions were recorded and will be posted on the school district’s website. He also assured the residents that school officials want their input before making their final recommendation.
“We put a proposal on the table, and we want your input on it,” he told the audience.
Few audience members received direct answers to the questions they asked at the meeting, which worried some residents.
The final audience member to speak at the meeting told Arkanoff and school officials that the crowd of parents were looking for answers, but that many of them still didn’t know anything other than what’s posted on Center Grove’s website.
On Friday, Arkanoff said that the point of the meeting was to listen to people’s concerns. Because dozens of people were asking questions, answering each one wasn’t practical, Arkanoff said.
School officials started seriously considering redistricting in late November and wanted to contact parents in early January, after they had a chance to review enrollment projections and create a plan, Arkanoff said.
The current plan likely will change before the board approves the final version, and updates will be sent to parents through email, newsletters and posted online, Arkanoff said. Center Grove officials are considering conducting a second community meeting, but Arkanoff also wants to meet with residents of specific neighborhoods so he can discuss their specific concerns.
“In the end, we’re going to have to do something, and some people are going to be upset,” Arkanoff said. “We’re just trying to help people through that.”
A decade ago, Center Grove was used to enrolling 80 to 90 new students per year, but three years ago enrollment numbers were either dropping or holding steady. But the housing market along the south side of White River Township has begun to rebound. New families moved into expanding neighborhoods including Kensington and Brookhaven, and as that happened Maple Grove and Center Grove elementary schools quickly ran out of classroom space.
The goal of the proposed plan is to better balance the number of students attending the district’s elementary schools and to ensure there’s room for growth, school officials said.
Additional details of the plan also were revealed at the meeting, including a provision to allow fourth-graders to apply to attend fifth grade at their current elementary school. Center Grove also plans to block transfers in and out of the attendance boundaries for Maple Grove and Center Grove elementary schools and for Center Grove Middle School Central.
Some residents at the meeting asked school officials how they know this is the best plan, given how unpredictable the school district’s enrollment numbers have been and if new homes continue to be built. In 2012, school officials predicted they’d have roughly 7,830 students by 2022, and the school district is already within 80 students of that number.
Other residents told school officials they were disappointed because they bought homes in specific neighborhoods precisely because they wanted to send their children to Center Grove or Maple Grove elementary school. Some parents also told administrators they’re worried about sending their children to Sugar Grove Elementary School, which has received A, B and C letter grades from the Indiana Department of Education since 2012.
Parents also were worried about how well their children would make the adjustment to a new school. And one of Center Grove Elementary’s current students echoed that point.
Fourth-grader Samuel Wang’s voice cracked as he told school officials that he was scared during his first days of school at Center Grove Elementary, but since then he’s gotten used to the school, and he doesn’t want to leave.
“I understand what it is like to be at Center Grove. And I don’t want to move to Sugar Grove or Maple Grove because I have friends there,” Samuel said.
If you have questions or comments about Center Grove schools’ redistricting plan, you can send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org