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River Crest families voice opposition to proposed school boundary change

River Crest Parent Group vice president Kim Brunner was one of more than a half dozen people who addressed the School Board last week regarding a proposed school boundary change. The change would affect an estimated 90 families who live in a neighborhood that now attends River Crest Elementary but which could be redistricted next year to go to Rock Elementary. While any of children currently attending River Crest would be able to complete elementary school there, any preschool siblings would be required ...

Around 50 people attended a "listening session" at River Crest Elementary School last Tuesday where School Board members heard only opposition to a proposed boundary change that could affect around 90 families.

The change has been recommended to the School Board and was detailed by Deputy Superintendent Nancy Sweet at the regular board meeting held immediately after the listening session. The change calls for a neighborhood that is now part of the River Crest attendance area to attend Rock Elementary School beginning next fall. That neighborhood is bordered on the north by I-94, on the west by Ban Tara Lane, on the east by Hwy. 35 and on the south by Hanley Road.

Students currently attending River Crest would be allowed to complete elementary school there, but any preschool siblings would be required to attend Rock under the proposal. The change would also require any new students moving into the neighborhood to attend Rock.

The idea of siblings not being able to attend the same school was at the heart of most of the objections raised by the seven people who spoke to the board.

Karl Olson, who lives on Windsor Wood, said his first-grade son who made the move to River Crest from Rock this fall told his father that the idea of changing schools again "sucked." When the boy was told he could stay at River Crest but his two younger siblings would have to attend Rock, he still didn't like the idea.

"He wants to be in the same school as his brothers," said Olson. He also pointed out the difficulty for parents of having children at two different schools while trying to stay involved in school activities. He said that both choices offered by the district, to either all attend Rock or split the family, were "bad choices," a description that brought applause from the audience.

Mary Yacoub of Dunberry Pass told the board that she had been "sold on the referendum" under the assumption that her children would be attending River Crest. Yacoub questioned "what went wrong" with the boundary plan the district adopted just a year ago and why wasn't the school built bigger to accommodate more students?

She suggested moving the early childhood program from River Crest to Rock to make room and that the exit of this year's fifth-grade would add space as well.

Kevin Clemmons, who has a third-grader at the school and three preschoolers at home, said the idea of "double-bussing" some children in the neighborhood to Rock and others to River Crest did not seem consistent with the "green" philosophy of the school and the district.

Rock Parent Group vice president Kim Brunner said the district was just "flip-flopping" the problem of crowding from River Crest to Rock. In a detailed message to the board, Brunner suggested that the proposal was impacting students who are enrolled now for students who may or may not materialize in the future depending on growth in the district and in the area attended by River Crest.

As of Dec. 18, River Crest, which has a capacity for 588 students, has an enrollment of 541. That puts the school at 92 percent of capacity. The enrollment at Rock Elementary is 434, 74 percent of its 588 student capacity. All 24 of the classrooms at River Crest are in use. Twenty of 24 classrooms at Rock are being used this year.

The district said its most recent count shows that 115 K-4 River Crest students live in the neighborhood where the redistricting is proposed.

Sweet told board members that despite using all available information and data from a variety of sources, River Crest enrollment was larger than anticipated, primarily because of a larger than expected number of kindergarten students and an increased number of families moving into the River Crest attendance area.

Board responds

The School Board did not respond directly to the parents who spoke at the listening session but did have some questions after Sweet's report at the regular board meeting. They include:

  • Moving the early childhood program from River Crest to Rock and using those classrooms for students.
  • Verifying by whatever means possible the number of preschool children who live in the proposed boundary change neighborhood.
  • Provide the board with the "worse-case scenario" if all children were to leave River Crest and attend Rock or all stay at River Crest with siblings going to Rock.
  • Determine the impact on River Crest enrollment if all students currently at the school and their preschool siblings were allowed to attend River Crest through fifth grade.
  • Consult with city and county planners and developers to provide any information available about land development in the district that could impact enrollment.

    Sweet said the early childhood area at River Crest is especially designed for the program, including occupational and physical therapy areas not available at Rock Elementary.

    Board member Cindy Crimmins said that while the district is saying parents have a choice to send their children to River Crest and Rock or all to Rock, "It is undesirable to split siblings and really is not a choice for families." She also noted that the board had only heard from parents opposed to the move.

    Sweet said her office would gather as much of the additional information requested by the board as possible and get it to them in time for the Feb. 10 board meeting. She also noted that she would be meeting with parent representatives from River Crest and Rock prior to the board meeting.

    Details of the boundary proposal can be found at the district's Web site, Questions and comments can be forwarded to the district directly by e-mail at or by calling (715) 377-3795.

  • Meg Heaton

    Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

    (715) 808-8604