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Rochester Public Schools begins developing process for families affected by boundary changes

"There are 260 high school students, if you take 12th graders and siblings, that will be impacted by the boundary changes," Superintendent Michael Muñoz said.

Future elementary Boundaries .jpg
Future elementary school boundaries starting in 2022-23.

Now that Rochester Public Schools has determined where its new boundaries will be starting in 2022-23, administrators have started to iron out processes for families that want to remain at their existing schools.

The School Board discussed the issue at a recent meeting, during which it provided data on the number of students in several grades who will be affected by the move. However, Superintendent Michael Muñoz clarified that officials are still working out some of the details in the process.

"We're pretty solid with what we want to do at the elementary and middle school levels," he said.

Muñoz has said students will be allowed to remain at their existing schools after the boundary change if they only have a year left at that school, meaning students in fifth, eighth and 12th grades. Siblings of those students will also be able to remain at their existing schools for one year, if space allows.

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The School District recently finished its boundary-change process to accommodate the new schools being built. They include a new middle school near the intersection of 65th Street Northwest and 55th Avenue Northwest, and a new elementary school on Overland Drive, which is on the opposite side of U.S. Highway 52 from 65th Street Northwest.

The district is also reconstructing Bishop Elementary on West Circle Drive, as well as Longfellow Elementary on Marion Road Southeast.

According to supporting documentation provided by the district, parents will be able to submit a request to keep their child at their existing school. The district also plans to reach out to families about the process.

"Fifth graders will be allowed to finish their career at that elementary (school), and any sibling may stay with them," Muñoz said. "This way parents don't have to have a fifth grader at one school and a second grader at a different school."

The supporting documentation, however, indicates there could be some congestion in the eighth-grade classes at John Adams and Willow Creek middle schools, depending on how many students want to finish out their time there. At Willow Creek, there will be 134 students in the eighth-grade class scheduled to transition to the other middle schools but who could request to stay at Willow Creek for their last year before high school.

middle school boundaries.jpg
Future middle school boundaries starting in 2022-23.

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It could lead to congestion, since that will also be the first year after the closure of the districtwide Friedell Middle School, meaning a number of students from that school will land in the eighth-grade class at the other middle schools.

"Two-thirds of the students that attend Friedell would go to Willow (Creek)," Muñoz said, adding that they're still working out some of the details for the younger students, too. "We're still studying that."

Transportation will still be provided for students who opt to remain in their existing schools. Also, students who either enter a new school or opt to remain at their existing school will be able to participate in sports right away rather than having to sit out a waiting period.

The high schools will not be impacted as much as the elementary and middle schools. During the year the boundary changes take effect, there will be 39 seniors at John Marshall who will be switched to Century and 27 seniors at Mayo who will be switched to Century.

high school boundaries.jpg
Future high school boundaries starting in 2022-23.

Overall, there will be 137 Mayo students and 123 JM students who will need to move to a new school, according to the updated boundaries. There are no Century students who are scheduled to move to another high school.

According to 2021 enrollment data, Century currently has 1,604 students, John Marshall has 1,629 students, and Mayo has 1,941 students.

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"There are 260 high school students, if you take 12th graders and siblings, that will be impacted by the boundary changes," Muñoz said, adding that the district still has work to do at the high school level. "And we need to spend a little more time looking at the transportation piece of that, and the capacity."

Jordan Shearer covers K-12 education for the Post Bulletin. A Rochester native, he graduated from Bemidji State University in 2013 before heading out to write for a small newsroom in the boonies of western Nebraska. Bringing things full circle, he returned to Rochester in 2020 just shy of a decade after leaving. Readers can reach Jordan at 507-285-7710 or jshearer@postbulletin.com.
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