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CCA boundary committee charts its course

TIFFIN– The task is great, but the time is short for Clear Creek Amana’s (CCA) enrollment and boundary study committee.
The members now ponder how to realign the district’s elementary school attendance areas ahead of a new elementary currently under construction in Tiffin. The committee, comprised of 16 members, held it’s first meeting Thursday, June 26, at the high school in Tiffin.
Rob Schwarz of RSP and Associates, the consulting firm hired by the district to facilitate the boundary changes, and his staff met with 11 committee members, reviewing the factors that led to the need for the new school, the parameters laid out by the school board and the process the committee will go through.
Schwarz walked the committee through the district’s space and population problems, as ongoing residential development brings continued increases in enrollment. Clear Creek Elementary and North Bend Elementary are both over instructional capacity (the desired number of students) and will exceed structural capacity (the maximum number the facility can safely house), the middle school is currently beyond both capacities and, the high school will exceed instructional capacity in 2017-2018.
Criteria for drawing boundaries were established in a June 10 meeting of the school district board of directors: providing better educational opportunity for equitable student experience at each school; maintaining grade configurations of prekindergarten through fifth, sixth through eighth, and ninth through 12th; maintaining the use of all buildings, realizing Amana Elementary may not be filled to capacity; maintaining reasonable transportation and minimizing time on the busses; and utilizing a community elementary school concept.
Ultimately the committee members were told, exceptional education must take place at each facility. The goal is to minimize subjective comments and rumors in order to obtain the board of education’s goals and priorities, and provide for the educational need of each student.
The committee will strive to keep attendance areas contiguous; consider various demographic factors, which could include census, household salary average, home values, ethnicity or type of housing in a given area; establish boundaries that can remain in place for a significant period of time; keep fiscal considerations in mind; keep neighborhoods intact; minimize the number of students impacted by changing boundaries; and minimize transportation times and cost.
The committee will meet four to five times to sift through enrollment figures and demographic data, and to develop scenarios for potential new boundaries. Each meeting has a clear-cut topic and goal for the night, and committee members will be given homework to do between the meetings.
For example, after the first meeting, members were asked to look at the current boundaries and think about what might work as natural boundaries. They also were told to talk with others in the community about the discussion so far, while emphasizing that no decisions have been made.
The second and third meetings are set for Thursday, July 10, and Thursday, July 24, both at 6 p.m. in the high school library. After the fourth meeting on Thursday, Aug. 7, a public input meeting will be held and the committee’s recommendations will be open for public scrutiny and comment.
The final committee meeting on Thursday, Sept. 4, will review the public input and finalize a recommendation, or series of recommendations, for the board’s consideration.
A boundary plan is to be adopted in September, giving nearly a year’s advance notice to parents and students. Schwarz stressed it was going to be a fully transparent process.
“This is not taking place in darkness,” Schwarz said.
Committee meetings are open to the public, but only committee members will be allowed to speak. The public input meeting is set for Saturday, Aug. 26.