Letters went out Thursday to Merrill Area Public Schools families impacted by the closure of Pine River School, telling them which elementary school their children will attend next year.
The decision to close Pine River created the need to move that school’s 144 students to other schools in the district.
“You can imagine the chain effect when most of those students will be going to Washington. It’s affecting all three of the elementary schools,” said MAPS Director of Pupil Services John Sample, who chaired the student assignments committee to transition students into the 2012-13 school year.
Sample said Thursday he didn’t have a total number of students impacted by the move, but he did say it is a substantial number.
“The committee has worked hard to place the students of Pine River into the three elementary buildings while still maintaining the SAGE required class sizes for students in kindergarten through third grade. The committee also respects other factors such as transportation, keeping siblings together, special education needs and building resources,” the letter sent to families stated.
The District Boundary Guidelines map presented at the March 26 School Board meeting showed the new Washington School boundaries including areas roughly east of Hwy. 17. The Kate Goodrich boundaries were shows as including areas north of Hwy. 64, west of Hwy. 17 and east of Hwy. 107. The area to the east of Hwy. 107 and south of Hwy. 64 was noted as the Jefferson Elementary School area.
Those guidelines were designed to be “fuzzy,” Sample said, to allow for some flexibility.
“These are half-mile wide lines that can’t really be drawn as a road, where if you live on one side of the road you go to one school and if you live on the other side you go to a different school,” Sample said.
While considering students’ individual needs, just keeping families together was a challenge, Sample said.
“It is the district’s philosophy not the separate siblings,” Sample said. “That becomes tricky in itself.”
The three elementary schools in the city are absorbing not only the Pine River students, but all three are already at capacity, Sample said. Every available classroom at all three schools will be utilized next year. Jefferson will open up four more sessions. Kate Goodrich will continue to be the only school with dedicated art and music rooms.
Being closest to Pine River, Washington School will see the greatest change in students. The vast majority of Pine River students will move to Washington, while many current Washington students will be moved to Kate Goodrich or Jefferson.
Sample said the committee tried to keep students within walking distance at their current schools. That wasn’t always possible, however. There are students who live just a few blocks west of Washington School, for example, who will be reassigned to Kate Goodrich for next school year.
In an attempt to lessen the impact of school reassignments on children, the district will hold transition activities at all three elementary schools on May 11.