Hazelwood Schools seeks input on redistricting plan

Members of Trinity Mt. Carmel Baptist Church cheered students and parents for the first day of the 2016 school year at Keeven Elementary, in the Hazelwood School District. The district has started to engage the community in a redistricting process.

The Hazelwood School District is seeking community feedback on a planned redistricting that may involve requiring some students to change schools.

In the first of the meetings, held at East Early Childhood Center on January 20, the district’s geodemographic and statistical consultant Charles Kofron presented the district’s plan to develop “planning areas” based on the number of students and the number of recent births across the district.

Kofron said the district plans to limit the number of planning areas to a manageable number, using neighborhoods, subdivisions and apartment complexes as natural boundaries. They also hope to avoid requiring students to cross highways, creeks and fenced-in areas on their way to school, which is part of the reason they are seeking community input about what the redistricting effort should look like.

The Hazelwood School District currently has 30 “unique combinations” of elementary and middle school attendance, Kofron said. This means there are 30 combinations of the two schools which students might attend; students who attend one elementary school together, for example, may end up matriculating to two different middle schools.

According to Kimberly McKenzie, the district’s communications director, Hazelwood is attempting to seek as much community input as possible during this early stage in the process so that the district can determine what is most important to the community.

“Nothing is off the table right now,” McKenzie said.

At the first event, parents in attendance expressed a range of concerns about the redistricting effort, including a desire to keep class sizes low, to ensure all schools have adequate facilities for their number of students, and to avoid moving students – especially high school students – from one school to another as much as possible.

Hazelwood Superintendent Nettie Collins-Hart said the main reason for the redistricting effort is an uneven distribution of students across schools, with some having a much larger student population than others with comparable facilities.

“The numbers are really imbalanced,” Collins-Hart said.

The reason for that, she said, is that many schools in the district were built with projections for a high number of future students in mind, which turned out to be an inaccurate estimation of the current student population. The redistricting map will strive for a more equitable distribution.

“You want to use your students and your staff in the best way you possibly can,” Kofron said.

Collins-Hart said the district is hoping many parents and staff members will offer feedback about what they want to see from the process.

No students will be moved during the 2018-2019 school year; changes to attendance areas would take effect in the following school year, the third year of the redistricting process.

There will be two remaining community engagement workshops, taking place at Hazelwood West High School at 6 p.m. Monday, February 5 and at Hazelwood East High School at 6 p.m. Wednesday, February 7. Parents can also find more information on the district’s website at hazelwoodschools.org.

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