Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/glendale/articles/1119boundaries1119Z2.html

Dysart seeks to alter boundaries
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 19, 2003

Nora Fascenelli

Changes would affect 1,400 kids, ease busing need

The Dysart Unified School District, one of the fastest-growing districts in the West Valley, wants to change attendance boundaries for its elementary schools.

Two public hearings are scheduled, one in English and one in Spanish. Both will include handouts, a detailed presentation of the plan, a question-and-answer period and a survey asking residents for their opinions.

The English presentation is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at Ashton Ranch Elementary School, 14898 W. Acoma Drive, Surprise. The Spanish presentation is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at El Mirage Elementary School, 12308 W. Thunderbird Road.

The proposed changes would affect 1,400 children living in the southeastern section of the district.

El Mirage Elementary School, originally built to handle 840 students, has been busing children to neighboring elementary schools because of overcrowding for several years. Adjusting boundary lines would allow students within walking distance to attend their local schools and reduce the need for busing, logistics and planning director Tom Murphy said.

The district is building a brand new El Mirage Elementary School in the back yard of the aging campus. The old building will be demolished this spring when construction of the new campus is complete. The new El Mirage will have the same amenities, space and equipment of other new elementary schools in the district, with the same enrollment capacity of 1,100 students.

If approved, the boundary changes would take effect in August, when the district opens three new schools: Thompson Ranch, Marley Park and the new El Mirage Elementary.

"The notion of community schools has always been important to our district," Murphy said. "We'll be replacing one of our older schools each year until the entire district is up to par."

Some fear that redrawing the boundary lines will further divide this community, which has a wide disparity between upper-income households and older Hispanic neighborhoods. Rick Brammer, a partner in Applied Economics, a demographic and economic research firm, said that won't happen.

"The goal of the school district is to reduce that sort of segregation," Brammer said. "There will, of course, be some people who don't want their children attending certain schools, but the real result of redrawing the attendance boundaries is to have a more accurate representation of the demographic as a whole. We're looking for ways to balance the demographics and trying to locate schools in such a way that they will be in the center of the attendance area."

As things stand today, many students attending El Mirage hail from outside the actual attendance area because of overcrowding. Redrawing the boundaries would help bring back the notion of community schools and promote better community involvement, Murphy said.

In effect, the district would be mixing the old and new parts of El Mirage, splitting the area in half, with some students going to Thompson Ranch and others going to El Mirage, Murphy said.

More information on the public hearings is available from Dysart's planning specialist, Vern Wolfley, at (623) 876-7052.

Reach the reporter at nora.fascenelli@arizonarepublic.com or (602) 444-6930.