I attended the meeting this evening for Menifee Union's proposed boundary changes at Ridgemoor Elementary.
This was a very well attended meeting, I'm guessing about 400 people. It definitely fit the bill as a community meeting because a lot of parents, teachers, and students themselves spoke. And not just asking questions either, but walking up to the microphone and stating their arguments. Two third-grade girls walked up to the microphone and addressed everyone with their plea to remain at Ridgemoor.
Dan Wood, the assistant superintendent, started out as the presenter of the proposed boundary changes, but after the onslaught of public questions, comments, and speeches, ended up as the district's whipping boy. As he fielded questions towards end of the meeting, his frustrations became apparent as his answers became more blunt. Those who remained until the end of the meeting gave him an applause for hanging in there.
The district presented two proposals, one that they've named, "Proposal 1", and the other "Proposal 2". It's worth noting that Proposal 2 is the old proposal, and Proposal 1 is the newer.
Proposal 2 (the old one) would have had students living in the Menifee Hills community, south of Honey Run Rd, but west of Salt Creek, be moved to Quail Valley. Proposal 1 (the new one) now lets these students remain at Ridgemoor. However, Proposal 1 will take students who in the neighborhood behind Stater Bros, just east of Salt Creek, and move them to Evans Ranch Elementary.
This neighborhood behind Stater Bros. is bounded by Berea Rd, Catano Rd, Dorval Ct, Gifhorn Ct, Lazy Creek Rd, and Park City Ave. If you live within this area, your kids are now targeted to move to Evans Ranch Elementary.
So basically, the district is honoring the demands of Menifee Hills parents, but has
now set its sights on this "Stater Bros." neighborhood, effectively robbing Peter to pay Paul.
One big bone of contention that "Stater Bros." families raised at the meeting was that they were not given notice of this change. Dan Wood explained that they sent out notifications, however based on the responses of parents, it seems they missed some. Wood acknowledged that this change was made just days ago, and it's difficult to notify everyone on such short notice. He also went on to add they received a number of notices returned for bad addresses, and the audience groaned in disgust.
Still at this point, the district has not decided on new boundaries. Their official decision will be made in the days after the February 5 general election, once the final vote count for Measure B is made. Then they will present the official boundaries in a public meeting on February 12. The exact time and place for that meeting is not decided.
Wood also made a comment that the change in schools will not affect 4th grade students who will be returning to the same school for 5th grade. For them it will be an option.
The Move to Single Track
In my original announcement (click here) of the Ridgemoor Boundary Change meetings, I wrote that the change in school boundaries was caused by the opening of the new school in Quail Valley.
It appears I was wrong. What's necessitating the boundary changes is the district's desire to move to a single track year.
As Dan Wood presented the boundary changes and answered questions, he continued to stress that voters need to pass Measure B. In fact, he spoke of Measure B many times, even though technically, it didn't relate to Ridgemoor's boundaries. Measure B is the bond measure that will raise funds to build three more schools.
A single-track school year will increase student population because it results in multiple tracks merging into one. So to relieve the resulting overcrowding, the district wants to move students over to the new schools.
Oddly, Dan Wood explained that soon the district will be sending out questionnaires to parents asking them if they prefer a single track year, or would rather stay with the existing multi-track year. And that statement really got the audience riled up.
Many parents then stood up and asked why the district would first propose boundary changes, and then determine if parents want to move to a single-track year. They argued that the district should first ask parents if prefer a single track year. Then if they did, go ahead and propose boundary changes. Wood looked rather perplexed. I'm guessing that the district assumed all parents wanted a single-track year, but it became clear that many parents have built their lives around the multi-track calendar and have become comfortable with it.
Wood did explain that there is a slim chance that no boundary changes will be adopted, and I'm guessing he's referring to the chance that Measure B might fail to pass.
Many parents complained that they could not afford to pay the nearly $200 a year fee to let their kids take the school bus. Currently, these families live close enough to Ridgemoor that their kids can walk or ride a bicycle. But with having to change over to the Quail Valley school, their kids would have to take the bus. When asked if the district would waive this fee in lieu of forcing them to change schools, all Wood could do was shrug his shoulders and acknowledge that the parents would have to pay the fee.
Wood also explained carefully that the school board did not draw the proposed boundary lines, it was the district staff. The board simply gave the approval to move forward with the boundary change process. However, they will be the ones to approve the final boundary changes, after the Feb 5 general election.
From the way Wood seemed to explain things, everything hinges on Measure B. If it passes, we'll see new boundaries, and we'll likely see a migration to a single-track school year. If it fails, my guess is that the district will put another bond measure on the July ballot.
Unfortunately for the district, and perhaps no fault of Wood's, parents are now seeing the boundary change as being within their control, simply by voting "Yes" or "No" on Measure B. A "Yes" vote on Measure B will create the boundary change, while a "No" vote might keep the status quo. If the school district wants Measure B to pass, it's going to have to come up with a new strategy, and quick.
One parent stood up and said that after hearing all of this, she doubts anyone will vote for Measure B. The audience roared in agreement.
Below are maps of the two proposals.
Proposal 1 - Click to enlarge
Proposal 2 - Click to enlarge
You can also see a map of the district's existing boundaries on their website (click here for link).