April 22, 2024

NCSD school board approves transition and final boundary maps

Adjustments made after community offers feedback to district via surveys and input meetings

The transition boundary map, left, and final boundary map, right, were approved March 25 by the Newton Community School District Board of Education. Community input led to some adjustments being made to the transition boundary map but not the final boundary map. Maps were created by RSP & Associates.

School board members on March 25 voted unanimously in favor of the updated boundary maps for the Newton Community School District; the boundaries largely determine where students will be going to school during and after the multi-million dollar renovation of Aurora Heights Elementary.

Originally, the school district boundary maps split Aurora Heights students using First Avenue East. If they lived north of the highway, they would be enrolled in Emerson Hough Elementary; if they lived south of the highway they would be enrolled in Woodrow Wilson Elementary until renovations are completed.

The original maps also greatly reduced Woodrow Wilson’s boundaries, leaving many students to be transitioned to Thomas Jefferson Elementary. Many students living south of South 13th Avenue East and west of West 12th Street South would also be moved to Thomas Jefferson.

Survey feedback was fairly positive of the boundary maps, but community input has altered the boundary lines of certain buildings. For instance, the highway is no longer a set indicator for where Aurora Heights students will be moved to. Several families will now be moved to Emerson Hough as a result.

However, the final district boundaries dividing students into Thomas Jefferson and Aurora Heights remains exactly the same.

According to data collected by RSP & Associates, the firm the district is working with to design and plan the boundary maps, there were a total of 165 responses from the community survey. Of which 52 percent of the responses supported the transition boundary plan and 74 percent supported the final boundary plan.

Verbal feedback from in-person events mainly showed concerns on the transition boundary plan, including changes to the southeast rural routes and splitting the Woodrow Wilson community. Others questioned how the plans will impact class sizes, programming, transportation and staffing of buildings.

Disruption to students and transportation were some of the top concerns pointed out in the community surveys. Specifically, community members worried about students having to switch schools multiple times and being separated from friends and familiar environments.

The community requested to keep all Woodrow Wilson, Thomas Jefferson and Emerson Hough students in place and disperse Aurora Heights students into available spaces for the next two years in order to lower the impact for those Aurora Heights families.

There was also a request to keep as many Aurora Heights students together in one building as possible to maintain the school community during transition. Comments from the survey show the Newton community is worried about what will happen to their kids and the transitions they will face.

“I am just overall concerned about uprooting my forth grader,” one survey taker said. “I feel frustrated because the Aurora Heights parents rallied and fought for this configuration, their students then get to displace other students and in the end they end up with the nice building.”

Another survey taker said, “My concern is the students changing schools so much. I have a student that will potentially change schools for fourth grade then again for fifth grade. It is scary to go to a new school and she will have to do it so much more. I am worried for them.”

RSP & Associates estimates 38.2 percent of K-3 students will be impacted in the transition boundary plan, and 66.3 percent of K-1 students will be impacted in the final boundary plan. Students residing in Aurora Heights community and in north rural routes will be impacted twice. All other students will be impacted one time.

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.