Missoula County Public Schools Elementary District is in need of a boundary study process. It has been 13 years since we last adjusted school boundaries and we know that the makeup of many of our neighborhoods has shifted since 2005. In addition, the City and County of Missoula have both updated their growth and development plans.
The primary reasons for contemplating adjustments to our school boundaries are:
- Our school district is growing, over the past 11 years, we have grown by almost 800 students.
- Our five-year community-wide Smart Schools 2020 construction process has passed the halfway mark.
- By the end of 2019, all nine of our elementary schools will have been remodeled or rebuilt, including our newest elementary school Jeannette Rankin Elementary in the Maloney Ranch neighborhood of Missoula.
- Missoulians expressed a strong desire for neighborhood elementary schools of 450- 500 students that act as anchors to their neighborhoods that have safe walking and biking routes to school.
- Once bond-funded construction is complete, we will be at 95% of planned capacity at some elementary schools while other schools are operating at 75% of planned capacity and have space for more students.
We intend to focus on our nine elementary schools in the 18-19 school year. The district will research attendance boundaries for the middle and high schools in the 19-20 school year.
The boundary study will include:
- Meetings at each of our nine elementary schools (1 per school) to gather parent, student and staff input.
- Open House Meetings (3 evening meetings) to inform the entire community throughout the process. These meetings will also be available for viewers at home via television and live-streaming.
- A community advisory committee which will review input from each school, review drafts of boundary options, and make final recommendations to the MCPS Board of Trustees.
We appreciate the depth of feedback we have already received via our survey and school-based focus groups. It is helping us to shape the community process to complete this boundary study.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are you contemplating changing the boundaries between elementary schools?
This is the right time to contemplate new school boundaries. This summer, construction at all nine of our elementary schools will be complete- allowing for each school to serve 450- 500 students. Even though we will have more capacity overall, four of our elementary schools are operating at 95% capacity while three of our elementary schools are operating at less than 75% capacity.
We also have 13.6% of our elementary students attending a school outside of their neighborhood. A significant reason for this is overcrowding at certain grade levels in certain schools.
Since 2013, our district has grown by over 500 students. By 2023, we will grow by another 500 students based on our demographic projections. We need to create solutions to rebalance our growing population amongst all nine of our elementary schools.
When will you look at boundaries between the middle and high schools?
We will study the middle and high school boundaries in the 2019-20 school year.
Which schools are currently the most crowded?
Jeannette Rankin, Lewis and Clark, Paxson, and Rattlesnake are operating at 95% capacity. These schools have the largest number of families who require “levelling” to another school when a certain grade level is full and cannot accept additional students.
One interesting observation is that we have 751 students who live within the 1 mile boundary of Lewis and Clark Elementary school. Lewis and Clark, Paxson, and Russell school’s boundaries all overlap each other as well.
Another interesting observation is the 593 students currently live within the current Jeannette Rankin elementary school boundaries. Neighboring Chief Charlo has about 300 current students who live within their attendance boundary and over 100 students who currently attend the school but are not within the school’s current attendance boundary.
Which schools currently have the most capacity?
Franklin, Lowell, and Russell are operating below 75% capacity. These schools have the ability to accept as many as 150 additional students. The 1 mile boundary around Franklin and Russell Elementary schools also overlaps with several other school attendance boundaries.
Will the guiding principles include a consideration for grandfathering in current students and future siblings?
The guiding principles will be established by the Elementary Boundary Advisory Committee. We expect that they will give serious thought and consideration to the needs of existing students remaining in their school and future siblings remaining in a school together.
When will the new boundaries be enforced?
The Board of Trustees holds the authority to approve new boundaries and the implementation plan. We expect that if the Elementary Advisory Committee's recommendations are accepted, they may be implemented in the fall of 2020.
Do we have enough elementary schools to serve our current and future student population?
Yes we do! Once all of our construction is complete, we will have the capacity for 4,500 elementary students in our nine elementary schools. Our current population of elementary students is 3,726. Our problem is not too few elementary schools, it is a problem of balancing enrollment amongst our nine existing schools.
What about neighborhoods that will have a lot of growth in the next five years?
We certainly anticipate that we may need to open new schools in the future. Mt. Jumbo Elementary is the next school that is likely to be utilized to meet future enrollment needs. We also understand that the Linda Vista and Maloney Ranch neighborhoods may need an additional school to support their growth in the next 10 - 20 years.
What will this Attendance Boundary Study process look like?
In December and early January, the Superintendent is meeting with staff and with the parent community at each elementary school.
We will create an Elementary Boundary Advisory Committee with representation from each K-5 school as well as school and district level staff. We will also have advisors from city and county planning departments, the development community and human service agencies.
The Elementary Boundary Advisory Committee will create guiding principles, look at data, and eventually present options for the community to consider.
We will host at least two community open houses to describe the process, present data and possible options, and allow for community input.
We will also launch an online social mapping tool that will allow for community input even if you can’t attend a meeting.
The Elementary Boundary Advisory Committee will make recommendations to the Board of Trustees in May 2019.
What about dangerous intersections and lack of sidewalks in some areas? Will that be considered in our boundary decisions?
Yes, roadside friction is a serious consideration and we want families to help identify problem areas that we need to consider when making boundary adjustment decisions.
What are you doing about families who use false addresses when registering their children for school?
We do require two forms of proof of residency when registering for our schools - this includes utility bills, lease/rental agreements, and buy/sell agreements. A member of the student’s household must be listed on the proof of residency.
What did you hear from families who responded to the survey this fall?
We had over 1200 responses to our survey. Top trends included:
- A desire for students to attend neighborhood elementary schools that can be accessed via safe walking and biking routes.
- A desire for students to remain in their current school even if boundaries are adjusted to lessen the negative impacts of school transitions.
- Concerns about school overcrowding and its impact on students.
- Concerns about student to teacher ratios, performance on standardized tests, and school culture.
- A desire for the socioeconomic makeup of the school to accurately reflect the socioeconomic range of our entire community.
How will transportation and bussing considerations play into the decisions that are made?
We currently have students transported all around the community due to student levelling out of schools that are full at certain grade levels. We anticipate that we may experience a more efficient distribution of students with new boundaries that may improve our bussing costs. Currently students who live more than ¾ of a mile from school receive bus transportation. We also create some special routes due to safety circumstances on certain routes to schools.
During the period of time while busing is offered to students who chose to grandfather into their current school (2019-2021), the district may require 2-3 additional bus routes to accommodate those students.
Transportation is a cost shared by the state and the local taxpayer and we want to be respectful of these costs on Missoulians.