A handful of parents spoke up during Monday night’s Belgrade School Board Meeting about the boundary lines for the new Saddle Peak Elementary School.
Most of the parents who piped up live in the Landmark subdivision. Landmark is a few subdivisions away from Ridge View Elementary School, or a bike ride’s distance, parents’ said.
Under the boundary proposition, the families who live in Landmark will send their kids across Interstate 90 to Saddle Peak Elementary School.
“We live in the Landmark subdivision. We moved to the area last year from Georgia,” said Alyssa Smith, the parent of two Ridgeview students. “We picked our house for the proximity to the school. My son has made two close friends so far. Now one will be going to Ridge View, one to Heck/Quaw and he’ll go to Saddle Peak.”
Other parents complained their kids would be separated.
Dividing the community wasn’t as easy as making three geographical boundaries and sending kids to school accordingly, school officials said. The three elementary schools need to stay at about 400 students total. By slicing the town into boundary zones geographically, those numbers don’t fit the 400-student enrollment goal.
“There are physical limitations like the railroad, rivers and the freeway,” Superintendent of Belgrade Schools Candy Lubansky said. “We don’t have a district neatly cut into thirds.”
So changes had to be made. Kids who could once bus to school in five minutes will now have a longer ride. Parents will have to shuttle their kids to school by car rather than a walk.
If trustees has their way, the new elementary school wouldn’t sit where it does. There were six sites the district considered for the new elementary school. Land on the opposite side Jackrabbit Lane, near the Gallatin Heights subdivision was considered as prime real estate.
During the economic downturn, when the school asked developers for the land, those developers couldn’t afford to hand over the land, Lubansky said. As the district continues to grow, board vice chairman Peter Morgan said he anticipates the need for a school on the opposite side of town from Saddle Peak.
“We do understand that there will be a lot of growth,” he said. “Ultimately we realize there will have to be another elementary school south of the freeway. We just weren’t able to find the right piece of property.”
Grade configurations will also look different next year. Elementary schools will transition from a kindergarten through third grade model to a k-4 model.
“The bottom line is if you do your work well, any combination will work,” Lubansky said. “Any combination works if you make it work.”
Lubanksy reiterated to parents that despite the shiny new building taking shape on Jackrabbit, the district has plans for renewal projects desperately needed in Heck/Quaw and Ridge View, too.
“The piece we’re trying to be really cognizant of is that we’ll have three new elementaries,” she said. “We’re working on renewal for all three schools.”
The school board will make its final ruling on the boundary lines at the December meeting.