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District approved attendance lines aim to improve equity across elementary schools

At Tuesday night's school board meeting, the Iowa City Community School District Board unanimously approved new attendance lines for elementary schools in the district, which will take effect for the 2019-2020 school year.

A big change for some elementary students in Iowa City may mean going to a new school next fall.

At Tuesday night's school board meeting, the Iowa City Community School District Board unanimously approved new attendance lines for elementary schools in the district, which will take effect for the 2019-2020 school year. Those district lines were brought forward and modified since 2016 as a way to address inequity among schools in the district with regards to student's socioeconomic status.

“We were concerned that the Iowa City [Community] School District is so extremely racially and socioeconomically segregated for a long time," said mother DeAnn Grove.

Grove said her first grade daughter’s elementary school—Kirkwood—has a higher concentration of low income students than some of the other schools in the district.

She is happy the zoning changes will help improve equity across all schools, but her daughter had a different take.

“This morning when I told her it passed and that meant that some of her friends were going to be leaving [Kirkwood], she cried, and it was sad," she said.

Some examples of the changes to those district lines can be found here.

Not all students will have to move to a different school in the district. The district's intent is to lower the total percentage of students in the free and reduced lunch program in some schools and raise it in others. This means both low income and non-low income families will be affected by the move to create this kind of equity.

“Our affordable housing in this district across the five municipalities is really concentrated in certain areas, and when you do that, that really populates those schools that are closest to that area," said School Board Vice President Paul Roesler.

Roesler said some schools may experience a drastic shift but one that is expected to pay off in desegregating the school district long term. He said it will also 'right-size' some schools so they are able to maximize their use of school resources with better classroom sizes.

"I think that they [parents and kids] are going to find out at the new schools there’s more kids there that they’re going to become friends with,” said Roesler.

"For families who's kids are moving, your concerns are valid," said Grove.

Roesler said the district will work with families that may need specific before school and after school programs for their children.

“Even though this is a small step, it’s definitely a step in the right direction to desegregate our school," said Grove.

The district said families whose children may have to change schools next year will soon notified by the district via letter.

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