The Billings School District 2 Board of Trustees and the SD2 high school planning and development committee discussed on Monday night the members and general duties of the committee that will recommend new boundaries for elementary and middle schools in Billings.
The members present voted unanimously to recommend that, at its regular full meeting on July 21, the board accept the the 26-member redistricting committee as it was presented on Monday.
SD2 hired Matt Cropper, of Cropper Demographics, to assist in the redistricting process, which will redraw the boundaries for elementary and middle schools across Billings.
Via a conference call, he told the board that he used a handful of criteria to select the proposed committee members.
“The best team is one that comes from all over the area or, in this case, the school district,” Cropper said.
He said the made a point to choose people representing different areas of the district and who didn’t display a bias or wanted to be involved to advocate for a particular school.
“Objectivity is another thing I was looking for,” he said.
The trustees at Monday night’s meeting also unanimously voted to recommend approval of the redistricting team’s roles and responsibilities and of the redistricting guiding principles and criteria at the next full board meeting.
Cropper said that, in his experience with similar efforts, the committee has done the bulk of the work before making a recommendation, while the school board plays more of an observational role. The public is welcome to attend any committee meeting and an official public input session will likely be held about three-quarters of the way through the process.
Superintendent Terry Bouck said a website will be created to keep the public informed and that the committee meetings could be televised. “This has to be an open process,” he said. “That’s why I want it on TV. I want it out there.”
The criteria that will be presented for approval include minimizing the effects of redistricting on students, balancing building use, creating contiguous boundaries, making an effort to not split community components and maximizing transportation efficiency and walkability, among others. The committee is expected to recommend two or three options to the board of trustees in March of 2015.
In other news, Bouck told that board that it’s time to start looking at what to do with the 10-acre Cottonwood site on the West End, which SD2 purchased for $200,000 in 2007 with designs to build an elementary school and, per the purchase agreement, must begin construction by November of 2017 or be sold back to the City of Billings for the original sale price.
Bouck said it could be difficult to meet that schedule, but that it’s still imperative to build another elementary on the West End. He said one option could be the 37-acre site at 56th Street West and Grand Avenue where the district will build a new middle school.
That school will only use about 20 acres, potentially leaving 17 for an elementary. Bouck said that the district promised a school would be built and that he intends to see it through.
The board also awarded bids for technology infrastructure and upgrades.
It awarded Miicor Inc. a $95,997 bid for new web filters, High Point Networks $85,635 for new switches and wireless access points to Virtual Graffiti for $246,250.
The board also awarded bids to CDW-G for 1,213 11.6 inch Samsung Chromebooks for $319,019 and for 90 11.6-inch HP Chromebooks for $24,930. It awarded Troxell Communications with a $17,518 bid for 50 14-inch Chromebooks.