SD2 trustees revise redistricting criteria; public can tour schools tonight

2014-08-12T00:00:00Z 2014-09-03T16:18:10Z SD2 trustees revise redistricting criteria; public can tour schools tonightBy DEREK BROUWER The Billings Gazette

School District 2 school board trustees on Monday ironed out the principles that will guide efforts of the elementary school redistricting committee to signal their desire to increase student diversity.

The board tabled the draft criteria during its July meeting after trustee Kathy Aragon advocated for stronger language regarding the socioeconomic makeup of school populations. The original criteria item charged the redistricting committee to “examine” how boundary adjustments would affect diversity, but after a conference call with demographer and consultant Matthew Cropper during Monday’s meeting, the board elected to revise the language.

The new principle, one of nine to guide the process, reads: “Maximize socioeconomic diversity of schools within any redistricting change whenever possible.”

Also on Monday, Superintendent Terry Bouck briefed board members on the process by which the district will create a long-term strategic plan, something he said hasn’t been done in more than a decade.

The planning will include creating district-wide goals, action plans to achieve them and accountability measures to see if those efforts succeed, Bouck said. It’s expected to stretch over dozens of focus groups, public forums and surveys in the next nine months.

Trustees welcomed the planning — “We’ve been in crisis management,” Teresa Stroebe said — and indicated a desire to ensure the plan remains relevant and useful into the future.

Trustees then awarded a $365,183 bid for improvements to softball fields at Will James Middle School to CMG Construction, Inc. The funds are part of the 2013 bond.

The district is also keeping an eye on costs for construction of the new middle school in the Heights. Extensive site work at the campus on Bench and Barrett roads has put the total cost projection about $1.1 million over its $29.4 million budget, said Dusty Eaton of A&E Architects.

However, district officials are optimistic that anticipated cost savings on other bond projects will make up for the difference, SD2 bond manager Lew Anderson told the board.

On Tuesday evening, members of the public are invited to view the progress construction crews have made this summer in renovating Broadwater and McKinley elementary schools. The district will host a pair of public tours at each facility, beginning at 4:30 p.m. at Broadwater and 6 p.m. at McKinley. The tours are expected to last around 45 minutes each.

No hard hats are required, though attendees might want to wear closed-toed shoes, as the tour will venture into the unfinished basement at McKinley, Anderson said.

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