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Parents Concerned About Albert Lea School Boundary Change

April 26, 2019 02:41 PM

(ABC 6 News) - Several dozen community members filled the cafeteria at Lakeview Elementary School in Albert Lea Thursday night to share their concerns about a proposal to address space issues at two community schools that would result in dozens of students attending classes in a different building.

The proposal involves shifting the lines between Lakeview and Sibley elementary schools to alleviate overcrowding at Sibley and under-utilized space at Lakeview. According to district projections, Lakeview's student population is expected to remain relatively steady without the change while Sibley's would continue to increase. 

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Among the chief concerns parents shared were other parents using other addresses to enroll their kids in a school outside their neighborhood and a rising open enrollment population, a number of whom attend Sibley. 

District officials said all new open enrollees will be assigned to a school based on available space while current open enrollees will remain at their current school. The district said while it can be difficult to verify addresses in families with split homes or other circumstances, they are taking another look at how to address that situation.

Even if both of those changes and moving students from Clarks Grove to Lakeview occurred, Superintendent Mike Funk said it wouldn't be a permanent fix.

"It may solve it in the short term, but what we are here tonight is to look at long-term solutions so that we're not coming back here in a year or two saying, 'Okay, we tried these things and impacted some families, now we're going to have to try something else,'" he said.

Despite that, many parents in attendance felt those options would be a better place to start, along with reassigning schools to current open enrollees.

A number of parents asked Funk at the meeting why the district wouldn't move fifth-graders from Sibley to Southwest Middle School across the parking lot, to which he replied it was considered but ultimately ruled out in order to be "equitable" to fifth-graders districtwide. Another proposal to add on to Sibley was also ruled out due to cost and available capacity at Lakeview.

Sibley PTO President Stacy Cafourek said her family would be doubly affected by the boundary change, with her younger son being moved to Lakeview and her older son given the choice to finish his time at Sibley or move to Lakeview with his brother. While she understands her fellow parents' concerns, she said she also understands where the district is coming from and is teaching both her sons that change is a part of life and their attitudes make a big difference.

"Albert Lea is a small enough community and we still are all on that west side of town in close proximity to the families that are still going to be attending Sibley that we will still attend activities with their families, we will still be friends with their families," she said.

The school board could vote on the proposal next month, allowing the changes to take effect for the 2019-20 school year. The district has posted a list of frequently asked questions and answers on their website, click here for the link.

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