Rio Rancho Public Schools is about to do something for the first time in its 20 years of existence: Adjust some school boundaries without a new school being opened.
That was the major topic discussed at Monday evening’s RRPS board meeting.
The district has adjusted boundaries in the past when new schools were built and attendance areas for neighboring schools had to be altered. New schools were regularly built when the city was growing, but after the economic recession, district enrollment has leveled off to the tune of 1 percent or less growth per year — and although 2013-14 enrollment figures aren’t available, the growth of RRPS from 2011-12 to 2012-13 was a mere 14 students.
But this time, said Kim Vesely, district spokeswoman and director of parent, community and staff engagement, several schools are overcrowded and several have more room than they need.
Unfortunately, the overcrowded schools are in the southern half of the district, and the spacious schools are in the northern half.
So, a boundary committee will be formed to deal with what is never a popular idea: sending kids from one school, which they and their parents are comfortable with, to another school.
Enrollment at Maggie Cordova, Ernest Stapleton and Martin Luther King Jr. elementaries are beyond capacity, while Puesta del Sol and Rio Rancho elementaries could accommodate more students. So, too, could Sandia Vista Elementary, but that school is too far removed from the overcrowded schools to lend assistance.
Board members also discussed the possibilities of reconfiguring what once was Rio Rancho Mid-High, now Rio Rancho Middle School, to make it a true feeder school into a high school. Now, students from RRMS wind up at either high school. Similar to the situation at Eagle Ridge Middle School, Lincoln Middle School ultimately feeds its eighth-graders into RRHS, while Mountain View Middle School feeds its eighth-graders into CHS.
Splitting RRMS into two middle schools, one to feed into RRHS and the other to feed into CHS, was another possibility briefly discussed.
Board members and district Superintendent Sue Cleveland agreed that building Joe Harris Elementary would help alleviate some of the problems. Although money — $10 million — is socked away to get construction under way, there aren’t funds available to operate the school, which would be built west of Unser Boulevard and south of Northern Boulevard. Yearly operation costs are estimated at about $1.5 million.
“(We want to) try to minimize the impact on families,” board member Divyesh Patel said. Board member Don Schlichte said the southern half of the district should undergo boundary changes to “buy some time,” and if Joe Harris isn’t built within the next four to five years, the entire district will be reconfigured.
“It is going to be a challenge any way you cut it,” Cleveland said.
A boundary committee will begin meeting later next month and eventually make recommendations to the board.
In other matters, the board:
• Heard a report from Happy Miller, director of research assessment and data analysis for RRPS, on what students and parents need to know about the tests that must be passed for graduation; fliers are about to be mailed out to more than 5,000 homes where high school students reside;
• Approved an annual agreement with Santa Ana Pueblo enabling some students from that community to attend RRPS schools;
• Approved a handful of graduation assessment waiver requests for students at Cleveland and Rio Rancho high schools, plus the Cyber Academy; and
• Lauded two district employees, Debra Almaraz, special events coordinator, and Alicia Hall, supervisor of the district’s Enchanted Mesa Day Care, as “Unsung Heroes.”
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 14, at 5:30 p.m.