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School boundary changes criticized

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Some Rio Rancho parents are unhappy with proposed elementary school boundary changes, saying out-of-district students should be moved first and questioning whether the shift will have any impact.

The Rio Rancho Public Schools Board on Monday discussed possible ways it could alleviate overcrowding at Martin Luther King Jr., Maggie Cordova and Ernest Stapleton elementary schools. The board did not make any decisions.

District staff began looking at possible elementary school attendance boundary shifts earlier this school year and had come up with two possible solutions. Maggie Cordova currently has 1,040 students, Stapleton has 916 and MLK has 877, and both proposed options would bring Cordova’s enrollment closer to 900 and enrollment at MLK and Stapleton would be near 800.

The district wants to hold off on a complete overhaul of its elementary boundaries as it plans to open Joe Harris Elementary in the next few years.

Eight parents spoke to the board. Many parents with children enrolled at Maggie Cordova were angry that their children could be moved when the school has more than 100 transfer students.

Maggie Cordova parent Gina Mitchell told the board that the benefit of slightly relieving overcrowding does not seem worth disrupting families.

“I feel like you are shuffling students around for no reason,” she said. “Let’s make decisions that have impact. We should not have to go to a different school because of Albuquerque students.”

Brian Helms said if his family was switched from Maggie Cordova to Puesta del Sol, as proposed, the travel time to school would double.

“There is also no way to ride, walk or bike to that school,” he said. “We chose to live where we live based on the school, Maggie Cordova. Why should we switch when Albuquerque students are there?”

Superintendent Sue Cleveland told the board the issue was not black and white and she was reluctant to turn away every transfer student next year that is currently enrolled in the district.

It also appears the board is no longer exploring the possibility of building a satellite kindergarten campus, as discussed at a boundary workshop earlier this month. Al Sena, the district’s executive director of facilities, gave a presentation to the board Monday and said a basic estimate puts the cost of the project between $4.61 million and $5.96 million, depending on the price of the land.

“That does not seem like a good option based on the data you have given us,” said board vice president Don Schlichte. “Can we possibly wait another year?”

Schlichte said the district might want to consider turning away the current transfer students next year to help with the overcrowding. Maggie Cordova principal Skip Mackay said he would prefer this solution, as well.

“This process has been very nerving,” he said. “I feel for the parents and their children.”

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