District may redraw school boundaries

Proposed renovation at JDHS may affect students at some elementary schools

Posted: Wednesday, June 06, 2001

The Juneau School District will look at whether it should redraw the enrollment boundaries for its elementary schools for fall 2003.

The district is looking for more space for high school students in the former Marie Drake Middle School, which is shared with Harborview Elementary, because of a proposed major renovation of Juneau-Douglas High School. The Marie Drake building is between Harborview and JDHS.

The elementary school boundaries would be redrawn partly to reduce the enrollment at Harborview so it wouldn't need to use the Marie Drake building except for the library. Harborview now draws students from Lemon Creek to downtown.

Another motive for considering redistricting is that some elementary schools are underused and others are overused, said Juneau School Board member Alan Schorr.

The School Board on Tuesday asked Superintendent Gary Bader to "gather information for consideration concerning redistricting." If the board decides redistricting is a good idea, it will hold public meetings next school year.

"If it makes sense, we have nine to 10 months to bring the community into it and for them to say it makes sense," Schorr said.

The city is working on ballot language to ask voters in October whether they want to renovate JDHS prior to building a new high school at Dimond Park, said Juneau Assembly member Ken Koelsch. The Legislature recently authorized partial reimbursement for the JDHS project, but hasn't offered money for the new school.

Voters in 1999 authorized $50 million in bonds for a new school and $13 million for JDHS. But the bond language made construction for either project contingent on getting some state reimbursement for both projects.

If voters agree, the JDHS renovation would start in the summer of 2002 and continue into the fall of 2004. Besides sprucing up the school inside and outside, and making mechanical and electrical upgrades, the project would add a two-story, airy entrance, and increase the commons area and add a kitchen. The city, with voter approval last fall, also has added about $4 million in sales tax revenues for the project.

The problems now are that the construction work will seriously disrupt the school, and the renovation will leave JDHS with fewer classrooms when it is done.

School district officials want to use all of the Marie Drake building, except for the library now used by Harborview, for high school classes. It may mean moving some districtwide programs now housed at Marie Drake to other schools. Those could include the Montessori program and a preschool that combines regular students with children with special needs.

The district had planned to move the preschool this summer to Gastineau Elementary because the high school will need more classrooms in the fall. A handicapped-accessible ramp to be built this summer will take away one classroom in the high school's English wing.

But the school board agreed Tuesday to reconsider immediately moving the preschool, after concerned preschool parents asked the district to hold off until the end of next school year.

The school district hadn't told them about the planned change, parents said. Parents, who have registered their children for the Harborview program for next school year, said it was too late to register elsewhere.

Eric Fry can be reached at efry@juneauempire.com.

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