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April 24, 2014

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Parents get ready to fight school rezoning

Nearly 200 students could move from Coronado to Liberty

Parents from the southern half of Anthem met Wednesday to plan a final fight against a proposal to move their children from Coronado High School to Liberty High School next school year.

A Clark County School Board panel has been looking at ways to relieve crowding at Coronado, which was 500 students over capacity when the School District's official student count day occurred in September. Additionally, Liberty was 750 students under capacity, so the Attendance Zone Advisory Commission was ordered by the School Board to get students into the school.

After several discussions, the commission, which makes recommendations to the School Board for final approval, agreed to move Madeira Canyon and Anthem Highlands students, a total of nearly 200 students. The original goal was to move 300 students, but many commission members felt the 200 was an acceptable compromise.

Anthem parents say the result has been to single out their children and make them potentially suffer academically or emotionally, with little to show for it.

"It seems like since we're the new guys, it's taking the path of least resistance," parent Steve Menard said. "What the (School) Board has now is not a long-term solution."

Parents brought up a range of concerns, from the personal — a child potentially losing academic or sports scholarships if moved to the smaller Liberty — to the broad. They repeatedly asked, were the stated goals of the commission reached?

Several parents had put together a 10-page document analyzing the issue, which has been sent to Clark County School District officials and members of the media. In it, the parents state three main objectives were not met: fill a substantial portion of empty seats at Liberty, and reduce crowding at both Coronado and Foothill high schools.

"Is this minimal change worth the hardship that will be imposed on students and families in this area?" it says.

Those concerns were echoed at the parent meeting, which was attended by School Board Member Carolyn Edwards, who represents Liberty. Coronado representative Deanna Wright was invited but could not attend because of other obligations.

Annette and Tom Westerfield discussed some of the hardships their family would face were they forced to move to Liberty. Their oldest son has been in band and football for the past two years. In band, he has worked to raise money which would go toward any of his band needs, and his personal account totals $500. If he transferred, that money would revert back to Coronado's general band fund and he would have to start over, she said.

Plus, he'd have to start over with a different band and a different team, which might affect scholarship opportunities for the aspiring USC student, Annette Westerfield said.

"We're counting on football or band scholarships for college," she said.

Other parents had concerns about some of the Advanced Placement classes their children had already signed up for that weren't offered at Liberty, such as French. At Liberty, students have the option to take only Spanish or Latin.

Edwards mentioned there is the option of Virtual High School, or taking classes online, but there were many groans at the suggestion, with at least one of them coming from a parent concerned about the extra cost. If the class isn't offered at a child's school, it's free through Virtual, Edwards said.

The parents pointed out that many Coronado students have other high schools closer to them. Some students attending north of Interstate 215 are much closer to Silverado, Del Sol or Green Valley than Coronado, yet they're bused to Coronado, they said.

"Why not have neighborhood schools?" Janice Dawson asked.

The problem is that many neighborhood schools don't have the ability to hold all of the students in the neighborhood, Edwards said.

While that may be the case, the parents don't want to see the Anthem neighborhood split, they said.

In addition, the parents said they feel like the School District officials and School Board have not been listening to their concerns.

Edwards tried answering many of the questions and concerns parents had, though not all of her answers were satisfactory to the parents. She tried to reassure them that, while the School Board does generally go with the recommendation presented by the Attendance Zone Advisory Commission, it is not required or guaranteed. As long as a community received notice it was on a proposal, there is still potential it may be moved, she said.

A few parents would like to think they will still be heard.

"The last thing anyone wants is to feel irrelevant, and we feel irrelevant," Menard said.

Frances Vanderploeg can be reached at 990-2660 or [email protected].

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