At its March 4 work session, the ISD 279 School Board will continue its consideration of a potential grade configuration change which, if approved, would take effect beginning with the 2015-2016 school year. The change would align school grade spans with the more common configuration in the metro area (K-5, 6-8, 9-12).

Changing grade spans would relieve space pressures at the elementary level, primarily related to expansion of all-day kindergarten, and would provide better alignment for ninth-graders related to graduation requirements, curriculum, and high school activities.

Without grade span changes (if the current configuration remains), elementary schools will be overcrowded and boundary changes will be required at approximately 7-11 elementary schools, affecting an estimated 400-plus students.

At the March 4 work session, staff will provide information requested by school board members at the February 10 work session discussion on the same topic. If board members have sufficient information to provide direction, a final recommendation could be presented for board action as early as the March 18 regular school board meeting.

The March 4 work session, which is open to the public, will focus on options for adding space to all three comprehensive high schools in order to accomplish grade reconfiguration with minimal impact on school boundaries. Feedback received from parents, staff and community members during the past three months has been clear that there is substantial support for the concept of the K-5, 6-8, 9-12 grade configuration as long as it does not result in significant boundary changes.


December 17, 2013
The idea of revising the current grade spans was presented at a December 17 school board work session. Supt. Kate Maguire presented a preliminary recommendation that would have allowed grade reconfiguration to take place by adding space to only one high school, while moving approximately 400 total students from the other two high schools to the school with expanded space. Staff presented a preliminary analysis of benefits and challenges (Appendix D) associated with keeping the current grade spans or moving to a K-5, 6-8, 9-12 configuration. The board then directed staff to seek feedback on the preliminary recommendation through information sessions and electronic options.

December 2013-early February 2014
Three information sessions were held for families and members of the community; two information sessions were held for staff; and feedback was collected through an online feedback form and the general WeListen email address.

February 10, 2014
The feedback summary was shared with the board at the February 10 work session, at which the board also reviewed an updated analysis of benefits and challenges associated with the current and proposed grade spans.

In response to the feedback regarding support for different grade spans as long as they didn’t require significant boundary changes, staff provided information about options for adding space onto all three comprehensive high schools instead of just one. Adding space to all three high schools could be accomplished via lease levy, which would cost approximately $1.50 per month ($18/year) for the typical district homeowner. Funds for building additions would not come from either of the recently approved operating or technology levies.

March 4, 2014
At the March 4 work session, board members will review the information gathered by staff regarding multiple high school additions and impact on student numbers at each school (not boundary changes) and provide direction regarding next steps. If no additional information is needed, the board could direct staff to develop a recommendation for board action at the March 18 regular meeting.

Decisionmaking and implementation timelines

In order to implement a different grade span configuration for 2015-2016, a decision would need to be made this spring.

Assuming the board approves a different grade span configuration, the implementation timeline could be as follows (general estimate):

Spring 2014
Formal action by school board to move forward with K-5, 6-8, 9-12 grade spans, including additions at high schools.

Spring/Summer 2014
Design of middle level programming.

Winter 2015
January          Complete high school registration for 9-12
Jan-August     Construction planning for opening of school in Fall 2015


--published March 3, 2014