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District begins discussion on redrawing school boundaries

April 29, 2017 GMT

Kalispell Public Schools is moving forward in discussions on redistricting, in preparation of building a new elementary school south of town on Airport Road located southeast of the Ashley Park Subdivision.

The district will explore completing the redistricting process in-house after getting direction from school board trustees Tuesday.

School district Superintendent Mark Flatau informed trustees on the options of going with an outside consulting firm or collecting and analyzing data using software the district currently has with the expertise of its staff at a significant cost savings.

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The capabilities of software called Edulog and PowerSchool, two programs currently used in the district to manage transportation routes and student data respectively, are robust enough to produce the data and analytics needed to redraw school boundaries according to Flatau.

District Transportation Director Annie Jensen would assist in the process, bringing with her 16 years of experience working for Education Logistics, the Missoula-based company that makes Edulog. This is Jensen’s second year with the school district.

“We’re in a unique situation,” Flatau said.

Details are yet to be ironed out, but Jensen would likely be compensated on a per diem basis, possibly similar to a stipend as opposed to consultant fees.

Cropper GIS, a Delaware-based consulting company provided a proposal for redistricting support services outlining costs totaling $20,500, not including travel expenses. The company’s recent clients include Billings and Helena school districts.

The goal is to provide three options to present to the public. Flatau anticipates the process on a September through December time frame with boundaries finalized in January 2018.

“So that folks know in plenty of time as to where they would fall on that enrollment piece, well before we seriously look at enrollment for the following year,” Flatau said.

Approximating how many students should attend each elementary school while planning for residential growth around Kalispell will drive how boundaries are set.

“We know that Russell, Elrod and Hedges - I can’t say that there’s no available property to build a home - but it’s pretty limited. In other words, most of the growth is going to occur at Edgerton to the north, to some extent Peterson to the west, and to a great extent the new south [elementary],” Flatau said.

Flatau also noted that there will be unavoidable instances where students living on opposite sides of a highway, for example, may end up attending two different schools as a result of redistricting.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.