It was standing room only on Tuesday, when a group of north Merced parents protested before the Merced City School District board of trustees for the boundaries it chose last month when redrawing the map for elementary schools.
Parents held signs inside the meeting room to demonstrate their displeasure with the decision that will send some children farther from their homes in north Merced than they have been bused in previous years.
The board approved the boundaries during a Jan. 27 meeting, with board member Jessica Kazakos casting the only dissenting vote.
The new map, which will go into effect in the fall, will move some children from the Chenoweth and Peterson elementary campuses in the northern part of town to Ada Givens Elementary in the east.
Parminder Sidhu, 39, said his only son will not be moved under the new boundary, but he was concerned for his neighbors and those who don’t speak English.
One family near him has seven children. “I think it’s very unfair for my community,” he said.
The family likely will have to deal with children enrolled in separate elementary schools, he said. Some will have to get ready to catch the bus as early as 6:30 a.m.
Many parents said they bought their homes in north Merced because they believed their children would be able to attend nearby schools, rather than be bused to a school in another part of the city.
Tina Bernal said her children attended Ada Givens until they moved two years ago, buying a more expensive home because it put them in the Peterson boundary. “We are so happy with the schooling we get at Peterson,” the 30-year-old said.
However, under the new map, her youngest will be sent back to Ada Givens. Bernal said she is concerned with the safety of the neighborhood around that school.
Parent Michelle Taylor, who also bought a house on the north side of town, was concerned with what the boundary change will mean for the price of her house.
Taylor, who is a teacher at Peterson, said she believes few parents brought up concerns before now because the map chosen by the district was “drastically” different from the first six and was not introduced until later in the process.
Some speakers at the meeting expressed support for Ada Givens school, defending it as a good learning environment. Lisa Guzman, a resource specialist at the school, wiped tears from her eyes as spoke about the “tight-knit” campus.
The campus has many teachers who “go above and beyond,” she said. “It’s not as rough as some people say it is,” she said.
District leaders have said the boundary changes are best for the bulk of students in the district, and added that any shift in boundaries will upset parents somewhere in the city.
The majority of the 10,800 students in the district will not change schools next year.
The district is attempting to balance out the campuses as much as possible while allowing room for them to grow, board members have said.
The need to shuffle students around is made worse by the lack of schools in the northern end of town, where the city was consistently growing until the bottom fell out of the economy during the Great Recession. There are no elementary campuses north of Yosemite Avenue.
Sun-Star staff writer Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.