- By Beth Silver
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As Enrollment Impact Specialists we have considerable experience assisting clients with attendance boundary changes. In Part 1 of this 2 Part series which details “best practices and tips” for a boundary change, we discussed defining goals as well as the overall process. This month we will cover other important best practices and tips related to a successful boundary change process. If a boundary change might be in your district’s future, our combination of analytics, mapping technology and expertise can help you. We invite you to visit our new website page dedicated to boundary changes.
Establish a Calendar:
The calendar is developed by working backwards from the targeted date of implementing the boundary change. Key events to consider include:
- How far in advance of implementation is Board approval desired?
- How much notice do families affected by a boundary change need?
- How many committee and/or staff meetings are anticipated for the consideration of various scenarios?
- How much time between meetings should be allowed to respond to the direction from the previous meeting and prepare for the next?
- How much time should be allowed for communication to the community once viable scenarios are ready?
- How much time should be allowed at the beginning of the process for building the necessary information base, including enrollment projections and updated school capacities?
Depending on the answers to these questions, starting the process a minimum of 12 months prior to implementation is common. Note that the committee approach typically takes longer as scenario changes are not reviewed until the next scheduled meeting. Other factors affecting the length of the process include the size of the district, the complexity of the project, the number of scenarios desired, and the volume of revisions or “tweaks” to various scenarios.
Update School Capacities:
In any boundary change work, practical school capacities play a central role to the viability of any boundary adjustment scenario. With rare exception, school capacities need be updated before a boundary adjustment process can begin. The Capacity Calculators in the StudentView System are designed to determine practical capacities for each school, based on a count of available instructional spaces at each school, and the grade level staffing ratios anticipated for the five year future.
Consider a Consultant:
As district staff has more on their plates than ever before, many districts choose to bring in outside firms or consultants to assist with boundary changes. This not only allows the district to take advantage of expertise, experience, and proprietary technologies, but as some clients admit, “….to take the tomatoes.” At DecisionInsite our boundary scenario creations are assessed on the basis of a flat fee plus hourly charges for presenting and collaboration. As such, the overall cost of a boundary project is largely tied to the time involved.
Much of our boundary consulting work is now being accomplished remotely. Modern web-based meeting platforms, web-video and telephonic conferencing can provide for high quality meetings which are more time and cost efficient. DecisionInsite’s proprietary technology is web-based, meaning that parties can access it anytime, anywhere. Because consultant travel time and expenses can drive up the overall cost of a boundary project we encourage our clients to consider a combination of remote meetings and one or two on-site meetings.
DecisionInsite’s proprietary technology and tools mean that scenarios can be created with much less effort than ever before. Rather than being stuck with aggregating the enrollment in each “study area,” the DecisionInsite StudentView System allows a polygon to be drawn on any area of the district map. A ten year projection can be instantly displayed by grade level for that polygon. The boundary of that polygon, or an existing attendance area polygon, can be ‘dragged’ to adjust its shape, and a new ten year projection displayed. This technology allows staff and/or committee members to explore more “what ifs,” and to confirm or reject the feasibility of scenarios much more quickly.
Utilizing mapping technology solutions such as DecisionInsite’s StudentView System, can help paint a picture and help non-technical decision-makers arrive at point of understanding earlier and more easily. The ability to see the locational relationship between the boundaries, students and schools helps move the process expeditiously from analysis to decision-making.
Interested in learning more? Contact us today!