Dana Jewett knew going into the evening that her children at El Paso Elementary School wouldn’t be affected by upcoming boundary changes for the 2020-21 school year at Derby Public Schools.
Her family lives so close to the school that they might as well have the same address.
But she still wanted to learn more about what’s coming for the district. So she attended the first of two public meetings about the boundary changes, got a first look at two concept maps and listened to what administrators, a consultant and boundary change committee members had to say.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty for others,” Jewett said, seated at one of four stations where large maps of the two proposals were spread out for members of the public to pore over at the Jan. 17 meeting.
Jewett has a kindergartner and second- and fifth-grader at El Paso as well as a seventh-grader at Derby Middle School.
Her greatest concern is how boundary changes will affect where students end up in middle school.
“I would love to see where we can feed whole schools to the middle schools,” she said of what’s called a “complete feeder system,” where all students at an elementary school attend the same middle school. “That way students go to middle school with people they do know.”
The district’s last boundary changes occurred in the 2015-16 school year.
Superintendent Heather Bohaty kicked off the meeting by giving some history.
“Prior to the bond issue, I can tell you we had discussions in the district where we were seeing concerns in the areas of our numbers in the district and in our buildings. We were seeing some imbalances with numbers,” she said, alluding to the bond issue voters passed last year.
Pleasantview Elementary School will be closing after the 2019-20 school year. A new elementary school in the Stone Creek neighborhood is slated to open for the 2020-21 school year.
Since last spring, the district has completed an enrollment study and leaders have “walked every single space and room at the elementary, middle and high school levels,” Bohaty said. It formed a boundary committee with three representatives from each school, members of the community and building administrators.
The committee is working under three guiding principles, Communications Director Katie Carlson told the Informer earlier. One is projected enrollment/utilization of space. Another is keeping neighborhoods intact, meaning that boundaries should be structured to maintain a neighborhood within one school’s attendance area and that neighborhoods should not be split between two schools. Financial consideration is the third principle.
Consultant Robert Schwarz of RSP, an Overland Park firm the district hired to help with the boundary changes, said the district “wants to have the right enrollments. We don’t want too many students [at a school], and we don’t want too few students.”
He told parents at the meeting that the district knows not everyone will be happy with the changes.
“There are a lot of committee members who don’t like certain things on these maps,” he said.
Bohaty prefaced that discussion by acknowledging that change is difficult. Despite that, she said she believed that because of the quality of schools in the district, “We can’t go wrong. As we work to shift boundaries, our kids are going to be taken care of.”
Caroline Walck said her family deliberately bought a house so their children could attend El Paso.
“We’ve lived there four months,” she said, expressing frustration to the committee members at her table about how the boundary changes might disrupt her children.
Under one of the proposed maps, her children would attend Derby Hills, from where her fifth grader transferred. Under the other map, she said it looked like her children would attend the new school at Stone Creek.
The two concept maps are available online at www.derbyschools.com.
The district has created a survey that parents who can’t attend the two public meetings can submit.
Among chief differences between the maps:
• One of the maps, called Concept 1A, lowers Wineteer’s enrollment so capacity at the building is less than 90 percent. The other map, called Concept 2A, has capacity at Wineteer at just more than 94 percent.
• Concept 1A places greater focus on making El Paso and Tanglewood have more compact attendance areas.
• Both maps have more students moved into the existing Oaklawn attendance areas.
• Concept 2A keeps El Paso’s existing boundaries the same, which still results in the existing Pleasantview attendance area being moved into Derby Hills, El Paso, Oaklawn and Swaney, the same schools Pleasantview would be split to in Concept 1A.
Parent Holly Duft came to the meeting because her family is putting their house on the market. Their fourth-grader attends Tanglewood.
“Ideally we would like to stay at Tanglewood,” she said. The changes, she said, “open up questions about where to buy.”
Despite some uncertainty, she said, “Overall, Derby has amazing schools.”
The next meeting is tonight at 7 p.m. at Derby North Middle School.
The committee is scheduled to make its recommendations to the school board March 11. The board plans to adopt new boundary changes March 25.
When the USS Wichita was commissioned earlier this month in Florida, Derby had a presence on hand. Residents Rocky Cornejo and his wife, Juli, traveled there to see the event and catch up with a couple of longtime friends.
“It was very cool to be at the ceremony and see the ship representing the largest city in Kansas,” said Cornejo, who works in the construction industry and also is a Derby City Council member.
Cornejo toured the ship, which he called “fascinating” because of the quality and quantity of its high tech equipment. The couple was there for four days and during that time, there were activities for friends and family of the crew along with the highlight, the commissioning ceremony, which attracted top Kansas politicians, including Rep. Ron Estes, who represents Derby along with the rest of the Fourth District, and Sen. Jerry Moran, who was the keynote speaker, and Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell.
The ceremony, complete with patriotic music by a band and red, white, and blue decorations, was a quality production, he said.
“Anything the military does is top-notch,” Cornejo said.
He said it’s that way with the U.S. Air Force at nearby McConnell Air Force Base and the same with the U.S. Navy.
The warship was officially placed into active service at a Jan. 12 commissioning ceremony at Naval Station Mayport, Fla., which is the ship’s assigned homeport.
Among the things Cornejo was happy about was the way the crew and officers reacted to the ship’s name.
“They really like the name and are proud of it,” he said.
The Cornejos also spent a lot of time with their good friends, Brian and Katie Tanner. Brian Tanner is an information systems technician responsible for voice and data communications aboard the ship.
All four are from Derby and went to Derby High School together and all graduated in the class of 2001.
The four simply enjoyed “hanging out,” he said. Due to Brian’s military career, the couple has had to move to a variety of assignments, including bases in California and Virginia.
“We hadn’t seen them in a while,” Cornejo said.
Thus, the time they spent together made the trip all the more special, he said.
This ceremony was the commissioning, which means that the ship is ready for active duty, Cornejo said.
Cornejo was careful to point out the difference between the christening and the launching and the commissioning.
The christening puts an identity on a ship’s hull and it’s launched into the water. However, a period of sea trials is required. That’s when the new crew and officers report for duty and run through a variety of tests to ensure that the ship can perform as needed. If there are issues, they are to be corrected. In the past, during wartime, such testing could be as short as a few weeks; however, for complex ships such as nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, it could be several years to operate sea trials, train the crew and work through procedures.
The USS Wichita is what is known as a Freedom variant littoral combat ship.
These are quick, agile, mission-focused vessels designed to operate in near-shore environments.
They also are capable of open-ocean tasks and taking on coastal threats such as submarines, mines, and small craft.
The USS Wichita is the 14th littoral combat ship to enter the fleet and the seventh of the Freedom variant.
In a social media post, Moran echoes what Cornejo and others said about the ceremony.
“Saturday’s commissioning of the USS Wichita was a once-in-a lifetime opportunity,” Moran wrote.
He also met with past and present crew. “I know they will carry forward the name Wichita with pride,” he said.
The ship is part of a tradition as it is the third Navy combat ship named after Wichita.
The other two were a heavy cruiser in service from 1939 to 1947 and active during World War II, and a replenishment oiler in service from 1969 to 1993.