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Group presents draft Briarwood Elementary boundary changes aimed at easing overcrowding

Briarwood Elementary School

A special working group on Monday night presented its initial recommendation for changing the attendance boundary lines between Tomahawk and Briarwood elementary schools to address overcrowding at Briarwood. Driving the

A special working group on Monday night presented its initial recommendation for changing the attendance boundary lines between Tomahawk and Briarwood elementary schools to address overcrowding at Briarwood.

Driving the news: The Shawnee Mission school board at its meeting Monday night heard a detailed, street-by-street plan for changing the schools’ attendance zones for the first time since an enrollment boundary study earlier this year recommended that Briarwood’s attendance area be shifted.

  • No vote was taken Monday night and the plan remains a concept, with families and community members still able to give their input at a public meeting scheduled for next month.

Background: Years after parents voiced concerns about class sizes at Briarwood Elementary, 5300 W. 86th Street, an enrollment boundary study earlier this year confirmed the need to make a change due to the school’s ongoing capacity issues.

  • An upcoming rebuild of Tomahawk Elementary, which borders the Briarwood boundary line, provides an opportunity to address the issue, district officials say.
  • A special Briarwood boundary work group — made up of 26 parents, community members and district staffers — met on Sept. 1 and Sept. 15 in closed-door meetings to discuss potential solutions.
Tomahawk and Briarwood boundary
Above is the current boundary line for Tomahawk (tan) and Briarwood (green). Image via board documents.

By the numbers: Briarwood’s current enrollment is well above the district’s “ideal capacity range,” while Tomahawk’s enrollment is well below that range.

  • Currently, Briarwood’s projected enrollment for the current school year is 689, well over the district’s “ideal capacity range” of 525 to 575 students, which district officials say allows for four sections or less per grade.
  • If current boundaries are maintained, Briarwood is expected to have more than 650 students through the 2026-27 school year.
  • Meanwhile, Tomahawk’s projected enrollment for the 2022-23 school year is 241 — and will remain right around 250 for the next five years without a boundary change.

Bigger picture: Two of the boundary goals for the special work group are for Tomahawk to serve about 380 students and Briarwood to serve about 520 students, according to board documents.

  • The group’s draft recommendations state about 100 to 150 students will need to move from Briarwood to Tomahawk to reach the target enrollment numbers.
  • No children would move from Tomahawk to Briarwood with concept 1A.

Boundary work group’s draft recommendations

Dubbed concept 1A, the Briarwood boundary work group’s draft recommendation is to extend the Tomahawk boundary line south to W. 87th Street and east to Woodson Drive in the southwest corner.

  • Concept 1A also proposes pushing the northern part of the Tomahawk boundary between 75th and 79th Streets east to Roe Avenue.
  • This would break up the area of highest student density, which is the southwest corner of Briarwood’s current boundary.
  • Additionally, the diagonal split ensures the boundary changes occur both in the northern and southern parts of the area, according to the plan.

Impact: Under the concept 1A, Tomahawk’s projected enrollment would be around 380 and Briarwood’s would be about 540.

  • Concept 1A does not shift the race or ethnicity percentages nor the English second language or free and reduced lunch percentages by more than 10% from the current boundaries, according to board documents.
  • A draft map of concept 1A is pictured below, with the current boundary lines shown in a dotted line.
Proposed Briarwood boundary change
The proposed Briarwood boundary change, concept 1A, is pictured above. Image via board documents.

District input: Superintendent Michelle Hubbard told the board of education on Monday that the numeric split between the schools cannot be truly 50-50.

  • That’s because at Tomahawk there’s a specialized special education program, she said, and there needs to be “a little bit of room for the resources those programs take.”
  • The projected enrollments do not include special education students or pre-kindergarten students.
  • Hubbard said she thinks the projected enrollments — 380 at Tomahawk and 540 at Briarwood — could be evened out a bit more.

Key quote: “Boundary changes are never easy,” Hubbard said. “It’s really difficult on families, I think especially parents, more so than kids. Kids are very resilient and usually do really well with boundary changes, so just thank you to all of those that are watching that are part of that work group and those that aren’t part of the work group that are patiently letting the process work. We definitely appreciate that.”

Superintendent Michelle Hubbard
Superintendent Michelle Hubbard at an August 2022 board meeting. File photo.

What’s next in Briarwood boundary change process

A public input session will take place at Briarwood from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Oct. 4, according to an updated timeline included in board documents.

  • An electronic survey will also go live on Oct. 4 for those who cannot attend the public input session, according to board documents.
  • The boundary work group plans to reconvene from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 27 to refine recommendations and take public input into consideration.
  • A second public input session will take place at Shawnee Mission East from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.
  • The following week, a work group recommendation will be presented to the board of education at its Nov. 14 meeting.