Parents: did SMSD cause its own overcrowding problem?

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. - The Shawnee Mission School Board expects a flood of angry parents at Monday night's meeting.
        
A growing number of parents believe the district is quietly planning controversial changes that would force many kids to leave their current school.
      
The district has closed a long list of schools in the last decade and now, suddenly, overcrowding is a new problem for parts of the Shawnee Mission School District.
      
Some schools like Briarwood Elementary and Brookridge Elementary are bursting at the seams.

Dave Root, a young parent, specifically moved into his Prairie Village neighborhood near Shawnee Mission East High School for a specific reason, "schools, good public schools."

He moved into the neighborhood he grew up in and wants his 7-year-old daughter Poppy to go to Briarwood, the same elementary school he did.

"It was a fun time," Root said.
      
But Root said he and other parents worry "there are big changes being made that we don't know about." 
     
On Monday, Superintendent of SMSD Dr. Jim Hinson confirmed two site councils asked the district to address overcrowding problems at schools.

After a demographic study, Hinson said he will make a boundary change recommendation to the school board on May 28 and confirmed more overcrowded schools could face the same future.

The boundaries are not yet decided but the new lines drawn will move some Briarwood students into a less crowded Tomahawk Elementary.

Root said he is worried his daughter Poppy might be one of them.

“We moved here to go to the school we have our child in," he said.

In the last few years, young couples with children have snatched up homes in Root's Prairie Village neighborhood.

"That brown house there, they have a child who's probably not even toddler age", Root said, pointing to his neighbor's swing set.

The Shawnee Mission School District closed 12 schools since 2001 because for years, it said it lost student population. But in the last two or three years, the district said it experienced a sudden increase in students. In fact, this year's kindergarten class is the district's biggest since the 1995.
   
Root wonders if the school district caused its own overcrowding problems and closed too many schools in the last few years.

"I don't know if they looked far enough ahead when they closed the schools,” he said. "They even sold Mission Valley Middle School and now that's not even an option anymore."

The district said it's anxious to see next year's kindergarten enrollment numbers. If it continues at the same recent growth rate, Hinson said the district will have to consider plans to build new schools.

Superintendent Hinson will make boundary recommendations for Briarwood Elementary on May 28.

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