As the board thinks about possible changes to elementary attendance zones to prepare for the opening of new schools and to accommodate projected enrollment growth, it’s helpful to be able to visualize where the students are. For that reason, I frequently refer to the Student Density Map that the district made in 2014. Now the administration has provided us with updated maps that give us additional information about just how many students live in which areas.
Another way to get a sense of where the students are is to see how many elementary students live within a mile of each school. To me, this was one of the most striking aspects of the updated information that we received. Here is the data in descending order:
This chart reinforces my belief that closing Hoover Elementary would be a mistake. Yes, there are several elementary schools that serve the central east side, and many students who live within a mile of Hoover are in another school’s attendance area. But the fact remains that more students live within a mile of Hoover than almost any other school in the entire district, and Hoover’s number is significantly higher than that of any of the schools adjacent to it. That means that it would be easy to draw an attendance zone that would fill the school without any busing—one that would be not just technically “walkable” but actually walkable. It also means that the closure affects a particularly large number of people. It just doesn’t make sense to close a school that is surrounded by kids and then send them all to more distant schools in less densely populated areas.
It’s also worth noting that when the district recently asked for neighborhood input on elementary school preferences, more people signed preference forms identifying Hoover as their first choice than did so for any other school, by a significant margin—even though Hoover was not listed as an option on the form. It’s certainly possible to read too much into those forms; there were a lot of factors that drove participation more in some areas than others. Hoover residents may have been particularly likely to participate because of the planned closure, but Hoover received more signatures (343) than other schools in areas that will also necessarily be subject to boundary changes, such as Grant (221) and Hoover East (33). At the very least, it’s another indicator of just how many people are affected by the closure and how strongly they feel about keeping Hoover open.
In any event, the chart and the underlying maps are worth a close look. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.