Some Oaklawn students may not get to attend new school under proposal

A number of Oaklawn students expecting to attend a new $13 million school next year might instead have to go somewhere else under proposed attendance boundary changes up for a vote tonight.

The Oshkosh school board is scheduled to vote on two resolutions redrawing school attendance boundaries across the entire district during its regular business meeting at 6 p.m. tonight in the District Administration Building, 215 S. Eagle St.

Board members and parents were surprised after realizing some Oaklawn families, who campaigned vigorously for years to get the new school, may not actually get to attend the new facility. The boundary plan would send a number of current Oaklawn students to Emmeline Cook Elementary School.

“Because the Oaklawn (attendance area) is growing, I didn’t expect that to be the case. We have received numerous concerned comments from parents who worked on the referendum who have now been zoned into a different building,” board member Karl Loewenstein wrote in his blog.

Loewenstein indicated an alternative boundary scenario may be presented to the board Wednesday night before it votes.

Superintendent Stan Mack II previously told Oshkosh Northwestern Media those boundary changes would affect fewer than 20 families, and the district will work with them to allow their students to remain at Oaklawn through open enrollment, the state’s school choice program allowing families to apply to attend different schools.

“We wouldn’t force them to go to Oaklawn, but if they wanted to, we believe we could accommodate them all the way through their elementary school career,” Mack said.

The current boundary plan released by the district purposely moved students to give Oaklawn extra room out of hope it will attract home buyers to the area.

In addition to moving Oaklawn students to Emmeline Cook, the proposal takes a new development neighborhood west of U.S. Highway 41 out of Read Elementary School’s attendance area and shifts it over to Oaklawn. To do that, the plan also carves out a peninsula-shaped area much closer to Oaklawn and sends those students to Read.

This proposal deviates from a long-held district goal of sending children to the school closest to their home. But, administrators are banking on population growth to re-balance the attendance areas.

“Once there’s a new school in a neighborhood, home sales turn over,” Mack said. “Suddenly, we’ll have children coming from homes where they haven’t in 20 years, because real estate becomes more attractive to sell … especially within walking distance of Oaklawn.”

About Adam Rodewald

Adam Rodewald is the senior reporter for The Oshkosh Northwestern and a member of the Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team. He has been a professional journalist since 2006. He specializes in open records, data analysis, and issues surrounding education, children and families.
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