Committee to move ahead despite delayed decision on closing special needs schools.

Last Wednesday, the Red Clay Consolidated School District’s board of directors selected seven names of community members at random for a special 21-member attendance zone committee.

That committee is tasked with making recommendations to the board for new attendance zones in the 2015-16 school year, with a final recommendation due at the April 2014 Board of Education meeting.

The new zones are being considered using both the construction of the new William Cooke Jr. Elementary School and the plans to close Richardson Park and the Center School and integrate those students back into their neighborhood schools.

According to assistant superintendent for school operations Ted Ammann, however, the committee – scheduled to start meeting in January – will have to proceed forward without knowing whether or not the district will carry through on those plans.

Last Wednesday, Dec.  18, the board voted to table that decision until at least the March meeting, leaving the board members and administration to collect more information after numerous community members protested the closings.

That decision, Ammann said, means that for the time being, the attendance zone committee would have to work up two plans – one with the closings considered, and one without.

Ammann also explained that the committee’s guiding principles are to develop attendance zones allowing students to attend a school near their neighborhood, and that parents can choose to remain in their existing school until the student leaves that grade configuration.

“If a child has been attending the same school since kindergarten and they have one year to go, we’re not going to force them to move if they just have a year or two left there,” Ammann said.

The committee will also work with the University of Delaware Center for Applied Demography and Survey Research to develop attendance zones that are consistent with the guiding principles and also take the size of the new, 600-seat school and efficient bus routes into consideration, according to the district’s website.