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Article updated: 4/23/2013 5:15 AM

Different Geneva school for Batavia kids in the fall

By Susan Sarkauskas

Despite protests from the families involved, the Geneva school board Monday decided to move students in a Batavia neighborhood from one elementary school to another.

"It's all baloney, and you know it," shouted parent Heather Anderson, after the vote. "You should all be ashamed of yourselves."

"They have had it out for us," Anderson said outside the meeting.

Another parent, Angela Morrison, said her teenage son, an athlete, has been teased all four years at Geneva High about living in Batavia, including having a uniform vandalized with red marking, the color of Batavia High School.

The students live in the Batavia Highlands subdivision, south of Fabyan Parkway. It's called Area 20 in the Geneva school district's attendance maps. The children attend Williamsburg Elementary School. In the fall, they will attend Western Avenue Elementary School.

"Have any other areas been moved as many times as we have been? ... It sure seems personal to me that you are doing this," said a choked-up Michelle Burgwaldt, during public comments at the start of the meeting. She said Area 20 has been moved five times in the last 25 years. A memo recommending the move stated the neighborhood's students were moved in 1988 from Western Avenue to Harrison Street Elementary, and in 1994 to Coultrap Elementary. All of Coultrap moved to Williamsburg when it opened in 2008.

About a dozen people, including at least one child, carried picket signs, questioning the district's motives for the move, disputing the enrollment numbers the district presented, and saying the area was being singled out.

Western Avenue is closer to the neighborhood than Williamsburg. It also has fewer students than Williamsburg, which the district says is at capacity. Williamsburg has 532 students; Western Avenue, 294.

The boundaries task force began several months ago looking at moving children between Fabyan and Mill Creek elementary schools, and Williamsburg and Western Avenue. It had several goals, including balancing enrollment between buildings. The Fabyan-Mill Creek moves were dropped early on.

The district says 24 students will be involved; parents have said it is 16 or 17.

Board member Mary Stith, chairman of the task force, said Monday it quickly became apparent that minor adjustments could not balance overall enrollment. But the move does meet the goal of reducing class sizes, and of having "neighborhood" schools instead of grade centers, she said. The exception on class size may be in the fifth grade, and Stith said she would support adding a third section in that grade at Western Avenue.

Board members Matt Henry and Bill Wilson said the Area 20 move is just the first of more moves they anticipate the district will make in the next few years, as older people move out and younger families move in, especially in the Williamsburg attendance area.

Mike McCormick voted against the measure, saying for the lack of money savings, he didn't think it was worth it to disrupt the families.

Fourth-graders currently attending Williamsburg will be allowed to continue their next year, if their parents drive them to the school.

Board member Tim Moran was absent.

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