Billings Public Schools released a redistricting proposal to parents and guardians on Tuesday evening, and some neighborhoods are finding themselves assigned to a different high school.
Monica Zieske has lived in Josephine Crossing south of Frontage Road in Billings for the past 11 years, including the last time the school district was changed in 2017, making her neighborhood change from Senior High to West High. Now, if the recent proposal is approved, it will change the neighborhood again — this time sending the students back to Senior.
“It’s the same group of families, it’s the same group of kids, that have been jumped back and forth between the two schools now,” Zieske said. “Nothing against Senior, it’s just that we’ve prepared these kids with this mentality that this is where you’re going to go, these are the friends you’re going to go with, this is your path. So, to pull that out from under them with such short notice seems unfair."
Zieske is a chemistry teacher at West High, and she's been looking forward to having her children with her roaming the halls at school. Her daughter Isabell is a seventh grader at Elysian School. If the new boundaries hold, she won't get the chance to join her mom at West.
“I was in second grade the last time they switched it around, and it’s hard because I want to go to West High with my mom,” Isabell said.
The newsletter provided parents with an interactive map. The blue part is the Senior High district, while the yellow sections belong to West. The blue section has been noticeably stretching to the west to try and help even out the enrollment numbers among the three schools.
Earlier this year, MTN spoke with Billings Superintendent Greg Upham about the size of the three Billings High Schools — which are the three biggest in Montana. In that interview, Upham recognized that redistricting might need to be done, and said that it probably should be done regularly.
“We’re adjusting the current boundaries and that’s what a school district should do,” Upham said. “It’s about making sure that we maintain equity as far as the schools are concerned and so we can provide a better service all the way around."
However, all the schools are nearing their capacity, and Zieske fears this change won't be enough.
“Both schools are really overcrowded and it’s just a short-term fix to shuffle the same group of kids from one school to another," Zieske said.
But the good news is that it is just a proposal. The newsletter states that they have released the map early so that discussion can be had with the people of Billings. The final redistricting plan must be approved by the Billings school board.
“Superintendent Upham is always great with community involvement, and so I appreciate that he’s given us plenty of time to speak up," Zieske said. "Regardless, the kids will get a great education. I just want to make sure the community understands the changes."