USD 383 school boundary map

The current map in the Manhattan-Ogden district office. School attendance boundaries will likely change in the next 18 months as the school board starts its redistricting process.

The Manhattan-Ogden school district will start its redistricting process, but this time, it will be with the help of an outside consultant.

The school board approved a $74,000 contract for RSP Associates, a school planning firm, to serve in an advisory role during the district’s upcoming redistricting. The district previously worked with RSP Associates, based in Overland Park, in the lead-up to the $129.5 million bond issue in 2018.

Assistant superintendent Eric Reid said the last time the school district redrew its boundaries, a joint committee of district personnel and community members drove the process, and while they did “a nice job,” they lacked the expertise or background to make the best possible decisions.

“You get emotional decisions where people are more worried about the lines rather than what you want inside the lines,” Reid said. “If we talk about what are the most important pieces of a line and put that together, we’ll be able to go forward with a long-term plan instead of a short-term plan where we’re full immediately, and force transferring families almost immediately. That’s what happened last time.”

RSP Associates will hold meetings with the board to set expectations and goals for the process, and over the next year, they will hold community meetings to gain public input on the process. The firm would then present the board with several boundary options in February 2021, with any approved boundaries taking effect in time for the 2021-22 school year.

“This is very important for us to get this right,” board member Katrina Lewison said. “I really appreciate the work the professionals will do for us to look at the population trends and migration within our school district.”

Board member Curt Herrman, who was a board member when the district last underwent redistricting, said it’s not as east as drawing circles around schools, as some people might think. Some schools receive additional funding based on the number of low-income students in their attendance zones, and any redistricting decisions have to take that into account.

“It’s not that simple,” he said. “Kids don’t live in perfect, little, nice spread out areas, and we may have an area that looks like Italy.”