The Manhattan school district is about to engage in one of the uglier jobs in local government. They’re going to tell you that you have to send your kid to a different school.
Well, not everybody. In fact, usually not that many people at all. But they’re going to go through what’s called “redistricting,” drawing new attendance boundaries for the schools to re-balance the population. They have to do this every so often because of population growth and change. Plus, of course, they’re building a new elementary school east of town.
The one piece of advice I would like to offer all parents — before it starts getting ugly — is that it will all be fine. Kids are resilient, and they often grow and benefit from change in ways that you might not expect. I can say this because I have lots of personal experience.
My kids started out at Eugene Field Elementary. The school board voted to close it to save money in a time that the community was shrinking. That was pretty sad; I remember worrying that it would be hard to replicate that close family feeling, and I knew I would miss the big red front door, the kickball games after school and the big playground in back.
They were sent to Theodore Roosevelt. I had a weird feeling that school included more kids from tougher backgrounds, and so I worried what that would mean for my little, uhhh, angels.
Turns out that it was fantastic. We could still walk to school, and the teachers and administrators were wonderful — and the kids and families better than ever. It was more racially and economically diverse, which was really good for everybody. Our kids spanned the gamut — gifted, special needs, athletes, nerds. It was all good.
The first two went on to Eisenhower Middle School, which has the laughable reputation as the rougher of the two middle schools. It was outstanding. The latter two went to Anthony, mostly because it housed the program appropriate for our kid with special needs. It was likewise amazing. The older two went to Manhattan High, and had great experiences, too. Everybody in town is going to end up there, since we still have just the one high school. It’s a great one.
The younger two ended up at high schools in Olathe, for reasons having to do with remarriage. Long story. I’ve told that one before and will again. Anyway, then they had to switch high schools to a new one because of redistricting in that community. So... it was all good. They thrived.
As a side note, Olathe is in Johnson County, which has some of the best public schools in the country, and I can tell you that Manhattan’s are every bit as good.
But my real point is just that changing schools has not been nearly as tough on kids as you think. They make new friends, and they keep the old ones, and they grow and adapt. And in Manhattan, wherever they end up, they’ll likely be in a good school with great teachers, and there’s no limit to what they can accomplish.