Two years after Provo School District implemented socioeconomic integration by busing some middle school students across town to attend schools not in their neighborhoods, some residents of Provo's affluent Edgemont area are still calling the policy flawed.
"I think it's absolutely ridiculous," said Carol Parcell, whose son attended Farrer Middle School this year but will attend Centennial Middle School next year.When the district opened Centennial in northeast Provo two years ago, the Provo School Board decided to bus some students living near the new school to the much-older Farrer school near downtown. At the same time, the board decided to bus some students from Provost and Measer el-em-en-taries in the poorer downtown Provo area past Farrer to attend Centennial. Some students from Sunset View Elementary in west Provo are bused past Dix-on Middle School to Farrer.
The plan was approved after it was recommended by the majority of about 65 residents on a boundary committee.
While busing to achieve racial integration was common in the South during the 1960s, and other districts in Utah have attempted to bring socioeconomic balance to student populations by redrawing school boundaries, the practice is new to Utah County.
Some parents of students attending Canyon Crest Elementary in Edgemont say dividing the district along economic lines is causing social problems. The young teens are starting friendships that will bud into mature relationships. However, those relationships could end when the students move on to different high schools.
Most students from Canyon Crest who go to Farrer will eventually move on with others from their neighborhood to attend Timpview High School. Yet others from Farrer will move on to Provo High School.
"They will have to start all over making friends," Parcel said. "Our whole neighborhood is split and the children will not have a consistency of friends. If they don't see them at school they don't come home to play with them."
Friends are important to teens and preteens and the school board should consider that - "it's such a critical age," she said.
Despite her criticism, Parcell supports the idea of economically integrating the schools, but believes if the district is going to do it, it needs to keep neighborhoods together. Students who go through middle school together should also go through high school together, she said.
But Superintendent Mike Jacobsen said keeping students together doesn't work with three middle schools funneling into two high schools "unless we overload one of the schools."
"We looked at what was best for the district as a whole," Jacobsen said.
He said out of 12 elementary feeder schools, only the parents from Canyon Crest are complaining.
"I think this year the problem has intensified," said Christy Lewis, whose sixth-grade son is now attending Canyon Crest and will enter seventh grade at Farrer.
To the district, the plan does more than economically integrate those two middle schools. The district needed to place more students in Farrer to keep that school's education programs viable.
One way parents can get around the boundary lines is to apply for Centennial through school choice, a state-mandated program designed to let students pick their school based on academics. But typically more students apply to attend Centennial than the school can accommodate. So the district holds a lottery in January for the following school year.
"I'm really disappointed in the way (the school board) has not put kids first," Lewis said.
At the last lottery, the Lewis family lost out. This time around the board members tightened up on the number of children they would allow in Centennial. Most seventh graders from the Canyon Crest area will go to Farrer as will all new move-ins unless they appeal and win on hardship grounds. Once allowed into Centennial, students stay there until they graduate.
"This is a disservice to us as parents," Lewis said. "We're trying to raise a family. (The board) knows that adolescence is a very critical time. Peer development is important to these children."
Trying to balance the schools economically is "socialistic," she added.
In 1996, when the plan was first approved and boundary lines were switched, some Canyon Crest parents filed a lawsuit. But the suit was dropped when the district allowed students wanting to attend Centennial to do so for that year only.