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Triad Community Unit School District 2

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Triad Community Unit School District 2Finding a Balance, Planning for Growth

District Planning with Tyler’s VersaTrans RP

The Triad Community Unit School District 2 is comprised of three Illinois communities, Troy, St. Jacob and Marine, across the river from St. Louis. Like many suburban areas, Triad has experienced growth on the outer edges of the district, particularly in the Troy community. Fields that were once empty have been developed and now house families with young children. And young children, of course, need to be educated.

As the population in Troy has grown, the elementary schools have not matched that growth. Jerry Barber, Triad’s Transportation Director, says that in 2007 the district determined that the most efficient way to meet the need of the growing district was to plan to expand two of the elementary school facilities and eliminate the third school. In the long run managing and transporting to only 2 facilities would be much more cost effective.

As part of the process, the district decided to shift from an “attendance center” system - splitting kindergartners through fifth-graders by grade level across the three elementary schools - to a “neighborhood” system for the two new schools, Dewey and Henning. With the neighborhood system, each school would house all six grade levels and boundaries would need to be set to determine which school students would attend. In a district where boundaries have not been an issue, this would be a major change and one sure to cause concern among parents who want their children to attend school with their friends, and educators and administrators who want to ensure that the mix of students at each school is even.

Faced with the challenges of redistricting, Triad needed a tool that would help them determine where to place the boundaries for the new schools. How would they split the students so half would be assigned to one school and half to the other, while meeting the demographic and neighborhood criteria they had established? It was a puzzle that the district solved using VersaTrans RP.

Triad has been a VersaTrans customer since 1999. As such, Barber says, “When we began the redistricting process, we knew we had the software to make the process as easy as possible.” Under different circumstances, Barber estimates that the redistricting process may have taken up to a year to complete. “Using VersaTrans,” Barber reports, “the process took approximately four months.”
A committee of six district administrators worked on assembling the city’s demographics and determining the transportation capabilities. Their goal was to keep an equal balance between the number of students at Dewey and Henning, while making sure that the boundaries were as easy to explain as possible.

The district had other criteria as well, including:
} creating a balance in student demographics, ensuring that math and reading levels, number of students receiving free and reduced lunch, gender split and ethnic make-up of the population was similar at the two schools
} ensuring children that grow up and play together would be able to go to school together
} preparing for future population growth in the community

This sort of boundary analysis would have been overwhelming had Triad not been able to rely on the capabilities of VersaTrans RP. The VersaTrans RP color-coded student splatter maps helped the Triad redistricting committee to visually identify the student populations based on the criteria that they established in their database.

The first step that the committee took in the splitting process was to determine which students were within walking distance of a building. Those were the first students to be assigned to a school. After that, the officials looked at dividing the city by subdivisions, or major roadways. Once these guidelines were set, students were automatically assigned a walk or ride status.

In the end, the officials created a boundary map that would initially send approximately 600 students to each school. Since both schools were built to accommodate up to 1,100 students, the boundary map took future growth into account. The committee’s forward-thinking mentality was matched by VersaTrans’ capabilities. In VersaTrans RP, the committee was able to test the boundaries over time. Using the software, says Barber, the district was able to forecast student population - anticipating the development of farmland and addition of new students.

Triad was sensitive to the various challenges that come with the process of redistricting and they were quite progressive in their thinking. For example, using VersaTrans’ forecasting feature, they were able to establish boundaries based on trends and their local census data.

With the analysis complete, the committee presented their findings and recommendations to the Board of Education using VersaTrans RP’s reports and visuals. According to Barber, “the Board was awed by the material that [the committee] created using VersaTrans RP.” Vital information, such as neighborhoods, was represented visually through VersaTrans’ thematic maps. These visuals helped the Board understand and support the committee’s decisions.

Throughout Triad’s re-districting process, Barber found the VersaTrans support team to be exceptionally helpful. He says, “Whenever the committee had a question, we called the VersaTrans customer support and received the answers and guidance we needed.” In addition to the customer support, Barber says that another key benefit to using VersaTrans was that there were no limits on what the district could do while analyzing and planning their new boundaries. Overall, he felt that VersaTrans’ planning module, student location map and the import-export feature ranked high on his list of favorite features.

Re-districting to meet the needs of shifting populations can be like trying to solve a complex puzzle. With VersaTrans RP, the puzzle pieces slide together smoothly, allowing school districts to balance the needs of a myriad of stakeholders, creating more effective and long-lasting solutions.


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