After more than three hours of deliberation, school district leaders early Friday morning decided to postpone their vote on whether to redefine school boundaries, and consider having no boundaries at all.
The decision, reached at 2:39 a.m., will give staff for the Belmont-Redwood Shores School District Board of Trustees time to research the option of not having residential boundaries for the six elementary schools in the district.
It was a less-than-expected move, as parents and the board members were anticipating a vote between altering the boundaries for the Belmont elementary schools or implementing a lottery system in an effort to curb a capacity problem at Central and Cipriani schools.
Dozens of parents sat through the hours of public comment as well as the board's discussion before the group came to its conclusion to put off the vote.
Earlier in the discussion, board members appeared to sway 3 to 1 in favor of boundary changes. Board President Andy Stulbarg looked to be the dissenting vote, while board member Chuck Velschow was unable to participate due to a conflict of interest.
Should boundary changes be implemented, areas 41, 42 and 43 would be moved from Central Elementary to Nesbit Elementary as well as Cipriani areas 20, 23 and 24 to Central, and areas 25 and 26 to Fox.
Board members Cathy Wright, Brian Matthews and Robert Tashjian preferred boundary changes to the alternative, a capped enrollment with a lottery.
Matthews said a boundary change would keep neighborhoods together, whereas a lottery could split them up.
“The idea of neighborhood schools is keeping communities together,” Matthews said. “That to me means moving neighborhoods instead of potentially individual kids.”
Stulbarg, however, countered that splitting up Central's current boundary would add to the time it takes students to walk to school in the 41 to 43 areas, and that the houses in those areas aren't close enough to Nesbit to be considered the school's neighbors.
“It takes 10 minutes to walk from City Hall to Central,” Stulbarg said. “It takes 25 minutes to walk from City Hall to Nesbit. That is not a neighborhood school,” he added, to loud applause from the audience.
Tashjian cited the need to increase the size of Nesbit's boundary as one of his reasons for preferring boundary changes.
“Fundamentally larger boundaries will produce more kids; if we look at the boundary for Nesbit it’s too small for the school,” Tashjian said.
He added Nesbit would have a more stable environment if its boundary is increased.
“Otherwise we’re going to be stuck in a situation where Nesbit will be the overflow school,” he said.
The idea of not having boundaries at all was introduced well into the discussion. Wright cited Mill Valley's school district as a successful example of no boundaries. The school district there tries to enroll students in the school closest to their homes.
The Belmont-Redwood Shores School District staff will explore that option for Belmont before the district's next meeting on June 16, when board members said they will find a way to help with district's over-enrollment.