Housing boom in northeast Aurora brings new boundaries to overloaded APS schools

1317
Approved APS boundary changes.

AURORA | Some students in east Aurora schools will attend new schools next year, after the Aurora Public Schools board of education voted to redraw enrollment districts for burgeoning area schools. 

Families moving to new east Aurora subdivisions and enrolling children by the thousands in Vista PEAK and Aurora Frontier have pushed those schools to or above their capacity, according to APS officials. That requires the district to change boundaries and spread the growth. School board members voted Tuesday night to push a community-backed plan balancing growth mostly between PEAK and a new school, Harmony P-8, but it requires kids in some neighborhoods to switch schools. 

Area parents clapped and sighed relief after the school board voted unanimously to approve the boundary change.

Unlike other plans, individual neighborhoods will not be split between different schools. 

Under the new plan, kids in the Brandon Park and Sunchase neighborhoods will attend Aurora Frontier P-8 next year, instead of Murphy Creek. Students in Foxridge Farms will switch from Vista PEAK to the new school, Harmony, as will kids living in Singletree. 

Adonea residents will keep attending Vista PEAK. 

Like all the plans considered in the long boundary redesign process, these new boundaries aim to balance booming growth and limited resources in APS. 

Vista PEAK, already more than 100 students above capacity, will stave off an influx of more students with the introduction of Harmony. Under the new plan, Harmony will house about 1,150 students by 2023. PEAK will lose some students during that time, landing at about 1,000 if district projections are true. 

That’s still above its 900-school capacity. 

Packed schools can increase the student-teacher ratio, said Bruce Wilcox, head of the Aurora Education Association teacher union. He said, often, full schools tack on mobile classrooms that are cold in the winter and don’t have bathrooms. Art and music spaces are replaced by traveling carts, and students can sit in the same classroom for very long periods of time. 

“When you exceed it too much, the only solution you have is to put more students than necessary in one classroom,” Wilcox said of capacities. 

The new plan will also stave off imminent capacity issues at Murphy Creek for a few years. 

APS surveyed area residents and teachers, who overwhelmingly backed the plan chosen by school board officials more than any other. 

But the flurry of development in the region will march on, posing future growth challenges for the school district.

New developments in area include the leviathan Aurora Highlands project, bringing 60,000 new residents to the region. Adonea, Murphy Creek, Harmony, Water Stone and Traditions are just some of the new neighborhood names within Aurora, let alone unincorporated county land not yet annexed by City Hall officials looking east. 

The overcrowding problem stands in distinct contrast to the accelerating loss of students in the district’s older neighborhoods. Contraction there could force the district to close and combine some schools, officials say.