The parents of children heading into kindergarten and pre-K in the Appoquinimink School District might be surprised to learn where their children will be attending school next year.

The parents of children heading into kindergarten and pre-K in the Appoquinimink School District might be surprised to learn where their children will be attending school next year.

The Appoquinimink school board last week approved new feeder patterns for those students to accommodate the temporary closure of the Appoquinimink Early Childhood Center (AECC) at 502 S. Broad St. in Middletown.

The closure – a part of the district's ongoing effort to avert a budget shortfall next year following the defeat of February's referendum proposal – necessitated new feeder patterns at all three of the remaining early childhood centers, according to district transportation supervisor Gregg Tulowitzky.

"The students who would have gone to Appoquinimink ECC had to go somewhere," Tulowitzky said this week. "That meant we had to make adjustments throughout the district in order to balance the enrollment at the other three schools."

Balancing those enrollment figures also included creating new feeder patterns that also evenly distribute students enrolled in the federally-funded free and reduced lunch program – a common indicator of students with special needs.

"We tried to maintain the diversity at each of the schools so a disproportionate number of those students didn't end up in one building and overwhelm the staff," he said. "Another factor was our desire to keep together students who will be heading to a specific elementary school, because later moving small groups of students into elementary schools with kids they don't know can be a difficult transition for kids at that age."

Tulowitzky said the five-person committee that designed the new feeder patterns attempted to ensure that students would attend the schools closest to their home.

But he acknowledged that wasn't possible in every case, resulting in decisions that might leave some parents scratching their heads.

For instance, children who live in the The Legends at Frog Hollow and Parkside neighborhoods, northeast of the U.S. Route 301 and Del. Route 71 split, will be attending Townsend Early Childhood Center, about 7 miles away, instead of the Cedar Lane Early Childhood Center less than 2 miles from their home.

"In that instance, those children will attend Silver Lake Ementary School along with other students from the Townsend ECC feeder," Tulowitzky said. "So while they might have gone to a school closer to home for kindergarten, they would have ended up with a group of kids they don't know when they move on to first grade."

Tulowitzky said district officials are still working to prepare a map of the new feeder patterns that will be sent out to parents in the coming weeks, along with notices about what school their children will be attending next year.

The district also has extended the deadline that parents of pre-K and kindergarten students can apply to have their child transferred to a different school until April 30. Those applications are available at each school and under the registration tab on the district website

The school board's decision to close AECC for one year, along with keeping Townsend Elementary School closed for one year beyond this year's closure for renovations, is part of the district's three-step plan to avoid an anticipated $2 million shortfall next year.

District officials say those closures will save the district $645,000 next year.

The school board's stated plan is to re-open AECC as a consolidated pre-K school at the start of the 2014-2015 school year. Kindergarten students, meanwhile, will continue to attend either Cedar Lane, Spring Meadow or Townsend early childhood centers.

That plan is expected to proceed regardless of whether voters approve a May 9 referendum that seeks to raise $2.79 million by raising the district's current school tax rate of $1.60 per $100 of assessed property value by 15 cents.