Lincoln Elementary students could be shuffled

Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldDecember 18, 2013 

More than 80 students at Lincoln Elementary School could find themselves attending different schools next year.

The students, most of whom live in apartment complexes and make up part of Lincoln's low-income student population, would be shifted to either Westgate, Edison or Southgate elementary schools based on a proposal given Wednesday night to the Kennewick School Board.

District administrators say the moves are necessary to reduce crowding at the rapidly growing school. But board members expressed reservations, saying they are concerned about student displacement and the socioeconomic mix.

"We're just making Lincoln less diverse," said board President Dawn Adams.

Lincoln, not far from Southridge High School, serves students on the west side of Highway 395. Some of the students live in new south Kennewick developments, while others live in older neighborhoods near Fourth and Kennewick avenues.

The school has grown by 123 students in five years. They attend classes in the Fruitland building in downtown Kennewick while their building is renovated as part of a bond project. Several classrooms for a low-income preschool program had to move out of the Fruitland building to accommodate Lincoln's need for space, said Assistant Superintendent Greg Fancher.

The school already needs two more classrooms than its new building will provide when it opens in the fall, Fancher said. Even more could be needed if more students than expected enroll or state lawmakers push for quicker implementation of all-day kindergarten.

"You can see we're really under the gun," Fancher said.

Under the proposal, about 60 students living in the area between Fourth and Clearwater avenues and Highway 395 and Morain Street would be split between Edison and Westgate. More than 20 students living in the Copper Ridge Apartments near Southridge High would be taken to Southgate.

There could be minimal impact in moving the Copper Ridge students, as they already have to take a bus to school and the complex is so new most families haven't established a strong connection to Lincoln, said Superintendent Dave Bond.

Westgate and Edison are closer than Lincoln to the students living between Fourth and Kennewick avenues, Fancher said. However, Westgate is already overcrowded and something would have to be done to accommodate more students attending that school.

Board member Brian Brooks is willing to hear what parents have to say in community meetings, he said.

Board Vice President Heather Kintzley doesn't like the idea of displacing students, especially since a proposed future bond could build a new elementary school in the area, requiring boundaries to change again soon, she said.

Adams was most concerned about Lincoln losing part of its diversity and putting some of its most needy students at Westgate, which is already working with a large number of disadvantaged kids, nearly all of whom receive free or reduced-price meals.

"I think we need to look at demographics," she said.

Board members asked whether the students could be kept at Lincoln by putting in portable classrooms. At least three portable classrooms would have to be installed at Lincoln for it to meet enrollment needs, Bond said.

"That is a huge problem in terms of timing and coordination," he said. "We're going to have contractors there through June."

The board did not take a vote on the proposal and is expected to revisit it during a retreat meeting in mid-January.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald

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