Parents give input on Pasco school boundary proposal

Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 5, 2014 

Pasco's Rosalind Franklin elementary school will have the newest building in the district when it opens this fall. It will also have a unique curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

But that's not the reason Jason McShane of west Pasco wants his children to go to school there.

"I opted in to Franklin not because of STEM but because my kids won't have to cross busy roads," he told the Pasco School Board during a Wednesday hearing.

More than 40 parents attended the hearing, with most saying the latest proposal for adjusting attendance boundaries is the best choice, as it preserves neighborhoods and limits students crossing major streets.

However, a few said their children would have a long walk or commute to school despite living close to Franklin.

The new school is under construction at Powerline Road and Road 52, one of three Pasco is building with a $46.8 million bond. Attendance boundaries for five schools will need to shift when Franklin opens.

Proposed boundaries for Mark Twain and nearby Maya Angelou and Ruth Livingston elementary schools have changed little since a second draft of a map was released. Those for Franklin, McGee and Markham have shifted with each revision.

The latest proposal, called Take 3 by the district, would send students living north of Burden Boulevard between roads 60 and 44, including the Clark Addition off Clark Road, to Franklin. All other students living north of Interstate 182 between roads 68 and 36 would attend McGee. Markham would take students outside those developments.

The district plans to allow students who will be fifth-graders to remain at their current school or let families seek an exemption from attending the school within their new attendance zone. Families have until the end of February to file those requests.

Parents could also "opt in" to Franklin as part of a district effort to accommodate more families who want to take advantage of the STEM curriculum.

Almost all parents cited student safety and a desire for whole neighborhoods to attend the same school as their main concerns.

Tara Nebeker currently won't let her children walk to school at McGee because they'd have to cross Road 44 and Burden Boulevard, she said.

"I've literally had to get out of my car to help children who have fallen into (Burden)," she said. "It's scary."

Dave Kemp, speaking in support of Take 3, grew up on a street where kids went to different schools.

"It caused a lot of divisions in the community and difficulty," he said.

But residents of the Three Rivers neighborhood and some other homes only blocks from Franklin said Take 3 would send them to McGee, up to two miles away for some.

"Our biggest issue is that of proximity," said Kerianne Alsop.

Aaron Richardson received applause for recommending Take 3 be adjusted to expand its attendance boundary to include Three Rivers and other nearby neighborhoods while reducing the number of "opt-in" slots. He also suggested "opt-in" students be responsible for their own transportation and not be provided busing.

The board didn't make a decision following the hearing but is expected to at its regular meeting Tuesday. Several parents said they were grateful for the district's approach to the boundaries, with some noting they were skeptical at first about whether comments would be considered.

"I really appreciate the fact that I had a say," Krissa Peterson said.

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

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