Pasco School Board accepts latest boundary proposal

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 11, 2014 

The Pasco School Board accepted the latest proposal for new elementary school boundaries in west Pasco on Tuesday, rejecting a compromise that would have allowed families living only blocks from the district's newest school to attend it in the fall.

District administrators looked at allowing more students living close to Rosalind Franklin STEM Elementary School to enroll there and limiting capacity for "opt-in" students, they told the board.

But the idea wouldn't work, they said, and board members unanimously approved the latest recommended boundaries.

Some board members said they understood their decision would be hard for some families.

"I loved the idea of the compromise," said board member Amy Phillips. "But as I looked through everything that was sent back, it just wasn't feasible."

The new school, which will have a science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, curriculum, is under construction at Powerline Road and Road 52. It is one of three the district is building with a $46.8 million bond.

Attendance boundaries for five schools will need to shift when Franklin opens, but two schools in particular will see the most changes.

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 Elementary School. Edwin Markham Elementary School would take students outside those developments.

Many affected parents who attended a recent hearing said they liked the latest proposal.

However, some said that they would still live as far as two miles from their assigned school despite being only a few blocks from Franklin, such as in the Three Rivers development.

They were more concerned about proximity rather than the newness or novel curriculum of the new school and suggested the compromise as a way to let their students walk to school rather than be bused.

Setting boundaries isn't an easy job, said board member Steve Christensen. He thanked district staff for their work gathering the information.

Christensen preferred the latest proposal because it provided for natural boundaries and would require the fewest students to cross major roads, he said.

He dealt with frustration himself when Chiawana High School was built near his family home but his children were still assigned to Pasco High School, he said.

Decreasing the number of opt-in students was a good idea but "we can't decrease that, there are some who say we should increase that," Christensen said.

It is possible some of the families kept out of Franklin by the attendance boundary could be let in through the opt-in program. More than 200 opt-in applications have been filed by families and the district estimated that only about 150 will be accepted.

w Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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