Richland school boundary scenarios unveiled

By Ty Beaver Tri-City HeraldJuly 17, 2014 

South Richland Groundbreaking

Students help with Thursday’s groundbreaking for a new elementary school in south Richland between Gala Way and Brantingham Road near Westcliffe Boulevard. From left are Emily Porter, 10, Daniel Porter, 7, Rebecca Boyd, 8, and Bella, 9, Naveen, 7, and Zubin, 4, McDermott. It will be Richland’s 10th elementary school and have about 700 students. The school board is discussing boundary revisions that would affect several of the elementary schools.

SARAH GORDON — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

Hundreds of elementary students will have to change schools in a year when the Richland School District's newest elementary school opens.

The district just has to figure out exactly how students will be affected.

An appointed committee unveiled four possible scenarios for shifting attendance boundaries among the district's elementary schools during a Thursday night school board workshop.

No recommendation was made and the board didn't vote, though committee and some board members sounded interested in what was called Option D. That proposal would mostly shift students in south and West Richland, though suggested changes could affect Sacajawea and Jefferson elementary schools in north and central Richland.

District officials want to balance preparations for growth, keeping kids close to home and making schools diverse when it comes to boundaries, but that's easier said than done, they said.

"There are no perfect plans," said Cynthia Eskeli with the district's transportation department.

The committee has met for months to work out possible new boundaries as the district prepares to open the new elementary school at Brantingham Road and Westcliffe Boulevard in south Richland. The district broke ground Thursday on the project, one of several paid for by a $98 million bond. The school is expected to house more than 600 children.

South Richland is served by Badger Mountain and White Bluffs elementary schools. There are more students in the area than the schools can accommodate, so students are bused from pockets within that area to Lewis & Clark and Marcus Whitman elementary schools in central Richland.

Opening the new elementary school, which hasn't been named, would eliminate the need for any south Richland students to be bused outside the area.

In most scenarios, Badger Mountain would take on all the neighborhoods along Columbia Park Trail while White Bluffs would absorb more students from West Richland.

Other school boundaries wouldn't go untouched. Sacajawea and Tapteal elementary schools' boundaries expand or contract between proposals. Jefferson Elementary School in central Richland could have its boundary shrink, declining its enrollment by almost 100 students, while Marcus Whitman and Lewis & Clark could see further changes beyond the loss of south Richland students.

Each scenario has benefits, such as eliminating the need for any students to cross a major road, preserving ideal building capacities or providing a diverse socio-economic student population, Eskeli said.

But they all have their drawbacks, such as straining the district's busing capacity or overfilling schools in south Richland.

Despite its seeming preference, Option D has its problems.

A strip of land hugging the Yakima River and home to 92 students would shift to Sacajawea and away from Tapteal under that scenario, creating a long bus drive.

"I'd like those Tapteal kids to stay where they are," said board member Mary Guay.

The committee will meet twice more before public comment and feedback meetings scheduled for September and October, district officials said.

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

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