Eight years in the Pasco School District's dual language program has given Lilly Stilwell a lot of close friends.
Lilly, who will be be an eighth-grader at McLoughlin Middle School this fall, will head to Pasco High School when she's a freshman, while most of her friends will attend Chiawana High School.
"Soon, because of the current boundaries, I'll be losing many of the friends I've made," Lilly told the Pasco School Board.
Numerous parents and students asked the school board during its regular meeting Tuesday night to revise the high school attendance boundaries.
At least 50 people attended the meeting, with many citing the breakup of student friendships, burden on families and division within the broader Pasco community as problems with the boundaries.
Some called for an east-west divide between Chiawana and Pasco high schools and more flexibility for students to transfer.
"We're all here to represent choice," resident Christina Olsen said.
Board members said the concerns are being heard and the process to review them is under way, but it will take time and effort.
"We don't want to rush in and make a decision based on emotion," said board member Steve Christensen.
The group Pasco Parents for Neighborhood Schools, largely comprising west Pasco residents, have spearheaded efforts to revisit the boundaries between the high schools. The boundaries have some students living closer to one high school, but attending the other.
Obtaining a transfer can be so difficult that some families have resorted to lying on the forms or leaving the district entirely, parents said.
The boundaries were originally implemented to foster cultural diversity in each school, speakers said. But some questioned whether that approach was benefiting students and why a similar policy isn't implemented at the elementary and middle school levels.
They also asked why some families living relatively close to Chiawana aren't sent to Pasco High as some living close to the east Pasco school are sent west.
"The answer is that the people who live in three-quarter of a million dollar homes aren't going to allow that to happen," said parent Riley Dodson.
Haley Perdue, a 2014 Pasco High graduate from west Pasco, defended the boundaries. It was tough for her at first to adjust to a school where she didn't have many friends but she said she gained a better appreciation for all the cultures that make up the district.
"I think you're undervaluing what the original boundaries were created for," she said.
But her father, Dan Perdue, said he'd like to know if the boundaries are advantageous to any students and, if not, whether changes could be made.
"I'd like to see choice," he said.
Board member Amy Phillips said she had questions herself after hearing from parents.
Other board members called for patience so that everyone's concerns could be considered. Board Vice President Ryan Brault was scheduled to be on the Oregon Coast with his family during Tuesday's meeting but said he drove back because it was important to hear people's concerns.
"We don't want you to think we're not listening, because we are," he said. "It's something we have to look at comprehensively because it affects all of us."
-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402, firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @_tybeaver