Richland School Board members agree on new school boundaries that will keep most south Richland students near home, but they are holding off on a final vote until next month.
The four board members present at Tuesday night’s meeting said they prefer a plan that largely preserves current boundaries between schools while carving out neighborhoods for a new elementary school — named Orchard Elementary School in a separate decision later in the meeting.
Several south Richland parents said they are pleased with the board’s new option and urged a vote that night. The board held off on a final decision because Vice Chairman Rick Donahoe was not present.
“We pretty much said we weren’t going to vote on it without a full board,” board Chairwoman Phyllis Strickler said.
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A few at the meeting expressed unhappiness about the new boundaries, saying they still divide up neighborhoods and disrupt schools and families.
“You say you support neighborhood schools but why are you tearing our neighborhoods apart?” West Richland resident Melissa Lyle asked .
The district has been in the boundary revision process for almost a year as it prepares to open its 10th elementary school next fall. Worried about schools being too full in south Richland, where growth is greatest, the board recently considered busing some students in that area to central Richland schools. Complaints from parents prompted the board to revisit the boundaries again.
District officials presented two alternatives to the board. The present board members said they liked “Option A.” The new Orchard Elementary School would pull students from neighborhoods west of Keene and Leslie roads as well as those living in Meadow Springs West and the Orchard Hills Apartments.
The rest of Meadow Springs still would attend Badger Mountain Elementary School, and some of the neighborhood’s residents said they are unhappy at being split up. A few said they didn’t care which school they ended up at so long as the neighborhood stayed whole. One resident, however, said Meadow Springs always has been a Badger Mountain neighborhood and it would be a tragedy if it was divided.
Lyle, along with another West Richland resident, accused the board of ignoring the issues facing Tapteal Elementary School. They criticized how the boundaries will place the school beyond capacity, and how their kids and neighboring students are being sent to other schools farther from home rather than Tapteal.
Board member Rick Jansons sympathized with the Meadow Springs families, saying his children also have had to change schools because of shifting families. However, the district has to ease crowding in the schools.
“That means somebody has to move out of that school,” he said.
Board member Mary Guay said she wanted to do something to address the issues raised by West Richland residents but also called for a vote on the boundaries that night along with Jansons.
Strickler and board member Heather Cleary insisted on waiting, and Strickler held back a final vote. That decision left some at the meeting frustrated at the continued uncertainty about boundaries.
“It’s frustrating to have to show up multiple times when there’s a quorum present,” one resident said.