The Richland School Board unanimously approved its new elementary school boundaries Tuesday night, deciding to keep most students in schools near their neighborhoods.
Parents, students and administrators almost completely filled the district board room before the decision, but no one asked to comment before the vote.
Superintendent Rick Schulte said there still are some loose ends to look at next month — policies for transfers and grandfathering students into their old school if the new boundaries moved them — but families now know where the kids will end up next fall.
The district looked at revising boundaries for a year as it prepares to open Orchard Elementary School near the intersection of Brantingham Road and Westcliffe Boulevard in south Richland.
Along with filling the new school, district officials wanted to eliminate pockets in south Richland where students ended up at central Richland schools because of overcrowding.
But some board members expressed concern that south Richland, where growth is greatest, would have no room to add students in the future, which led to a plan that bused some students living between Leslie Road and Steptoe Street to Lewis & Clark Elementary School in central Richland.
Other students who lived between the Highway 240 bypass and Yakima River could have been bused north to Sacajawea Elementary School.
Families criticized the plan, saying they bought their homes in their neighborhoods because they wanted their children to attend school there.
A revised plan, endorsed by four board members two weeks ago, had the new Orchard Elementary School 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 will continue to attend Badger Mountain Elementary School, as will the south Richland families that would have been bused to Lewis & Clark.
Families living along the bypass highway will remain at Lewis & Clark, while those living off Queensgate Drive will go to Marcus Whitman Elementary.
Board member Rick Donahoe was absent at the last meeting. Board President Phyllis Strickler said the decision needed to be made by the full board, so it was delayed until Tuesday.
• The board approved schematic plans for the new middle school to be built in West Richland, the new Three Rivers HomeLink building next to Jason Lee Elementary School and the new Marcus Whitman Elementary.
• The board re-elected Strickler as board president and elected Heather Cleary as vice president.
Board member Mary Guay will continue as the board’s legislative representative, which she was chosen for last year and is a two-year term.