Richland School Board members said this weekthey want to preserve neighborhoods as much as possible when realigning middle school attendance boundaries.
However, they also want to preserve room in the district’s fastest growing schools and acknowledged some elementary school students likely won’t stay with all their classmates when they head to sixth grade.
District administrators discussed public input received on the proposed boundaries, which won’t go into effect until fall 2017 when the district’s fourth middle school opens. No decision was made but Assistant Superintendent Todd Baddley told the board he hoped to be back at the next board meeting after the district’s boundary committee meets.
Board members said they understood parents’ frustration at the shifting boundaries. But board Vice President Heather Cleary said, “I don’t think there’s any way we can’t split some elementary schools,” as there are 10 elementary and four middle schools.
Board President Rick Jansons said he wanted the boundaries to maintain extra space in the West Richland middle schools, as that’s where the most growth is, even if it does load up the central Richland schools more.
I don’t think there’s any way we can’t split some elementary schools.
Heather Cleary, Richland School Board
Richland’s unnamed fourth middle school will be near the intersection of Belmont Boulevard and Keene Road in West Richland, less than two miles from Enterprise Middle School. District officials and an appointed boundary revision committee have worked for more than a year on how to adjust attendance areas for the new school.
Under a current proposal, every middle school would be affected, with Chief Joseph Middle School taking students living in Horn Rapids and many between Highway 240 and the Yakima River. Carmichael Middle School would lose some of its south Richland students but see its attendance area creep further north in central Richland to include those living near the Queensgate Drive shopping area.
Enterprise would be affected the most. All the students it currently serves south of Keene Road would head to the new school, as would about half of the families served by Wiley Elementary north of Keene Road.
Fewer than 40 people attended three boundary meetings at the district’s middle schools before spring break, a much lower turnout than district administrators said they expected, possibly a result of student athletic schedules. Many have submitted comments through the district’s website.
Much of the feedback has been positive or neutral, district officials said, including comments on an additional proposal to assign “feeder” middle schools to each of the district’s two high schools rather than have independent high school attendance boundaries.
A number of parents said in online comments they weren’t happy with how the boundaries would affect their child.
But there has been some criticism. Parents at one boundary meeting raised concerns about the proposed boundaries creating middle school populations splitting up higher- and lower-income families, possibly setting up a system of schools with the “haves” or “have-nots.” The suggestion to draw lines between backyards rather than down streets also was suggested.
A number of parents said in online comments they weren’t happy with how the proposed boundaries would affect their child. Families at the new Orchard Elementary School in south Richland are upset that their students would be split up between the new middle school and Carmichael upon entering sixth grade, saying their school should send students to only one middle school.
Baddley said the proposal will need to be adjusted slightly as at least one neighborhood’s student population was improperly calculated. The boundary committee also could make other changes based on the public input.
Only one parent approached the board on the boundaries during the meeting, asking the board make its transfer process clear for families that want to move their child as a result of the changes.