A new east Pasco school opening next fall won’t be the only one with a science and technology-focused curriculum in that part of town, under a school boundary proposal unveiled by the district Tuesday.
Captain Gray Early Learning Center, which serves only kindergartners, would become a K-6 school and also have a science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, focus, district officials told school board members during a study session.
Marie Curie STEM Elementary School, currently under construction, would share students with neighboring Whittier Elementary School. Kindergarten through second grade would attend Whittier before heading across a shared playground to attend Curie for third through sixth grades. Officials haven’t determined if Whittier students also would have STEM-centered classrooms.
Some east Pasco schools also would see significant boundary shifts if the proposal sticks, but district officials emphasized that it is just a starting point.
“It’s all about space,” Superintendent Saundra Hill said.
Board members questioned some aspects of the proposal, such as the conversion of Captain Gray to a standard elementary school, but some also lauded the district’s work.
“Everything looks like you’ve tried to maintain arterial (streets) as boundaries,” board member Amy Phillips said. “I think you did a phenomenal job of keeping neighborhoods blocked off.”
Curie is one of three schools paid for by a voter-approved $46.8 million bond from February 2013. Rosalind Franklin STEM Elementary School opened in west Pasco this fall; and Barbara McClintock STEM Elementary School, expected to be an early learning center, also is scheduled to open next fall with Curie.
Reducing crowding in the east Pasco schools and keeping school enrollments below 900 students was a top goal of the boundary committee, Assistant Superintendent Liz Flynn said. The committee also considered doing as much as possible to preserve neighborhood schools, limit busing and keep special programs where they are needed.
Uneven populations, such as there being far more students in one grade level than another, was part of the reason the committee suggested converting Captain Gray, which was a regular elementary school until several years ago, Flynn said. It also allowed more students to benefit from a STEM education.
The converted Captain Gray would carve its territory from neighborhoods assigned to Longfellow and Emerson elementary schools. Frost Elementary School’s boundary would shrink the most, with some of its students sent instead to Emerson or McGee Elementary School, near the Tri-Cities Airport.
Whittier would retain its boundary along with Curie, but the schools would take students living east of Highway 12 who previously attended Emerson Elementary School and take pockets served by Rowena Chess and Robinson elementary schools north of Court Street and between Fourth and 14th avenues.
The proposal leaves Robinson Elementary School’s main boundary virtually unchanged, save a few blocks between A Street and Ainsworth Avenue being reassigned to Longfellow Elementary.
The district also would have to consider grandfathering students in at their current schools if that is sought by families and how to let students “opt-in” if they aren’t in a STEM school’s boundary, Flynn said.
“We looked at several scenarios and none of them were perfect,” she said.
The cost of converting Captain Gray would be about $200,000 to $300,000, district officials said, and much of that expense would be in furniture.
The opening of McClintock as an early learning center in west Pasco likely will raise questions if Captain Gray is converted, board member Steve Christensen said. Hill said she welcomed a discussion on McClintock’s future, but that can’t affect the current boundary discussion.
District officials will meet with teachers beginning today about the boundary proposal and public input meetings at all the affected grade schools are scheduled through the first two weeks of December.
A board decision is expected sometime in January.