With new schools come new school boundaries. The Kennewick School District will see some major shifts as it prepares to open three new buildings and rebuild two others in coming years.
Four community meetings scheduled through mid-October will give the public opportunity to comment on proposed boundary changes — three scenarios for elementary schools and two for middle schools — ahead of a Kennewick School Board decision in November.
Interactive maps also are available on the district’s website, allowing families to identify how each proposal would affect them.
District administrators considered current neighborhood demographics and information about busing routes and natural boundaries in developing the proposals, Superintendent Dave Bond said.
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With the location of a future elementary school undetermined, public feedback and careful planning will be crucial to prevent another big round of map redrawing in the immediate future.
“The biggest thing the board stressed, to the extent possible, is think about the next elementary, try to minimize double changes,” Bond said.
Voters approved an $89.5 million bond in February. It will pay for a new middle school and two new elementary schools, as well as rebuilding Westgate Elementary School and relocating and rebuilding Desert Hills Middle School. Other projects such as HVAC improvements and new building roofs also will be covered.
Desert Hills and the first of the elementary projects are under construction. The buildings are scheduled to open to students next fall.
The new middle school will open in fall 2017, along with the rebuilt Westgate. The second new elementary school will open in fall 2018.
The district has made periodic adjustments to school attendance areas in recent years to address overcrowding at specific schools. This round of districtwide realignment will be the first since Cottonwood Elementary School opened in 2010, which shifted boundaries westward.
The board wants to preserve “neighborhood” schools, or the idea that students shouldn’t be bused past a school to reach the one they attend, Bond said. Balanced demographics in schools, or close to equal representation of socioeconomic groups, is another board priority.
Regardless of which elementary proposal is adopted, Vista and Hawthorne elementary schools will see no boundary changes. Several other elementary schools, such as Westgate, Sunset View and Eastgate, could see incremental changes, but they would retain most of their current neighborhoods.
It’s the district’s southernmost elementary schools, closest to the new school being built in the Sagecrest neighborhood, that will see the biggest shifts and the most differences between proposals. Lincoln, Southgate and Cascade elementary schools, which will lose areas to the new school, could trade a number of neighborhoods among themselves depending on how the district moves forward.
In both middle school proposals, all boundaries will change from their current alignment. Highlands Middle School will serve an area bordered by Highway 240 to the north, Seventh Avenue to the south, Edison Street to the west and Olympia Street to the east. Desert Hills, which is moving to Clodfelter Road, will take students west of Edison Street, north of Clearwater Avenue and west of Columbia Center Boulevard.
The new middle school being built near Southridge High School will take on students previously assigned to Desert Hills, Highlands and Horse Heaven Hills, with Seventh and Clearwater avenues forming its northern border, Ely Street its eastern border and Columbia Center Boulevard its western border. A pocket of homes near Zintel Canyon, between Seventh and 10th avenues to Rainier Street, also would go to the new middle school.
The difference between the proposals involves boundaries for Horse Heaven Hills and Park Middle School. Option 1 has Park taking students from along the Columbia River, with a southern boundary of 10th Avenue except for the area between 10th and 27th avenues and Washington and Olympia streets. Option 2 has Park constrained by Gum Street to the east, Rainier and Olympia streets to the west and 27th Avenue to the south, leaving Horse Heaven Hills to fold around it.
Families will be able to apply for school transfers after the boundaries are set if their student is moved out of their longtime school because of the changes. Priority will go to affected fifth- and eighth-graders during the 2016-17 school year, followed by Kennewick students living outside their preferred school’s boundary and then nondistrict residents. Transfer requests will be accepted from Dec. 1 to Jan. 29 with decisions provided by the end of February.
Community school boundary meetings
All meetings will run from 6 to 8 p.m., with elementary boundary options presented from 6 to 7 p.m. and middle school boundary options from 7 to 8 p.m.
Sept. 29: Southgate Elementary School, 3121 W. 19th Ave.
Oct. 6: Desert Hills Middle School, 6011 W. 10th Place
Oct. 12: Lincoln Elementary School, 4901 W. 20th Ave.
Oct. 14: Horse Heaven Hills Middle School, 3500 S. Vancouver St.