Education

Olympia School Board to review school attendance boundaries

FILE PHOTO: Band teacher Keith Holder (back left) holds class in the gymnasium at Centennial Elementary in Olympia in 2015. The school has nearly 530 students, a larger student body than Reeves, Jefferson or Marshall middle schools. The School Board plans to review school attendance boundaries during the 2016-17 school year.
FILE PHOTO: Band teacher Keith Holder (back left) holds class in the gymnasium at Centennial Elementary in Olympia in 2015. The school has nearly 530 students, a larger student body than Reeves, Jefferson or Marshall middle schools. The School Board plans to review school attendance boundaries during the 2016-17 school year. Staff photographer

The Olympia School Board is in the early stages of tackling a two-word process that’s hard for many parents to stomach: Boundary review.

School board members have a work session scheduled to learn about the undertaking that could eventually shift some kids to different schools. The meeting is planned for 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Knox Administrative Center, 1113 Legion Way SE, Olympia.

The meeting is open to the public, but there won’t be time for public comment.

“Should the board decide to move forward with a boundary study, there will be multiple opportunities for input by staff, students, families and community members that will be well-publicized in advance,” district spokeswoman Susan Gifford said. “Input from all stakeholders is critical to a boundary review process, and we will stay connected in numerous formats.”

The school board’s meeting will be facilitated by Jim Dugan, a consultant with Parametrix, Gifford said. He assisted with the 2015 boundary review in the neighboring North Thurston Public Schools.

Gifford said Dugan hasn’t been hired by the Olympia School District as a consultant, but he has “been in conversation with the district and its interest in boundary review.”

“Given that most of the current board members have not engaged in a boundary review process before, they wanted an opportunity to discuss what the process looks like and be able to ask questions,” she said.

The board won’t take action at the work session, Gifford said.

The school board included boundary review as one of its goals for the 2016-17 school year at its annual one-day retreat in July. The goal states: “By November 2016, identify a consultant to conduct a K-12 boundary review by March 2017, for the purpose of balancing numbers in facilities and access to choice and optional programs. Explore options to balance enrollment and increase equity of access to all high schools to facilitate planning for future enrollment, capital investment and increasing high school graduation rates to 100 percent.”

Although there have been minor boundary adjustments over the years, the last major boundary change for the district’s east side was in 1993 after the opening of McKenny Elementary School, Gifford said. The last one for the west side was in 1998-99, she said.

The Olympia School District is the third-fastest-growing district in the county, adding about 825 students, or just more than 9 percent, in 15 years, according to a recent analysis by The Olympian.

“This growth, combined with the state-mandated class-size reduction, has resulted in the crowded conditions at some schools and some sites that have significantly higher enrollments than others,” Gifford said.

For example, Washington Middle School has 825 students, many more than the other three middle schools, which have between 384 to 432 students, she said. Centennial Elementary School has nearly 530 students, which is a larger student body than Reeves, Jefferson or Marshall middle schools as well, Gifford said.

Superintendent Dick Cvitanich also listed boundary review as one of his goals for the school year.

“It’s common practice for school districts to examine enrollment growth and patterns,” he said. “We want to ensure that all of our students have an ample opportunity to access the outstanding school programs and services offered in the Olympia School District.”

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433, @Lisa_Pemberton

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