NSD boundary changes finalized, some students face prospect of four schools in four years | UPDATE

The Northshore School District (NSD) announced the final draft plan for boundary changes that will impact the lives of each family in the Northshore area on May 29.

This areal photo of the new North Creek High School in north Bothell shows the progress of construction. North Creek is part of the solution to the NSD overcrowding.

The Northshore School District (NSD) announced the final draft plan for boundary changes that will impact the lives of each family in the Northshore area on May 29.

“This is all-around creating a service area for North Creek High School and adjusting the boundaries to relieve some significant over-crowding that’s mainly impacting the north and central part of the district,” said NSD Superintendent Larry Francois.

The Enrollment and Demographics Task Force (EDTF) worked with the community through open houses and online or telephone surveys, getting all the information they needed to ensure that the process was as smooth and as efficient as possible. This group of volunteers spent untold hours sifting through data, public comment and more.

“Since mid-March through mid-May, the EDTF has been reviewing all of that input – every single comment, every single piece of information that was received was looked at…,” Francois said. “There were about a dozen or more changes of varying levels, some more minor, some more significant, that occurred in the plan as result of feedback we received from the final plan and the work the EDTF has done over the last several months.”

That’s still not enough to ensure that the impacts to students will be minimal. The NSD has already stated that there will be some students who may be switching schools often, as much as four times in four years.

However, according to Francois, there is going to be a waiver system that those students who are negatively impacted by the boundary changes may be able to use to decrease the number of schools that the students will move through. The waiver system has been in place for quite a while and isn’t a new byproduct of the EDTF or boundary changes.

“Right now, we have a waiver process. We have hundreds of families who choose to attend a school other than their neighborhood school for a variety of reasons,” Francois said. “Knowing that in 2017-18 there will be this major boundary adjustment, some folks may choose to say, ‘Well in 2017-2018 I know I’ll be moving from my neighborhood school to my new school, maybe I’ll do it early.’”

For ReBecca Looney, a parent of one such child, a waiver process doesn’t help the fact that she feels like her child has been lost in the mix of all the changes.

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel for Arrowhead kids. When we were first told this, it felt like we were being completely overlooked by the District,” Looney said. “We all agreed that this wasn’t best for these students.”

Rather than going from sixth grade at Arrowhead, seventh at Kenmore JHS, eight at Northshore Middle School, and ninth at Inglemoor, Looney’s child will be able to waiver into Northshore Middle School – going to three schools in four years instead of four.

“Our issue now is transportation, the school district doesn’t know if they can get [Looney’s daughter] to Northshore JHS. We’re moving our kids into a school without knowing how to get them there and back,” Looney said. “At this point, no one’s communicating with us, so I feel like our kids have been lost in the shuffle.”

Francois also said that waivers may be used to stay at a child’s old school rather than move to the new one.

“The driving factor on waivers will be space availability,” Francois said. “Our first priority is always to serve the neighborhood population of that school and then, if there is room, to open the school up to folks within the Northshore School District who might want to be at that school and, secondarily, to folks outside the school district.”

According to Leanna Albrecht, communications director for the NSD, approximately 82 2nd graders will swap 4 schools in as many years, 250 8th graders will attend a new middle school and then a new high school, and approximately 520 11th graders will attend a different high school.

The purpose of the new changes will be to not only decrease the number of students in each school by reorganizing students to attend schools throughout the district, but it will also ensure that most students stay with the same group of children throughout their tutelage.

According to the NSD, the path a student starts in will keep them with largely the same group of students from kindergarden to high school. While some students will be swapping to different middle schools, they will return to the high school that other friends will be heading to.

“We’re creating awareness it’s out there and encouraging people to access the information again, see if any changes impact them and provide any input or feedback, that would be helpful,” Francois said. “We want to make sure that it doesn’t get lost in the haze of the end of the year.”

While this is the final draft of the boundary changes, the EDTF is still reviewing more information, including data, enrollment information and public comment, and may make more changes until Fall 2015.

For some, those decision may not be enough.

“If I was not told my kids could not waiver, I would absolutely look at different options outside the school district just because I do feel strongly that this would not be fair to ask my daughter to do this,” Looney said. “How are they expected to keep up with school work with such changes?”

The EDTF will make their final recommendation to the school board by spring 2016, with the school board approving the final changes soon thereafter.

Community input opportunities will be offered through fall of 2015.

For more information on the new boundary changes, visit www.nsd.schoolwires.net/domain/4499.

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