SPS faces tough choices in wake of boundary changes

<p><p>Spokane Public Schools has a lot of numbers to crunch as it considers the effect of <a href=”https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/jun/30/spokane-school-board-approves-sweeping-boundary-ch” target=”_blank”>new boundaries</a> approved this summer.</p></p><p><p>Those numbers represent hundreds of children who will be moved, most unwillingly, to different schools during the next two years.</p></p><p><p>During a special meeting Wednesday night, the board of directors will get an update on the implications of the boundary changes and its effect on schools, particularly Sacajawea Middle School.</p></p><p><p>“We have looked across the entire district and all of the boundary changes, and all of those that were affected,” said Shawn Jordan, the district’s chief operations officer.</p></p><p><p>No decisions will be made and no public comment taken. However, at some point, the district must make a decision on students who will be inordinately impacted by the changes.</p></p><p><p>“We’re hoping to have this done this fall,” Jordan said Monday.</p></p><p><p>By the district’s count, 677 current students could face attending new schools when the boundary changes take effect – next fall on the North Side and the following year on the South Hill. Of those, 250 are elementary age and will attend new schools at all three levels, elementary, middle and high school.</p></p><p><p>Now the district hopes to mitigate the effect for at least some of those students, perhaps allowing them to remain at their current schools for a longer period. However, that could leave some high-demand schools over capacity in the meantime.</p></p><p><p>The issue originates with the district’s decision to ease elementary school crowding and move sixth-graders into middle schools. That was accomplished with passage of the 2018 capital bond, which funded the construction of three new middle schools and replacement of three others.</p></p><p><p>That necessitated drawing new boundaries, balancing the desire of some students to stay at the same school against the need to address overcrowding.</p></p><p><p>When should students who currently attend a school in the south be required to attend their new school to the north?</p></p><p><p>Among the affected neighborhoods is River Run<a href=”https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/may/10/sps-continues-work-on-contentious-issue-of-new-bou” target=”_blank”>, which is</a> located north of the Finch Arboretum and west of the Spokane River.</p></p><p><p>Students there currently attend Hutton Elementary, Sacajawea Middle School and Lewis and Clark High School. The new boundaries send them to Finch Elementary, Glover Middle School and North Central High School.</p></p><p><p>Allowing those students to stay in their current schools through a longer transition period is not readily possible; as staff noted several times last spring, all three South Hill schools are already crowded.</p></p><p><p>As district budget director Craig Numata pointed out several times in forums and other events, Hutton is so overcrowded that some specialty rooms have been given up to classrooms.</p></p><p><p>“They’re using every space they have,” he said.</p></p><p><p>It’s a similar situation at Sacajawea, but the problem there is compounded by the change to move sixth-graders to middle school.</p></p><p><p><a href=”https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/may/10/sps-continues-work-on-contentious-issue-of-new-bou” target=”_blank”>Frustrated parents</a> countered that they purchased homes in the River Run neighborhood partly because of the schools they expected their children to attend.</p></p><p><p>Wednesday’s presentation devotes much of a 23-page PowerPoint presentation to the impacts of various models.</p></p><p><p>The key questions – mostly affecting the River Run area – facing the district include:</p></p><p><p>• When should students assigned to a school in the north who currently attend a school in the south be required to attend their new school?</p></p><p><p>• Which inordinately impacted students should be provided accommodation?</p></p><p><p>• Should they receive Preferred Choice or Extended Legacy status?</p></p><p><p>• How long should accommodation be provided?</p></p><p><p>Also on the agenda is a discussion of other ideas that surfaced during the boundary discussions.</p></p><p><p>They include plans to “explore” the placement of magnet programs at North Side high schools and expansion of the APPLE program to kindergarten through 8th grade.</p></p>