School Board approves boundary changes for northeast district elementaries

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By Eileen M. Kelliher

After stating that to delay would be — in the words of school board member Diana White — “a disservice,”  the Edmonds School Board on Tuesday night unanimously approved a boundary change for the northeastern quadrant of the district affecting new students attending Martha Lake, Hazelwood, Hilltop, Brier and Cedar Way elementaries.  You can view a map showing the new enrollment boundaries here.

Brier and Cedar Way, both in Mountlake Terrace, are currently under-enrolled as the district has more capacity in the south, but housing growth continues in the north. Board President Ann McMurray pointed out that this boundary change would likely have happened several years ago if not for the tanking economy.

Speaking before the board, Mountlake Terrace High School Student advisor Barbara Biney concurred with McMurray, saying that “change had to be dealt with.” Citing her personal experiences with disruption in her school career, Biney encouraged parents present at the meeting to tell their children that this was an opportunity to “build yourself to be strong.”

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Ellen Kahn pointed out that the plan would grandfather in the schools’ current students and their incoming siblings, meaning that the boundary change would only apply to new students.

Overcrowding at Hilltop and Martha Lake made this boundary change a necessity. Board member Gary Noble said that in the near future, new developments along the 164th Street corridor will impact Martha Lake, Oak Heights and other schools in the district’s Northeast Quadrant.

Further, Superintendent Nick Brossoit noted that if anticipated additional monies come in from the state in the next couple of years to reduce crowded classrooms and provide all-day kindergarten, schools will be able to hold fewer students and pressures will continue to move students from the northeast quadrant down to the southeast quadrant.

A handful of parents from the affected schools spoke up on behalf of preserving a “walking nucleus” for their school. They cited concerns that involved parents would become discouraged by the change and not continue their involvement. One parent pointed out the expense of busing children who currently walk, some as little as 800 feet. Some of those speaking said that parents of children affected by the boundary change, but who were not yet in the school system, had been left out of the communication loop  and didn’t realize their children could not go to their neighborhood school.

Superintendent Brossoit recalled parents’ emotional responses a few years ago when Woodway and Evergreen elementary schools had to be closed, saying, “The parents understood it, but didn’t like it.  A type of a grieving process needed to happen.”  He also addressed the perception that the boundary change process did not get the energy and promotion that it should, by pointing out that the recession has sharply cut district staffing, including eliminating the print shop. He thanked the board for its leadership and the attending parents for their willingness to share and represent for their community.

Also during the meeting:

– Debby Carter and Brian Furby of the Citizen’s Planning Committee (CPC) gave its mid-year report to the board. The CPC is made up of representatives from all the district schools plus a handful of board-appointed members. (Currently five schools do not have someone representing them at the monthly meetings.) It primarily serves as a sounding board for the board and the district and provides a way to broaden problem-solving and information flow throughout the school communities.

– The board had a first reading on a request for proposal concerning the Alderwood South Site, where the district buses and bus barn are located. The district had hoped to set up a long-term lease at this location as it did with the old Lynnwood High School site before the economy went into recession. The district will pick one developer this spring to negotiate with while keeping the others on the line as possibilities.  If this transaction is successful, money will come available to the district for capital development.

– Celebrated with certificates several teachers of the dozen from across the district who had studied to become National Board Certified Teachers.  Earlier in the evening, the teachers attended a reception to mark their achievement put on by the district.

– Administered the oath of office to Shukri Farey, a new student advisor representing Edmonds-Woodway High School.

School board contributing writer Eileen Kelliher served as a parent volunteer while her three children went through Seaview Elementary, Meadowdale Middle School, and Edmonds-Woodway High School.  She works occasionally as a substitute classified employee for the Edmonds School District.

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