Issaquah schools boundary review draws parent concerns

June 5, 2008

By Chantelle Lusebrink

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Three public meetings were held to discuss newly proposed boundaries for the Issaquah School District last week.Committee members and district officials met with community members at Liberty, Skyline and Issaquah high schools to seek input from parents and students.

The committee began its work in February and will adjourn in late October.

The comprehensive review affects kindergarten through 12th-grade.

Several people at the May 20 Liberty meeting said they were concerned with high school boundaries and meeting the boundary committee’s goal to balance student populations between schools and maintain comprehensive programs.

In the proposal, Skyline and Issaquah both grow to populations of about 1,800, while Liberty’s population remains at roughly 1,200 students.

The disparity in students could mean less variety in elective course offerings.

Liberty has felt the effects of a decreasing student population already, as projections for fall put it at about 1,125 students. Principal Mike DeLetis has had to make several course cuts and is considering opening enrollment to students from outside the district.

“I think that everyone here is concerned that students here at Liberty and in the south end get the same education and opportunities that kids at Issaquah and Skyline high schools have,” said Rick Jarvis, a parent and Liberty graduate of 1985. “I understand electives are only one part of that, but my kid should have the opportunity to take whatever classes, like Chinese or whatever, that children at Skyline and Issaquah get, not just French or Spanish. And our students shouldn’t be hurt by not enough population to fund those.” 

One solution the committee had pondered was to move the Talus and Lakemont neighborhoods out of Issaquah High’s boundary and into Liberty’s.

The conversation about moving high school students sparked tension in the two communities and brought out claims of inequity between schools and of socioeconomics throughout the district.

Those neighborhoods would provide about 100 students.

Ron Thiele, director of elementary and middle schools, said the number of students isn’t the only thing that determines course offerings.

“Each child comes to a school with the same amount of funding,” Thiele said. “They are arguing that more kids means more programming, and there is an element of truth to that, but it is way more complicated then that.”

Considerations, such as student interest, success of courses, what core requirements need to be met and what staff believes students need to know, are factors as well, he said.

The south end of the district is the only area with any potential for growth in the future, which is why Liberty is slated to receive 10 new classrooms as part of a remodel that would bring the school’s capacity up to roughly 1,400.

Both the Sammamish Plateau and the Issaquah corridor areas are at or very near their capacity with current zoning laws. However, the south end, much of which is in unincorporated King County, has the potential for massive growth if parts of it are annexed by the city of Renton.

The next boundary review meetings is June 18. The committee will review and discuss the comments received at the public forums, said Dick Withycombe, the boundary review facilitator hired by the district.

Committee members will also discuss whether any changes or amendments to the current proposal need to be made.

The committee will adjourn for the summer, but return Oct. 1, when official enrollment counts for students are taken. Two other meetings are scheduled for Oct. 15 and 29 to make adjustments to the proposal taking into consideration the new enrollment.

If the proposal changes in any significant way, the committee will hold additional forums or meetings to gather community input, Withycombe said.

Once the committee finalizes its proposal, it will be given to the school board to approve or reject.



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