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Beaverton School District finalizes high school boundary changes
The Beaverton School District approved its final high school boundary changes Monday night, ending a long, often contentious process that will lead up to the opening of its newest high school next year.
After more than a year of weighing criteria, going back to the drawing board and holding five public meetings last month, the school board voted unanimously on Monday to accept Superintendent Don Grotting's boundary adjustment recommendations.
Those boundary changes will go into effect during the 2017-18 school year, when the new high school in the South Cooper Mountain area opens its doors.
Parents who disagreed with some of the boundary changes fought to the very end for their voices to be heard and their concerns to be addressed. During the public comment period before the board's vote, approximately 20 people spoke, most of them from the West Tualatin View Elementary School neighborhood. West TV residents have spent months lobbying for their community to remain within Sunset High School's boundary area instead of being shifted to Beaverton High School, citing transportation and safety concerns.
Grotting thanked the community for their "passionate and robust advocacy."
"I know there are people out there in the community who are not going to be happy. I will do my best to ensure that your students are receiving the same opportunities regardless of which high school they attend," said Grotting.
An arduous process
In May, the school board declined to approve a proposal by former superintendent Jeff Rose, citing the need to examine additional criteria including proximity and transportation concerns. The ensuing analysis included bus test runs during drop-off and pick-up times, said Grotting.
In his final revision to the previous iteration of the boundary map, Grotting recommended that students who live in the Aloha-Huber Park K-8 attendance area remain in Aloha High Schools attendance boundary, reversing the May proposal which split those students between Aloha High School, Beaverton High School and the new high school.
Grotting also proposed returning the Waterhouse neighborhood, an area just north of Walker Road, to Westview High Schools attendance area. The most recent map had slated those students, who live in the Elmonica Elementary School area, to be shifted into Alohas attendance boundary.
No additional changes were made to the boundary adjustment plan presented in May by Rose.
Because of population growth in the northern end of the district, boundaries will generally shift south to fill enrollment at the district's new school in the South Cooper Mountain area.
While the biggest changes will occur for students who used to live within the Southridge and Beaverton attendance boundaries, the most vocal critics of the boundary changes have come from families whose children either attend or were previously set to attend Westview or Sunset.
For the past year, families in the West TV neighborhood urged the board and committee to allow them to stay within the Sunset attendance boundary, rather than being switched to Beaverton.
Families expressed concerns about safety issues caused by longer commutes over Highway 26.
"We feel like we haven't been heard," said West TV parent Sabrina Snow. "We have worked hard to show you how our kids are affected by these changes."
Families from the Waterhouse South neighborhood, which has been moved from Westview to Aloha, stood together as parents expressed concerns about splitting up the neighborhood. During the revision process, Waterhouse North was moved back to Westview's boundaries.
"We were told this is a public input session, and the majority of you have pre-typed out your vote," said Tina Swenson, who lives in the Waterhouse South neighborhood.
Swenson has been participating in the process since the very beginning. She's watched the map change, but hasn't felt that she's seen any explanation for how those changes, or lack thereof, address specific concerns.
"It very much felt like a one-sided conversation," said Swenson.
During the process, some parents questioned the district's data, including the accuracy of projected enrollment numbers.
"Our children are being treated like numbers here," said Judy Turner, a West TV parent.
It's a concern the superintendent and board members said they took care to address.
"I've read every comment. I've read every email. Based on those emails, I've gone back and fact-checked," said board chair Anne Bryan.
A difficult decision
When it became clear that the board would accept the recommendations, the tension and frustration in the districts board room were palpable. As board members explained the reasons for their votes, some people interjected with incredulous comments.
"It is not easy to look out at parents who are so passionate and care so much for the future of their kids. But we are not just elected by one neighborhood; we are elected by a whole district," said board member Becky Tymchuk.
Some board members shared how their families would be affected by the changes.
"My young daughter will attend a different high school than her six older siblings," said Linda Regman. "We're switching from (Sunset) purple to (Beaverton) black and orange, and we're OK with that ... because I know she will be provided a great education no matter where she goes. "
Principals from each of the district's comprehensive high schools spoke about their plan to welcome new families and make the transition as smooth as possible.
Parents expressed concerns about access to the same quality of education and extracurricular opportunities, including Kelly Gerber, whose kids are slated to attend the district's new high school.
While current high school sophomores and juniors have the option to remain at the schools they currently attend thanks to a grandfathering clause, in most cases, the clause doesn't cover current freshmen. Those students the class of 2020 will attend the school their address falls under according to Monday's decision.
The new high school's planning principal, Todd Corsetti, addressed concerns about programs and said the school will work to provide advanced options and athletic programs for its inaugural classes of students.
"We will start small and grow quickly," he said. "We hope to take all that's great (at the districts existing comprehensive schools) and incorporate that into who we are."
Grotting stressed multiple times his commitment to doing all he could to ensure students had equal opportunity at whichever high school they attend.
"It would behoove all of us ... to ensure every student receives the best education possible."
Bryan expressed optimism about the upcoming transition process.
"I know that we will unite for their success," said Bryan.
A map of new boundaries has been posted on the district's website.