The Sherwood School District is asking for community input on school boundary changes.

PMG PHOTO: SCOTT KEITH - Laurel Ridge Middle School will merge with Sherwood Middle School after the new Sherwood High School opens, becoming a unified middle school that feeds into Sherwood High.School boundaries could change as a side effect of Sherwood's new high school construction.

When the new high school opens in fall 2020, the old high school will be transformed into a new unified middle school. The district's two existing middle schools, Laurel Ridge and Sherwood, will become elementary schools. As a result, the district will need to adjust school boundaries.

The district is turning to the community for input.

The transformation also addresses issues with school capacity, especially at the elementary level where the existing buildings are crowded and over capacity.

"One of the big struggles that we have across the district is that all of our schools are either at or over capacity," said Superintendent Heather Cordie of the Sherwood School District. "When we talk about capacity, we talk about the amount of room that a school has in relation to the number of students who are in there. We're struggling across the district in that way."

Plans to increase classroom space were included in the $247.5 million bond measure approved by voters in 2016. The new Sherwood High School will eventually have room for as many as 300 new students, with room for up to 400 more in the future, above the existing high school's capacity.

"Regarding the transformation projects that will allow for more capacity, the plan taken to voters in November 2016 flowed from citizens in the Sherwood community," Cordie said.

Ken Bell, district director of facilities and operations, said the district "landed on that solution through a community process."

Bell explained, "That actually was the idea of a couple of community members — the other solutions that we looked at really didn't solve our capacity issues for very long. We would have been continuing to play catch up. This was the only way that we could see where we might be able to get ten years out in front of it (capacity)."

According to Cordie, the district conducted an in-depth community engagement process before putting the bond before voters.

"That's where this model emerged from," she said.

A committee was formed to grapple with structuring elementary school boundaries.

"It's very important to us to have parents make up that committee, then take their recommendations to the school board, who will make the final decision," Cordie said. "Last spring, we let our community know that we were accepting applications for boundary adjustment committee members. We went through an interview process and selected two parents from each of our four elementary schools."

The committee began meeting in August.

"We started analyzing what our current population and student counts are," Bell said. "We looked at what our school capacities are — we began to look at what our current elementary boundaries were. In working with Davis Demographics, the committee began brainstorming ways to shift student population to match the capacities of the schools, while accounting for the growth that we're anticipating over the next six to 10 years."

Cordie noted that Bell is not an active member of the boundary adjustment committee but serves as the staff resource for the committee.

Parents and other community members can attend a meeting Dec. 16, from 6 to 8 p.m., in the Laurel Ridge Middle School cafeteria. An earlier open house was held in November.

"They (committee members) can hear from the community what kind of things they like and don't like and take that into consideration," Bell said.

"Parents, who are a part of those conversations at those open houses, just love their kids and want to advocate for them," Cordie said. "We want them to advocate for the children, and we're thankful when they do. We also recognize that boundary adjustments can be emotional processes in a district. We certainly wouldn't suggest otherwise. They are emotion-laden conversations."

The school board will receive recommendations from the boundary adjustment committee and make a final decision.

Community support is what makes these improvements possible, Cordie said, pointing to the bond measure and citizen input.

"I just can't reiterate enough just this amazing opportunity that our voters have given the district, which will, in turn, do amazing things for generations to come," Cordie said. "We're all very thankful to be a part of that."

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