For three decades, Spokane Public Schools’ high school boundaries have remained unchanged despite shifting populations, leading to the district’s current predicament: low enrollment at North Central and overcrowding at Lewis and Clark.
District officials realized only recently how long it had been since school boundaries were evaluated, during a discussion of high school student transfer policies.
Shelley Redinger, who became superintendent in July, was surprised it had been so long.
“I think it would be good to have a review process,” Redinger said. “Where are the students living, population trends and enrollment at the high schools?”
School board members have not instructed district administrators what to do about the boundaries, but it’s possible officials will ask for a study of high school zones.
Rocky Treppiedi, who has been on the school board since the mid-1990s, said the issue has come up occasionally as high schools have been modernized or rebuilt. The topic, however, is “very emotional, so when the subject would come up, people said, ‘Well, that’s not worth doing right now,’ ” Treppiedi said.
Thirty years of inaction have left boundaries in place for Lewis and Clark High School that reach into parts of northeast Spokane, up the South Hill and into the northwest region around Downriver Golf Course. North Central’s boundary wraps around Shadle Park in a U-shape, sending some Indian Trail and north-central Spokane students past Shadle to attend NC and dividing two middle schools.
“When you look at the map, you have to scratch your head,” Treppiedi said.
Steve Fisk, an assistant principal at North Central, recently reviewed the map. “What I didn’t know was that we had so few people in North Central’s attendance areas,” he said.
The forecast isn’t for much growth in that area, he added. Already, the school only has enough students for athletes to compete at a 3A level. Ferris and LC are 4A.
North Central was the reason the boundaries were redrawn back in 1980, according to news archives. The school was being rebuilt, so district officials at the time directed a citizen’s task force to study high school zones.
North Central students gather in the lunch line during the high school’s second lunch period on Tuesday. (S-R Photo: Tyler Tjomsland)
At that time, it had been 20 years since the last study and eight years since the last boundary changes, which involved elementary schools.
As the study concluded, the group arrived at a common goal of “nearly equal enrollments” at the high schools. Thus, the current boundaries were drawn.
There have been a couple of tweaks since then, said Mark Anderson, assistant superintendent.
For example, when Pratt Elementary School was closed, the students were divided between two elementary schools, he said. In the Indian Trail area, a new apartment building would have been split down the middle, so the district made an adjustment.
If the current school board opts for a district study and possible changes, history shows that board members are in for a lot of conversations with the community.
“Family traditions are tough to undo,” said Jason Conley, director of safety, security and transportation. “It’s emotional.”