When the lunch bell rings at Central Valley High School, students pack the common areas, spill into the hallways and eat in adjacent classrooms. Students also eat lunch in the library, and the school librarian said she’s rearranged and added furniture so more students will have seats.
The difficulty for students to find anywhere to eat is just one of many symptoms of the school’s major issue with overcrowding. As of the latest enrollment count in October, 2,144 students were attending a school built for 1,588.
But the overcrowding should soon ease.
When Ridgeline High School opens in September 2021, school leaders hope to split students in Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake among the new school and two of the area’s existing schools, Central Valley and University High School.
Each school should have an enrollment in the range of 1,300 to 1,500 by 2023.
While school leadership has already adopted a plan for how current high school and middle school students will transition into new schools, the Central Valley School Board has not yet determined which neighborhoods will attend the new high school and which will stay in the current schools’ jurisdictions.
A committee made up of parents and community members has drafted several proposals, one of which they approved Wednesday, but the committee has not yet released the final map.
Central Valley spokeswoman Marla Nunberg said a proposal will be sent to the school board for a vote in January. That map will be a combination of a boundary map that was shared with the public in early October and a boundary map that was presented to the public last week.
Central Valley High School serves roughly two-thirds of the geographic area of the district. Its boundary would shrink significantly under the two proposals presented to the public. The area around Barker Road from East 32nd Avenue to the north side of Interstate 90 would be served by Ridgeline High School.
The location of Central Valley’s northeastern boundary remains uncertain, with an area between North University Road to about North Herald Road possibly becoming part of Central Valley..
Kent Martin, assistant superintendent for secondary learning and teaching at Central Valley School District, said this year was the only time in the past dozen years that the district hasn’t experienced significant growth. Over the last decade, the school has added between 200 and 300 students a year, and he expects that trend to continue.
Tracy Troyer, a boundary committee member and the mother of a sophomore at Central Valley and an eighth-grader at Greenacres Middle School, said the committee had to balance equity with making sure students were able to stay with their peer groups.
“As much as possible, we’d like everyone that went to middle school together to go to high school together,” she said. “But it’s not completely possible.”
She said the board tried to ensure that a middle school won’t feed into two high schools, but some areas are projected to grow faster than others, which could cause some schools to reach capacity much sooner than others.
“We need to be mindful of the future, because growth is expected, growth is inevitable,” Troyer said.
According to Central Valley’s 10-year projections, the schools will be close to capacity again by about 2028.
Monty Lewis, a committee member with a daughter at Central Valley High School and two sixth-grade sons at North Pines Middle School, said the boundary change will improve students high school experience.
Lewis said his daughter has to eat lunch on the steps at her school because there isn’t room in the common area, and many students are competing against more than 1,000 other kids at school for a chance to play sports or have a spot in an extracurricular activities.
He said the number of students at Central Valley also makes him uneasy as a parent, because there are hundreds of students outside of the school in portable building classrooms. A lockdown or emergency could put those students at risk, as they have to walk between buildings for classes or to use a bathroom.
“In the long run, just solving the overcrowding issue will have a huge benefit for kids all over the district,” he said.
The committee that made the maps also tried to make sure each district had close to the same number of students who fall under the poverty line and receive free or reduced-price lunches. Under the proposal, Central Valley will have roughly 32% to 34% of those students , Ridgeline 22% to 26%, and University 32% to 37%.
Lewis said balancing the percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch is difficult because of the geography of Spokane Valley. He said there was one draft that made the percentages equal for each school, but he refers to that map as the “Frankenstein map,” because students may have to pass another high school to go to the one in their boundary.
Many students also won’t have to change schools if they graduate in 2025 or before, or if they have an older sibling in high school. Members of the class of 2022 will remain at their original high school, but the class of 2023 will be able to choose. The class of 2024 may go to the high school they are currently zoned for, if they have an older sibling or if they played sports their freshman year. The class of 2025, however, may only choose to go to a nonboundary high school if they have an older sibling attending it.
Martin said students in an alternative school or attending Spokane Valley Tech will not be affected by the change.
Once the new boundaries are approved by the board, Central Valley School District will also determine how many teachers are needed at the new high school. Martin said the school plans to hire from within for teachers, but may need to hire additional custodians, secretarial staff and administrators.
He said the school district will likely not hire new teachers unless there are several retirements or resignations.
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