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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

SPS may allow students affected by boundary changes to stay longer at current schools

Spokane Public Schools plans to allow students to stay in their current schools even as the district changes boundaries.

During a special meeting Wednesday night, the board of directors asked district staff to pursue an option that would allow affected students to stay put as long as they wish.

A final decision could be made next month and will affect about 677 students whose matriculation patterns were altered by the districtwide boundary changes approved last summer.

Presented with several scenarios – all of which would lead to some crowding at Sacajawea Middle School – the board opted to give families as much choice as possible.

“This offers the most flexibility to those families,” board member Aryn Ziehnert said. “It’s a struggle, and a tough conversation.”

Most affected are families in the River Run Neighborhood west of Spokane River. They send their children to Hutton Elementary, Sacajawea and then Lewis and Clark High School. Eventually students in that neighborhood will move to North Side schools.

The boundary change was prompted by a decision in 2018 to shrink class sizes in grades K-3 and move sixth-graders to middle schools. The transition will be complete by next year on the North Side and a year later on the South Hill.

That means that before next fall, current fifth-graders at Hutton could be moved to Finch Elementary.

Many families objected to the move, prompting a closer look at the ramifications of different scenarios.

The option preferred by the board could put the new Sacajawea at up to 116% of capacity in its first year. However, that assumes that all current students from kindergarten up would choice into Hutton and Sacajawea.

“That would be a worst-case scenario,” Superintendent Adam Swinyard said.

To further that point, Swinyard recalled a conversation with parents during a recent meeting. While some might elect to have their current fifth-grader stay at Sacajawea, others might opt for the continuity of having their child attend the new Glover Middle School for all three years.

If the plan is approved, the district must also decide whether to offer transportation to affected students.

According to district staff, that could cost as much as $125,000.

At the same meeting, district staff discussed next year’s transition to having three-year middle schools.

“There are a lot of logistics to make this happen,” said Jodi Harmon, the district’s chief human resource officer. “With over 30 elementary schools, we will be moving curriculum materials from those elementary schools into the new middle schools.”

The replacement buildings for Glover and Shaw middle schools are complete. Two more North Side middle schools, Pauline Flett and Denny Yasuhara, will be finished next fall.

Sacajawea and Carla Peperzak middle schools are expected to be completed a year later.