Dads code their own boundary solution
Website users can quickly test Beaverton school attendance ideas
How did you spend your winter break?
Brad Larson used a good bit of his own down time to write computer code he believes could improve the Beaverton School Districts complex, and sometimes controversial, process to redraw its high school attendance boundaries.
Darren Hart joined Larson as the two high-tech professionals created a website called sensibleboundaries.com that allows a far less-sophisticated user to almost instantly move around lines on a school district map and receive instant feedback.
We hope that it helps them because it will give us a much better school district than the behind-closed-doors process, Larson said.
Larson and Hart are both fathers who live in highly contested neighborhoods near Highway 26, which under the district Boundary Advisory Committees latest proposal would shift students from attending Sunset High to Beaverton High.
But they said its not just about them.
We want to get the people in Aloha involved in the discussion, the people from Southridge involved in the discussion, said Hart, who like Larson, believes the committees work has been too secretive, too slow and perhaps too data-deprived.
The dads opened the websites access to anyone in the district, giving demonstrations of the software during the committees open house last week and handing out passwords so others can log on and test their own ideas.
Harts brief demo showed a highly functional technology that immediately calculates the effect of boundary shifts on school capacity, students travel distance and number of students who would transition to another campus, free and reduced lunch counts and so forth, which are among factors the district committee is mulling.
Boundary lines can be altered sweepingly using elementary school attendance areas or more subtly by smaller grid areas that track projected student populations in smaller neighborhoods.
Amber Christensen, a parent who knows both Larson and Hart, has used the website to come up with her own boundary ideas she thinks improve upon the committees work so far.
Theres a possible map that satisfies all the criteria.
Christensen said the website seems to make better use of technology and data, and offers her instant results on the pros and cons of boundary shifting. Hers and other ideas also are available for all users to compare.
It feels like were in a different century, using Sharpies when we should be using software, Christensen said.
But dont expect the district to tear up its latest learning map and start over with sensibleboundaries.com.
Maureen Wheeler, the district spokeswoman, said their strategy was well thought out and already deep into the process, but she said committee members would consider maps produced through the website along with a torrent of other comments.
Robert McCracken, the facilities planning coordinator and a member of a technical advisory team assisting the committee members, said their technology would allow them to produce boundary maps quickly and with similarly rich data, but the committee by design only releases versions in an orderly fashion when they believe a proposal is polished enough for public release.
He recognizes that their own process looks slow from the outside.
Its not evident to the public because theyre not in there with the committee, McCracken said. Committee members are working nonstop in these committee meetings.
The committees newest proposed map is likely to be unveiled at its Feb. 4 meeting.