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Next Beaverton School District boundary change proposals coming this month

Public meetings will be held at each of the district's five high schools in September

TIMES PHOTO: MILES VANCE - The new high school being built in the South Cooper Mountain area precipitated the current process of redrawing high school boundary lines within the Beaverton School District.With the clock ticking to finalize high school boundary changes in the Beaverton School District, a revised map of proposed boundary adjustments is set to be released within the next two weeks.

The map, which will be published on the district’s website, comes three months after the school board postponed a decision on changes to its high school boundaries.

In May, the board accepted many of the recommendations made by outgoing superintendent Jeff Rose, but declined to finalize boundary adjustments. They elected, instead, to further investigate issues of proximity and transportation, concerns vocalized by parents and advocacy groups throughout the process.

“We have this golden opportunity to go back and do this right,” said board member Becky Tymchuk at a business meeting on Monday.

The public will be invited to submit further comments on the newest map, which will take into account the most recent round of deliberations by the school board and feedback from the community.

In September, public meetings regarding the proposal will be held at each of the district’s five comprehensive high schools: Aloha, Beaverton, Southridge, Sunset and Westview.

“What I promise you is, number one, you’ll have a voice,” said Superintendent Don Grotting, who joined the district last month, to parents attending the meeting.

The board plans to vote on the superintendent’s final recommended map at its September 26 meeting.

The boundary changes have been precipitated by the addition of the district’s sixth comprehensive high school, which will open its doors in fall 2017. The new high school is currently under construction in the South Cooper Mountain area. Boundary changes will go into effect for the 2017-18 school year.

It was Grotting’s first public foray into the ongoing, sometimes contentious discussion on changes to the district’s high school boundaries. Families with practical concerns and deep ties to their neighborhood schools have spent months speaking out.

“I definitely understand your angst,” he told them.

Grotting’s empathetic tone pleased a number of parents who have been advocating for greater transparency and public outreach.

Ben Vidic, who lives in the McKinley Elementary School neighborhood, shared such concerns at the meeting. He has been paying attention to boundary adjustments that, in the coming decades, will affect his kids, a 4-year-old and a 10-month-old.

“I want to feel like I participated in the process,” he said after the meeting.

Vidic expressed concerns that parents from a number of neighborhoods haven’t had the chance to weigh in regarding boundary changes. A couple of weeks in September might not be enough time for those communities to organize and express their issues, he contended.

Grotting, however, said that the district is coming up against deadlines that compels it to settle on a final decision. Elementary school boundary changes, which will also be rolled out during the 2017-18 school year, are next on the agenda.

During the meeting this Monday, the board reviewed a new analysis of proximity and transportation concerns affecting three areas in the district. This discussion was based on a revised map presented to the board in May.

One of those areas is the West Tualatin Valley Elementary School boundary, which is proposed to shift students from Sunset High School to Beaverton High School.

According to the analysis, the average route length to Beaverton High would be 6.1 miles, compared to 4.2 miles to Sunset High.

Annual route costs for busing students from that area would go up by $8,160.

Right now, it takes around 20 minutes on average for students traveling by bus in that neighborhood to get to Sunset. The route to Beaverton would take nearly three minutes longer than that.

For families in the Waterhouse neighborhood, which lies in the northern portion of Elmonica Elementary School’s boundary, the average bus ride time would increase by even more. The proposed boundary adjustment would shift a significant number of students in that neighborhood from Westview High School to Aloha High School. Those students would spend just over 21 minutes riding the bus to Aloha High. That’s more than six minutes longer than their current commute to Westview High.

That change would cost the district an additional $3,446 a year on route expenses.

Parents in the Waterhouse neighborhood have been vocal throughout the boundary adjustment process about their opposition to being shifted to Aloha.

The latest iteration of the map splits the Waterhouse neighborhood along Walker Road, keeping students in the northern part of the area at Westview or Sunset, while shifting families south of Walker Road to Aloha.

Parents at the meeting said they’re being pulled into a community they aren’t part of, naturally or geographically.

“To divide us up would be bad for the community and bad for the district,” said one parent at the meeting. “Please keep the Waterhouse community together.”

For other neighborhoods in the district, boundary changes could offer shorter route times and huge savings in operational costs, the analysis found.

This includes the area south of Highway 26, including William Walker, Ridgewood and portions of Barnes elementary schools neighborhoods, which are all slated to move from Sunset to Beaverton.

Students in the William Walker neighborhood would get to Beaverton around three minutes faster than they currently do to Aloha. In the Ridgewood neighborhood, students would save nearly six minutes in daily travel time. The boundary shifts in those areas south of Highway 26 would save the district $32,574 in annual route costs.

Board members asked district staff to supply more detailed information on the data presented, including an update to reflect the latest student population numbers and capacity estimates.

This additional information will be included in the map and exhibits that will be released this month.

“We’ve always been up front that this is not an easy process,” said public communications officer Maureen Wheeler. “We’re still listening, we’re still considering and we’re going do what’s best for kids.”