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School district closes the book on boundary changes

A 10-month process came to an end Monday as Beaverton School District Superintendent Jerry Colonna made final changes and additions to boundary adjustments that affect students in as many as 15 schools.

Colonna's suggestions wrapped up a lengthy, and at times controversial, decision-making process regarding new attendance boundaries drawn in anticipation of the opening of two new schools. Those schools are Bonny Slope Elementary School, set to open next year, and a yet-to-be-named kindergarten through eighth-grade school located on Brugger Road. That school will open in 2009.

At the board's December meeting, Colonna made initial changes that included adding a grandfather clause, allowing students in the upper grades of the affected schools to complete the highest grade level offered by that school.

Monday night's recommendations included:

n Allowing all 2008-09 kindergarten students, who might have to move again the following year due to the boundary changes, to make the switch to their new school next year. Or, those same students have the option of staying at their respective schools and moving to their new schools in the 2009-10 school year.

n Moving Findley Elementary School kindergartners from the Jacob Wismer Elementary School Annex back to Findley next school year. The district had initially planned to make such a switch in the 2009-10 school year. Findley as a whole has fewer students this year than expected and will have 62 fewer next school year, according to officials.

n Providing assistance and resources to allow Terra Linda Elementary School to create a learning option or magnet program. That could include a focus on foreign languages such as Mandarin, Chinese or Russian, Colonna said. Another option might be a Primary Years International Baccalaureate program. At the December meeting, Colonna said he would request up to $200,000 in funding from the district budget committee to assist the school with transition activities and specialized staffing needs.

n Issuing a mid-year report including monthly updates tracking the use of buildings and enrollment so board members know when capacity issues exist. The updates would be similar to monthly updates the board now gets on construction projects paid for by the most recent school bond.

n Evaluating the recent boundary adjustment process. Plans are to receive input from parents, local school committee members, principals and staff. The results could mean changes in district policies.

Following Colonna's recommendations, board member Sarah Smith said she worries that the proposed monthly review process could mean yanking students out of school in the middle of the year to remedy capacity issues.

However, Colonna said he didn't expect any adjustments mid-year although some might have to be made for the following year. Currently, middle-of-the-year crowding issues are generally addressed by providing additional staff or resources.

Board member Mary VanderWeele said that she would welcome looking at the boundary process but has concerns over leaving Terra Linda at only 80 percent capacity. She also is worried about how the boundary adjustment process went and how that might translate with voters when the district goes out for future bond measures.

Both VanderWeele and board member Lisa Shultz said they want to determine whether portable classrooms are considered permanent student capacity. Specifically, they mentioned Findley, a school with eight portables.

Board member Tom Quillan said he still had concerns about overcrowding issues, especially at Findley.

'I'm not sure we've addressed the problem of overcrowding there,' he said.

Several board members, including Craig Irwin, said they had concerns about providing up to $200,000 to Terra Linda for new programs when other schools have needs as well.

Still, he said the district had tried to be as open and fair as possible in making the boundary adjustment.

'The time is now to have closure,' he said.