Citing an inequitable socioeconomic balance and the unnecessary splitting of neighborhoods, several parents voiced their concerns regarding the Camas School District’s proposed boundary changes at a meeting last night.
“Really, what we want for our district is to have everyone be treated fairly,” said Emily Gillespie, a Helen Baller parent. “My children attend the fourth closest school to our house. All the surrounding neighbors attend other schools. Our neighborhood is being used to socioeconomically balance Baller. There’s a bus that goes by my house that drops kids off at Grass Valley.”
Parent Michelle Wagner spoke at the meeting and also wrote a letter to the editor of the Post-Record. In it, she stated that she was concerned about the lack of socioeconomic balance at the schools.
“Instead of working to secure the success of the Woodburn Elementary School and its student body, it appears that the Citizen’s Advisory Committee is creating a more unbalanced socioeconomic student body than Camas has ever experienced. I do not feel that they achieve a balance with other district schools, when the free/reduced average is 18.7 percent (overall), yet Woodburn is at 32.1 percent.”
Jennifer Robertson voiced similar concerns.
“We moved here from Vancouver three years ago because the schools are fabulous,” she said. “I’m concerned that my children will be attending Woodburn, which has a higher rate of free and reduced lunch. I think everyone is benefitted by socioeconomic balance, and I have high hopes that the board will listen to what I and others have to say.”
According to a boundary summary on the School District’s website, the new boundaries would include the following projections of students receiving free or reduced lunch prices:
• Dorothy Fox, 11.6 percent
• Helen Baller, 24.8 percent
• Lacamas Heights, 22.3 percent
• Prune Hill, 18.1 percent
• Grass Valley, 9.9 percent
• Woodburn, 32.1 percent
Board member Doug Quinn said that the percentage of free and reduced lunch at Woodburn will change dramatically as housing develops around the area.
“What I also know is that Woodburn Elementary will be a brand new, state-of-the-art school staffed with great Camas teachers,” he said. “I have confidence in them to be successful.”
According to the “2012 Boundary Review FAQ, Part II,” Woodburn Elementary will open with low enrollment compared to the other schools, which skews the free and reduced lunch percentages.
Only 346 students are expected in the fall of 2013. The school has a capacity for 624.
“It is expected that 400 homes will be built in this area over the next five years. The families moving into this development are not expected to qualify for free/reduced priced lunch, which will lower the overall percentage of students participating in the program dramatically,” the FAQ states.
Peter Simpson, who lives in the Deer Creek neighborhood, said he bought in the area because of its proximity to a local school.
“You move to an area because of everything around you,” he said. “Currently, our kids can walk to Prune Hill. They cannot walk to Dorothy Fox. It seems like moving teachers around might be a better idea than moving the kids. I hope you think long and hard about the recommendations.”
Ethan Kopa, a fourth-grader at Dorothy Fox, asked the board to let the Stoneridge neighborhood continue to attend Dorothy Fox Elementary and Skyridge Middle School.
“When I go to middle school at Liberty, all my friends will be at Skyridge. And I don’t understand why my (younger) brother and sister won’t be able to go to Dorothy Fox anymore.”
His mother, Sloan, said her biggest concern is breaking up the neighborhoods.
“Get in your cars and drive this,” she said. “At the listening posts I begged just to let the proposal make sense. Take a half hour and just drive it before you make a decision that impacts kids.”
Boundary change process
A Boundary Review Committee, comprised of Citizen Advisory Committee members, began the process in February. The criteria guiding the process included anticipating future growth, matching enrollment with capacity at each school, providing a socioeconomic balance, minimizing student travel and transportation costs, considering neighborhood connectivity, aligning middle school attendance boundaries with elementary feeder schools, and including walk areas in each school attendance boundary.
After numerous meetings with staff, school parent groups and two community listening posts, the committee came to a final recommendation. The revised proposal includes a change where Grass Valley, Dorothy Fox and Prune Hill are the elementary feeder schools for Skyridge Middle School. Lacamas Heights, Woodburn and Helen Baller are the elementary feeder schools for Liberty Middle School. This was done to create capacity at Skyridge.
“On behalf of the BRC, we understand that many students will be affected and that not all families will be satisfied with the proposed changes,” a letter to parents stated. “This is understandably a difficult and emotional process for parents and families. Boundary adjustments are a result of a growing school district, as new schools are built it is inevitable that changes will occur.”
Final board adoption of the boundaries is scheduled for Tuesday, May 29 at the Zellerbach Administration Center, 841 N.E. 22nd Ave. The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m.
For more detailed information about the boundary change process or for specifics regarding impacted neighborhoods, visit www.camas.wednet.edu/2012-boundary-review.