Keep open mind for school boundary talks

For education officials, attempting to devise new school boundaries is a thankless task. Inevitably, you are going to generate some rancor.

So, as the Washougal School District prepares to open two new schools in the fall and engages in the inevitable process of altering boundaries for elementary and middle schools, it is important for the community to be engaged. An open house is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Washougal High School to discuss the process and view the most recent draft boundary maps. A second open house is scheduled for March 1.

School boundaries are inherently touchy subjects. Many parents and students, understandably, are opposed to change and to the prospect of moving to a different school. Discomfort is unavoidable, yet it is the price that must be paid as a quickly growing district prepares for the future.

That growth has created a need for change. Washougal is preparing to open Columbia River Gorge Elementary in the fall, along with a new Jemtegaard Middle School β€” the result of a $57 million construction bond approved by voters in 2015. Recently, a committee made up of parents and staff members has been working to find the most equitable way to disperse students, and superintendent Mike Stromme told the Post-Record last October, β€œThe process of reviewing our boundaries is key to the successful opening and operation of our new schools.”

So, too, is public input, and we encourage parents to attend the open houses with open minds. It is unavoidable that some students will be forced to change from schools where they have developed a level of comfort and a sense of belonging. That can be difficult, and it is essential for administrators to demonstrate a process that is sensitive to the concerns of parents. It also is essential for parents to understand the difficulty of balancing enrollment numbers as Washougal increases from three elementary schools to four.

The goal is to provide the best possible educational experience for all students in the Washougal School District β€” even if that effort sometimes generates a little rancor.