LETTER: Capital Facilities Advisory Committee clarifies school boundary issue

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The B-Town Blog nor its staff:]

The following Letter to the Editor is a response to a story we posted on April 9 entitled New ‘ABC 4 Highline’ group wants to have a say in Highline School boundaries:

Changing school boundaries is one of the most difficult tasks a community has to do. As co-chairs of the Capital Facilities Advisory Committee (CFAC) charged with recommending a boundary proposal to the school board, we want to share some insights into our work.

CFAC is a group of community volunteers representing all areas of our district. Members were appointed by cities and community organizations or selected by lottery. We have been meeting for nearly a year to study potential boundary solutions that ease overcrowding and allow us to lower class sizes in grades K-3.

Our draft proposal is based primarily on projected enrollment and school capacity data. Using our guiding principles as a compass, we drafted boundary lines to match school capacity as closely as we could. We started with the boundaries around our new schools and built out from there. In our role as CFAC co-chairs, we spent many hours mapping possible solutions that worked with the data. We then presented the drafts to the full committee for discussion and adjustments.

Our draft proposal is not perfect. We know CFAC members could not anticipate all the possible impacts of the draft boundary lines. That is why we have held numerous community meetings and opened an online survey to ask the public for feedback.

We commend those who are working on alternative boundaries. We hope their ideas will help us create a final plan that serves the best interests of the district as a whole.

CFAC directed district staff to post the data we used in decision-making online. (Find it at highlineschools.org/maps under “planning data.”) Staff worked to present the data in useful formats, as well as  respond to the many questions posed by community members as quickly as possible. Answers to questions were posted online.

One request we could not fulfill was to provide access boundary planning software, which contains private residential information, to everyone who posed an alternative boundary suggestion. Instead, we scheduled a Boundary Design Session on April 17 at 6 p.m. at the district Central Office, open to all, where staff will show alternative map proposals based on community feedback. We will map further suggestions at this session using the district’s mapping and enrollment software. These alternative maps will be considered by CFAC members at their April 25 meeting. All CFAC meetings are open to the public.

We held a series of community meetings in an open-house format to let people study the draft maps up close (rather than on a screen in the front of the room), ask individual questions and make suggestions about specific areas of change. We could accommodate many more questions with four stations (each with a set of maps, a CFAC member and a district staff person) than we could have in a large-scale meeting.  We altered the format to give more time for Q & A as a whole group at some meetings.

We acknowledge that it is not possible to come up with a boundary scenario that pleases everyone. Ultimately, some students will have to change schools, and change is difficult. However, we believe that with the input of our whole community, we can develop a plan that minimizes disruption to students, increases our ability to lower class sizes, and serves the best interests of our community’s children.

– Rose Clark and Aaron Garcia
Capital Facilities Advisory Committee

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