Some parents of elementary school children from Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood are raising questions about where their children would attend middle school under a draft proposal from Tacoma Public Schools.
The school district, which redrew attendance boundaries for elementary schools in part of the city last year, is remapping attendance areas for its middle schools.
Hilltop parents who spoke at a meeting this week said their biggest concern is that the proposal will redirect where some kids who attend Stanley Elementary School go to middle school.
Most now go to Jason Lee Middle School, which draws students from the Hilltop and elsewhere. The proposed plan would bus some Hilltop kids to Giaudrone Middle School, across state Route 16.
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The parents’ biggest concern is that the plan appears to split Hilltop kids, said Bill Hanawalt, who lives on the Hilltop and is a longtime neighborhood advocate.
“Hilltop has a strong neighborhood identity,” he said, noting the neighborhood has developed resources to support kids and families. Shipping some students out of the neighborhood would disrupt that support at a critical time in students’ lives, he said.
Jason Lee Principal Christine Brandt said parents at her school have expressed concern as well.
One mother, for example, worried about what would happen if her child misses the school bus, she said. It’s an easy walk to Jason Lee, but Giaudrone is across Nalley Valley and Interstate 5.
District officials say the proposal is not yet set and is a starting point for discussion.
“This is a draft that’s being presented to the community to receive feedback,” said Rosalind Medina, the district administrator heading the middle school boundary process.
Hilltop has a strong neighborhood identity
Bill Hanawalt, Hilltop parent
A committee that includes parents and principals from throughout the city is charged with coming up with a plan to recommend to Superintendent Carla Santorno and the School Board.
The committee is looking at neighborhood demographics, as well as school enrollments and building capacities.
School boundary lines in Tacoma aren’t rigid. Parents can ask that their child attend any Tacoma school, as long as they provide transportation to the out-of-neighborhood school, and the receiving school has room. For lower income families without cars of their own, however, that can be a hardship.
A district technical team developed the proposal.
This is a draft that’s being presented to the community to receive feedback
Rosalind Medina, Tacoma Public Schools
▪ Aligning the boundaries of McCarver Elementary School, also on the Hilltop, Giaudrone and Foss IB World High School. The three schools offer the International Baccalaureate program, which focuses on college preparation with a global viewpoint.
The proposed alignment would allow students to stay in IB from elementary through high school.
▪ Reducing attendance boundaries for Jason Lee and First Creek middle schools because enrollment projections show the populations of both schools growing.
▪ Increasing the boundaries for Stewart Middle School, where enrollment has dipped in recent years.
Also influencing the need for new attendance area boundaries is the school district’s construction plans.
Wainwright Intermediate School in Fircrest, which will house students in grades four through eight, is to open during the current school year. Wainwright will be an IB school, and students would be able to move on to high school at Foss.
By 2021, a new Hunt Middle School, which is planned as a comprehensive middle school, is to open in the West End. Some areas from which students now attend Truman or Mason middle school would be reassigned to Hunt under the proposal.
The committee will look at comments and questions from parents and can make adjustments based on the feedback.
Anthony Stewart, who served on last year’s elementary school boundary committee, urged parents to avoid panic and trust in the process.
“Don’t think that anyone has an agenda,” he said.
On Oct. 19, the middle school boundary committee will unveil its proposal in a public session at Truman Middle School. On Nov. 9 at Gray Middle School, a formal public hearing on the committee proposal will take place.
A recommendation is to be presented to the School Board in December.
If the board adopts the boundary revisions, most of the changes will start with the 2017-18 school year. The Hunt boundary would not be in place until that school’s rebuild is finished, likely in 2021.
Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635