Tacoma Public Schools will convene a committee in September to begin looking at new school attendance boundaries for the western end of the school district.
Last summer, the district announced a decision to open a new Wainwright Intermediate School in Fircrest by fall 2016. It will replace the old Wainwright Elementary School, which closed in 2012.
Wainwright’s new fourth-through-eighth-grade configuration will be a first for Tacoma. Nearby Whittier Elementary School, which serves students through grade five, will transform next fall into a preschool-through-grade-three school.
It all adds up to a need for new attendance boundaries for the two Fircrest schools, and possibly for several other nearby schools, district officials say.
On Thursday, the School Board took a first step toward redrawing attendance boundaries. The district will appoint a committee to look at options.
Attendance boundaries are important for designating neighborhood schools, but perhaps less controversial in Tacoma than in some other school districts.
Tacoma allows parents who live in the district to enroll their children at any Tacoma school, as long as there is room and the parents provide transportation to their school of choice.
Portland-based consultant Richard Withycombe, who has led similar efforts in the Kent, Everett and Lake Washington school districts, will guide the boundary committee’s work, scheduled to begin this September.
The committee, which will include staff members and parents from affected schools, will hold several public meetings and solicit public comments. Its recommendation to the School Board is due in December.
In addition to Wainwright and Whittier, the committee will look at enrollment data and possible new attendance boundaries for other schools, including elementary schools DeLong, Reed and Geiger.
It will consider setting preliminary boundary plans for a new Hunt Middle School, scheduled to open in 2020 or 2021. Hunt is currently closed. The district doesn’t intend to formally adopt Hunt boundaries now, but wants to explore preliminary ideas.
The School Board has given the boundary committee a list of goals:
▪ Balance enrollment between the new schools and surrounding locations, while affecting the smallest number of schools.
▪ Give families the option of delaying a move for one school year.
▪ Consider effects on special programs and look at ways to maintain diverse populations at the affected schools.
More information is available online at tacoma.k12.wa.us.