Tacoma Public Schools is getting ready to launch a review of possible adjustments to middle school attendance boundaries.
A committee of middle school principals and parents, assisted by a district technical team, would begin work in September, with the goal of bringing a final recommendation to the school board in December.
Part of the review is being driven by burgeoning student populations at middle schools like First Creek and Mason, where enrollments have already passed building capacity. Enrollment is also projected to grow over the next decade at Jason Lee and Truman middle schools, while middle schools like Stewart, Gray and Giaudrone are at less than 80 percent of their recommended capacity.
By 2020, district projections say overall enrollment could reach 98 percent of the current 6,825-student capacity at its nine existing middle schools.
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9Current number of Tacoma middle schools
Also in the mix are district plans to add middle school seats, first at the new Wainwright Intermediate School set to open this fall, and eventually at a new Hunt Middle School, scheduled to open in the fall of 2021 as Tacoma’s 10th middle school.
The district closed the old Hunt in 2010, citing low enrollment and poor test scores.
Wainwright will open this fall with students in grades four through six; seventh grade will be added in fall 2017 and eighth grade in fall 2018. Students in the Wainwright area will have the option of attending a comprehensive middle school with more extensive class and extracurricular offerings.
The old Wainwright Elementary closed in 2011 as the district looked for cost savings.
In an attendance boundary review, district officials say, goals include balancing student populations while impacting the smallest number of families.
One question the school board hopes to decide before the boundary committee begins its work is how many students to accommodate in the future Hunt.
On Thursday, board members heard in a study session about three potential enrollment scenarios: one with a capacity of 750 students at Hunt, another at 600 and a third possibility of enrolling only 400.
A certain critical mass of students is needed in order to build a comprehensive middle school program, according to Superintendent Carla Santorno. She said 400 students is slightly low, because there would not be enough students to fill a variety of elective classes.
Board President Karen Vialle said a new Hunt could also draw students back to Tacoma Public Schools from University Place, where some transferred after Hunt and Wainwright Elementary closed.
2021Scheduled opening date for new Hunt Middle School
Vialle said that there’s a perception among families who live in the west end of the school district that the addition of middle school grade levels at Wainwright would preclude the reconstruction and reopening of Hunt.
“We need to put that to rest,” she said. “Everybody asks, ‘Are we going to get a middle school back?’ ”
A review of middle school attendance boundaries could mean only a handful would change, said district Chief Financial Officer Rosalind Medina.
Attendance boundaries assign students to schools based on where they live. But Tacoma offers families the option of enrolling a student outside their assigned school, as long as parents are willing to provide transportation and there is space at the school they choose.
Middle school populations
These figures show the number of students in each middle school attendance area.
Source: Tacoma Public Schools