Public comment sought on Tacoma and Fircrest school boundaries

The Tacoma Public Schools committee that’s considering attendance boundaries for six elementary schools and a new intermediate school will have a public hearing from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday (Dec. 16).

The meeting will be held in the Fircrest Community Center, 555 Contra Costa Ave.

Committee members will hear testimony about the proposed changes, which could affect hundreds of students at Arlington, Edison, Manitou Park, Whittier, DeLong and Franklin elementary schools. Geiger Elementary, originally part of the boundary discussions, will not undergo boundary changes.

The revisions were prompted by the planned opening of the new Wainwright Intermediate School for students in grades four through eight, and the change of Whittier to a preschool-through-third grade primary school in the 2016-2017 school year. Both Whittier and Wainwright, which is under construction, are in Fircrest.

6Number of elementary schools affected

Wainwright is scheduled to open next fall for students in grades four through six. Seventh grade will be added in fall 2017 and eighth grade in fall 2018.

Wednesday’s hearing is for public comment only and will not include a question-and-answer period.

An open house last month that invited discussion of preliminary boundaries drew more than 100 people. Most questions at that meeting were not about the elementary boundaries, but about the new Wainwright.

Parents wanted to know what kind of programs and extracurricular activities would be offered, and whether Fircrest families would be able to get bus transportation to a traditional middle school if they did not like the Wainwright model. Wainwright is being designed as an International Baccalaureate (IB) school, which offers rigorous college-prep instruction with a global focus.

Superintendent says Fircrest families will have options for middle school outside of Wainwright Intermediate

Superintendent Carla Santorno said Fircrest families who don’t choose Wainwright for their middle schoolers will have the option of district busing to either Truman or Gray middle schools, depending on where they live.

The boundary committee, which includes parents and principals from the affected schools, was formed in September. Committee members are scheduled to meet again Jan. 6. They will further refine boundaries and make a final recommendation to Santorno, due in January. The school board delegated the final decision on boundaries to the superintendent.

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635, @DebbieCafazzo