Sammamish parents continue petition effort to leave Snoqualmie district

Mount Si High School is just too far away.

A small group of parents, representing 60 families in Sammamish, said the distance to Mount Si is the main reason they've petitioned for a change of school districts.

"If we had a high school closer, I don't think that we'd have a petition in place," said Terri Thompson, speaking at a Dec. 1 public hearing on the petition during the Snoqualmie Valley School Board meeting. She added that the high school bus picks up students and leaves her neighborhood by 6:30 a.m. "That's a very long and early commute, similar to my husband's commute. He works in Seattle."

Thompson has led her neighborhood's efforts in requesting that their properties, amounting to less than a square mile of the district's total 40 square miles, be transferred from the Snoqualmie Valley School District to the Lake Washington School District.

"I have the highest regard for Snoqualmie Valley School District and for all the students in our area," Thompson said during a public hearing on the proposed transfer. "We love this district. That being said, we feel that the schools are too far away, especially the high school."

Thompson's proposal documentation showed that 13 other high schools, in five different districts including Mercer Island and Riverview, were all closer to their homes than Mount Si High School. It also listed numerous safety issues regarding transporting children such long distances and times.

Another parent, Jamie Davis, asked the board to think about the effect of the extended travel time on children like his, who can't participate in after-school activities because their parents can't drive them.

"It's all about convenience, and making sure they can attend the activities they want to attend," he said.

Regarding the loss of taxable properties, the petitioners felt the amount at stake was negligible. Citing information presented in a 2002 petition for the same transfer, the petitioners' documentation stated the total funding loss to the district would be 0.126 percent, and levy funding would decrease 0.5 percent.

For 2011, the total assessed value of properties within the school district is $5.89 billion. Property values have declined for the past several years in the Snoqualmie Valley School District, from a high of $7 billion in 2009. In comparison, Lake Washington's 2011 valuation is $34.85 billion, also dropping from a 2009 high of $41.4 billion.

Davis also told the board the petition would not create "a domino effect," since their community is bordered on the east by a natural area, rather than another neighborhood that might also want to leave the district.

The group has requested the transfer several times unsuccessfully. Their last attempt was in 2009, Snoqualmie Valley School District Superintendent Joel Aune said. Both Snoqualmie Valley and Lake Washington rejected that petition.

Two members of the Snoqualmie board will meet with representatives of Lake Washington on Monday, Dec. 12, Aune said. They will discuss the negotiations with the board at its Dec. 15 meeting, and "the intent would be that the board would take action on the petition that particular evening."

The deadline for both districts to act on the petition is Jan. 9. If they both approve or both reject the petition, that decision would be enacted, Aune said. If the districts can't reach agreement, the matter would be forwarded to a regional committee for a decision.


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