District denies transfer, preserves ‘cascading’ corridor

After two failed attempts to transfer out of the Snoqualmie Valley School District, a group of Sammamish parents is deciding on their next move.

“We’re definitely frustrated,” said Terri Thompson, a parent from the Sammamish neighborhood that petitioned to transfer into the Lake Washington School District. “I don't think it's over, but I don't know.”

The petition, signed by Thompson and representatives from some 60 other families, requested changing the school district boundaries to allow their Sammamish neighborhood to leave Snoqualmie Valley and join Lake Washington School District. Snoqualmie Valley School District denied the petition Dec. 15, and Lake Washington is expected to do the same at its Jan. 9 meeting.

This is the second petition filed by the neighborhood in the last 10 years. The first, filed in 2003, was denied by Snoqualmie Valley but approved by Lake Washington and went to the Puget Sound Education Service District for a final decision. The ESD ruled in favor of the petitioners in Oct. 8, 2003, but Snoqualmie Valley appealed the decision in November, and it was reversed the following March.

Now, the petitioners may appeal.

“Our little community feels like we have no voice. We actually feel like we have no community,” Thompson said.  “I think that our only choice left is to file an appeal, and possibly get it heard by a judge.”

Representatives from the two school districts met to discuss the current petition at a Dec. 12 public meeting. Snoqualmie Valley’s board members reported on the discussions at the Dec. 15 board meeting, then recommended a denial.

In the board’s discussion, they agreed with the petitioners’ claim that the financial impact of this transfer would be minimal. State funding would decrease by $135,000 for the 27 students Snoqualmie Valley would lose, and the district’s $5.89 billion tax base would suffer a 0.7 percent decrease, about $41 million.

They also acknowledged that the petitioners’ children do have very long travel times on bus routes. However, many parts of the 400-square-mile district have similarly long bus routes for their students, and could petition for a transfer on the same grounds.

Several communities along S.R. 202, from Broadhurst in the north, down to the Aldarra neighborhoods  in the south, were considered part of a “cascading corridor” that could all petition for transfers based on transportation times. These communities represented 521 students, for a loss of $2.6 million in state funding annually, and a 13.6 percent decrease in the property tax base, worth about $801 million in 2011.

School Finance Manager Ryan Stokes, who calculated the cost impact but was not present for the discussion said “If they were to approve the petition area, what keeps Broadhurst  and Ames Lake  and any of these other areas from petitioning for the same reason?”

Both Broadhurst and Ames Lake have previously petitioned for transfer, unsuccessfully.

Thompson’s response to the cascading effect was “I don't think that's legitimate. They can decide to release our neighborhood and nobody else."

Another issue raised in opposition to the petition was that Lake Washington might not have space to absorb additional students.


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