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Parents unhappy with school boundary plan

SNOQUALMIE VALLEY - Disgruntled parents were legion at the Jan. 27 public hearing of the Snoqualmie Valley Public Schools Board of Directors meeting. Still, the board unanimously approved a plan to move 490 elementary students to different schools next fall.

The unpopular proposal known as "option 2a" was designed by the Snoqualmie Valley Schools Attendance Boundary Committee to equally distribute students among the elementary schools, including the newly built Cascade View Elementary in the Snoqualmie Ridge neighborhood.

Superintendent Rich McCullough said the committee "went through everything you can imagine" over several months of meetings to plan the options. But several parents still felt they had not arrived at the best one.

Even members of the North Bend City Council came out to voice the shortcomings they saw in option 2a.

"We believe your decision inequitably affects North Bend students compared to the rest of the Valley," said North Bend City Councilman Chris Garcia. "The city of North Bend strongly suggests the Snoqualmie Valley School District reconsider its plan and keep North Bend students in North Bend."

According to the new plan, 145 North Bend Elementary students will be moved to Snoqualmie Elementary School, while 345 Snoqualmie Elementary students will be moved to Cascade View Elementary.

Most parents seemed to feel the district is rushing to fill Cascade View with students from other schools when the new school will have no problem getting its own students from the fledgling Ridge developments.

"Snoqualmie Ridge will fill in that school faster than North Bend will change," Garcia said.

Gabrielle Lauf, who lives on the Ridge, said five women on her block are pregnant and she just had a child herself - all future Cascade View students.

"You're moving a lot of people to a school that's going to fill up anyway. You're setting yourself up for another move," Lauf said.

North Bend Councilwoman Karen Tavenner said there will not be measurable growth in North Bend until 2007 or 2008, while Snoqualmie is one of the fastest growing cities in the state.

"Our children are being used to fill in Snoqualmie Elementary and will eventually have to be moved back. We are effectively being kicked out of the city we chose to live in," Tavenner said.

She, like most parents present, felt the district should step back and wait a year or two to see how changes in growth would affect each school. Tavenner asserted that the boundary change process had been predetermined and that the committee had been handpicked as no one from the six North Bend neighborhoods affected was on the committee, which consisted of two parents from each elementary school and several district staff members. The committee's job was to identify 33 zones, or neighborhoods, in the school district and work with them to make sure a good mix of students from various locations and demographics were attending each school.

JoAnn Jones said she would not have voted to approve the last levy if she had known her children would have to change schools.

"You're creating a lot of animosity and anger in people who all care," Jones said. "Snoqualmie Ridge is getting a new school and all we're getting is moved around."

And there were several stories like Martha Fabian's during the course of the one-hour public hearing.

"North Bend Elementary is less than a mile from our home and my kids are going to have to go to Snoqualmie Elementary School now. That doesn't make any sense to me," Fabian said. "We have to go by North Bend Elementary to get to Snoqualmie Elementary."

But none of the scenarios presented by parents could persuade the school board to table the decision.

"I do understand the passion and the reasonableness of what everyone is saying," said school board member Becky Jorgensen. "We looked at a lot of scenarios and criteria and we're going to put on the face of reason."

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