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Valley school board approves boundary change

SNOQUALMIE - Despite a strong group of resident protesters, the Snoqualmie Valley School District Board of Directors voted to approve a boundary change that will find Snoqualmie Ridge neighborhood students attending to Chief Kanim Middle School beginning this fall.

The change was approved by a 5-0 vote at a May 13 meeting held at Snoqualmie Middle School that was attended by about 50 residents.

"This is a difficult decision," said board member Kristy Sullivan. "Change is always a difficult thing, especially when you don't have any control over it. But we do have to look at what's the best [educational decision] for all of our kids."

At the heart of the issue was the fact that Snoqualmie Middle School, which has a capacity for 540 students, would receive 607 students next school year if the boundaries were not changed. With Fall City's Chief Kanim Middle School slated to receive 496 students next year, well under its 650-student capacity, the district hatched a plan in February to shift students by restructuring the boundary.

The new boundary change, which has the Snoqualmie Ridge neighborhood students attending Chief Kanim Middle School beginning in the fall, will lower Snoqualmie Middle School's enrollment to 548 students next year, while boosting Chief Kanim's to 555.

According to school district officials the move will affect about 33 children immediately, with 11 additional students receiving the option to remain at Snoqualmie Middle School because of special circumstances, such as those already attending the school and fifth-graders who are younger siblings of current students.

Ridge parents had presented a plan to the board that would've allowed Ridge students to attend Snoqualmie Middle School this coming school year. In 2005, the plan called for portables to be added to the campus to handle overcrowding. The plan, the group said, would buy time until a middle school the district plans to build east of North Bend in 2007 is completed. Once opened, the group said, some of the pressure would be off Snoqualmie Middle School as North Bend students would be attending the new school.

Board member Rick Krona said he studied the alternative plan but did not feel it was feasible.

Although portables might've solved overcrowding in the classroom, he said, those students would still have to share science lab, hallways and library space, making for a difficult learning environment.

Ridge parents concerned about a long bus ride to Chief Kanim did receive some good news at the meeting.

Superintendent Rich McCullough said the bus route from the Ridge to Chief Kanim will be direct, with the bus making no additional stops after it leaves the neighborhood.

Despite the majority of the attendees opposing the plan, the board did hear from a handful of supporters who said the decision is one that is district wide.

"This doesn't just impact the kids on the Ridge," said North Bend resident Kate Day.

According to Assistant Superintendent Scott Poirier, 180 North Bend students currently attend Chief Kanim Middle School.

Board member Becky Jorgensen, who thanked the Ridge residents for their well-formed arguments and professional demeanor, said if she thought a better plan existed, delaying the process for a year to review and implement that idea would not have been a problem. Despite the setback, she added, the Ridge neighbors did have something to look forward to in 2005.

"As disappointing as this is to you right now, the excitement is you'll have one of the most wonderful opportunities with the new elementary school right in your neighborhood," said Jorgensen.

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