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School Board delays boundary change vote

SNOQUALMIE - At its March 18 meeting, the Snoqualmie Valley School District Board of Directors voted to push back the date for a vote that would change the boundary for Snoqualmie Middle School (SMS) and Chief Kanim Middle School (CKMS) in Fall City.

The vote came after a group of parents lobbied the district during the past few weeks to reconsider a middle-school boundary change that, starting this fall, would send all middle-school children from the Snoqualmie Ridge neighborhood to CKMS as opposed to SMS.

The district had planned to vote on the changes at its April 8 board meeting, but extended that date to May 13.

Parents from around the district spoke at a public hearing prior to the school board meeting. Many expressed their frustration about feeling left out of the decision-making process and said the district had not given parents and community members adequate time to react and comment on the proposed changes before the board planned to vote.

"I am taking exception to a process seeming so out of sequence," said Rob Smith. "You guys [board members] should be ashamed of yourselves."

Residents said the district should extend the deadline by as much as a year to provide them with adequate time to present their alternatives. When the district said it was considering a month extension to the process, some residents questioned whether the district could do anything relevant in just 30 days.

"What are you going to do in 30 days?" said Jan Calvert. "We are asking for a proactive review of the alternatives and what I am getting from you is that you can continue to muddle around."

The comments summed up weeks of activity from parents trying to come up with an alternative to the district's plan, which was presented last month as a way to solve SMS overcrowding. SMS, which has a capacity of 540, would get 607 students next school year under current boundaries. CKMS in Fall City, however, would have 496 under current boundaries; well under its 650 capacity. The new boundaries would place kids from Snoqualmie Ridge neighborhood in CKMS, raising that school's enrollment to 555 for the next school year and lowering SMS's to 548.

That proposed boundary change was the only solution presented by the district for its overcrowding problem at SMS. Although the district has a middle school in North Bend slated to open in the future and two properties in the Snoqualmie Ridge neighborhood, the administration said it can't justify fast-tracking the construction of any new schools unless there is a need other schools can't fulfill. Since CKMS has room, the district said it will move students there, but said the final proposal may contain some exceptions for certain students.

As for predicting future student populations and where schools will be located, the district said it does the best job it can at preparing for the future.

"We have made offers on every parcel of land more than 20 acres in size between Snoqualmie Pass and Redmond," said Snoqualmie Valley School District Superintendent Rich McCullough.

The district also said that as new schools are built, such as a new elementary school in the Snoqualmie Ridge neighborhood in 2005, the school district's boundaries will change again. There was no guarantee, however, that future boundary changes would place Snoqualmie Ridge students at SMS.

Some residents at the meeting came to voice support for the school district. They said any argument about how the district went about making the proposed boundary change doesn't alter the fact that SMS is getting overcrowded.

"You can attack the process, but the numbers aren't going to change," said Bob Ashby.

Other residents reiterated their support for the school district and said they had nothing against CKMS but merely wanted to make sure they were part of the decision-making precess that will determine where their children will attend school.

"We are challenging a [current] process," said Max Gibbs.

The district encouraged residents to submit any ideas they have to Snoqualmie Valley School District Assistant Superintendent Scott Poirier, who has been talking with parents about alternatives to the proposed changes.

"Some [proposals] are really substantive suggestions," McCullough said.

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