Snoqualmie Valley schools to redraw elementary school boundary lines (again)

The Snoqualmie Valley School District will redraw boundary lines of its elementary schools for the second time in three years this fall.

In early February the district’s board of directors was unanimous in its decision to form a study committee to look at new elementary boundaries.

While some elementary schools are at capacity and others have a declining enrollment, the school district has grown by about 1,400 new students in the last nine years and would like to even out the unevenly distributed population of students in certain areas.

In the next few years, Snoqualmie Elementary and Cascade View Elementary School are projected to outgrow their capacity, while North Bend, Fall City and Opstad Elementary will begin losing students.

This fall, district officials anticipate that Cascade View will be short two classrooms while Snoqualmie Elementary will be short one, with crowding growing worse over time.

Together, North Bend, Fall City and Opstad will have 15 empty classrooms this fall.

“It’s all about housing,” said committee facilitator Jeff Hogan. “If you study the history of neighborhoods, they peak five to 10 years after the houses have been built out.”

Compared with the decade-old Ridge, North Bend is just emerging from its 10-year growth ban.

“North Bend’s population has peaked and has been declining (for) school-age children,” Hogan said. “Fall City is the same way. Unless you have five acres, you can’t build a house, and there’s not that much land down there.”

North Bend is now set to grow, but the economy means housing sales — and new school-age families —aren’t spiking anytime soon.

“Are we going to see an increase? Yes, but it may be ten years away,” Hogan said.

Hogan’s committee — which includes school principals as well as facility, business and transportation staff but no parents — is tasked with ensuring that each elementary school in the district has the appropriate amount of students that school can hold. They will consider the impact the redrawing of lines will have on families and their continuity with the neighborhood school; and ensure an efficient and cost-effective operation.

According to the district, relying purely on staff will ease neighborhood tensions.

“Using staff to create models will streamline the process and not put people in harm’s way and get parents upset,” Hogan said. “It is an emotional issue, and one of the more challenging things the school district does.”

Ultimately, it is the school board’s responsibility to move boundary lines.

The committee is meeting weekly and will post options on the school district Web site. Public meetings begin in late March. A recommendation is expected in mid-April.

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