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Frustration, applause for Snoqualmie Valley Schools' final boundary pick

Angry remarks mingled with applause after the Snoqualmie Valley School District Board of Directors selected new elementary boundaries that change schools for hundreds of families this fall.

Meeting Wednesday, April 21, the board unanimously approved a staff committee's recommendation of recently-modified option C. No public comment was accepted prior to the vote.

But that did not stop parents from flooding inboxes with more than 100 e-mails, posting 125 Web submissions and presenting a petition with 366 signatures to reconsider the option.

Concerned that the modified option was not aired in a public meeting prior to the decision, petitioners dropped off the signature list prior to Wednesday's meeting.

However, school officials defended the modification. There is no option to appeal.

"There were strong allegations that have surfaced in the last six days around the integrity of the process and committee, both individually and collectively," said Joel Aune, Snoqualmie Valley School District superintendent. "We've monitored that closely, looked at concerns that have been raised and it's simply not true, in terms of backdoor deals."

"The timing of the recommendation last week, with the opportunity of written public comment in the last six days, shows we've worked hard to provide opportunity for community engagement," added committee facilitator Jeff Hogan.

Board members agreed that boundary changes are emotionally daunting for families who must uproot their children. But members found that the recommended option did the best job of keeping neighborhoods together, made the best use of facilities, and limited the number of transitions for students.

The modification, which was proposed by residents through feedback but finalized by school staff, according to Hogan, moves 401 students this fall — 43 fewer than the earlier version.

The board recognized the option was not a final solution, as Cascade View Elementary would be back to its full capacity by 2014, leading to another possible boundary change.

Board member Scott Hodgins said the option was a step closer to making Cascade View a place where all students walk to school.

But several Ridge residents in the audience, apparently displaced by the new boundaries, called out, "We're all in the walk zone."

"It's just frustrating that the framework hasn't been applied consistently and with rigor," Craig Kitterman, a Ridge resident and one of the petition signers, said after the meeting. "I'm inside the Carmichael Loop and right now we can walk. But with this option, they now have to pay a bus to pick up walkers who otherwise could be walking three quarters of a mile."

School board member Marcy Busby empathized with the upset parents, as she too had to deal with a number of boundary changes for all three of her daughters. She made a point to say that every school will give the same quality of education.

Some parents at the meeting agreed, and were satisfied with the choice.

"I think we have fantastic schools," said Jill Daisbrenne, Snoqualmie resident. "I trust that the option is for the best interest and the children can adjust."

The district will now prepare a letter notifying families impacted of the changes and explaining the grandfathering process, which allows families to apply to a school of their choice on a yearly basis if room allows.

The board also approved the committee's suggestion to allow current fourth grade students who would like to remain at their current school next year to apply to be "grandfathered" next year, along with siblings who attend the same school for one year only. Families of incoming fifth grade students who chose to grandfather will be responsible for providing transportation to and from school next year.

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