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Opinion | Slow but serious steps toward Valley schools’ brave new future
Educationally, we’re entering a new era.
With the approval earlier this month, 3-0 with one abstention, of new middle school boundaries that split all Snoqualmie Valley School District students in grades six through eight between Chief Kanim Middle School and Twin Falls Middle School, the new direction in middle and secondary education in this Valley is solidifying.
Boundary approval is a concrete step in shuttering Snoqualmie Middle School and installing a freshman campus at that site. It’s part of a bold vision to fix crowding and drop-out rates at the high school. But what will it mean for middle schoolers? Here’s a short answer: Challenges. And more portables.
We’ve long known that views in the Valley are divided on the shape of future middle and secondary education. Just look at the elections that got us here. Remember February 2011, when a $56 million bond that would have built a third middle school failed, by, amazingly, a single vote? As if anyone could forget that. That bond soon failed again, by a small but significant margin, about 5 percent. And so, a new school would have to wait, while the freshman campus idea rolled ahead.
The district has begun the process of reaching for another bond, but whatever it would build is years away. There is also fresh exploration of a remodel of Mount Si—a step I thought we left behind years ago when a second high school was on the table. So, there’s not only a new middle school possibility out there, then, but also a high school remodel. So many possibilities! But the new boundaries are a reality.
Right now, I’m not ready to gainsay anyone whose full time job or elected duties are to study local education from all angles. Perhaps all students will benefit from the bold steps now being taken toward a ninth grade campus. Time will tell.
What I do know is that the decisions that are coming over the next few months will lock in changes that will affect Valley students for years. It’s time for everyone, board and public, parents, teachers and administrators, to be at the same table and help find and agree on ways to make the brave new reality of local middle schools actually work. Consider it everyone’s responsibility to help Twin Falls’ new population of 835 kids meet the challenges that come from having a population of 835 kids.
If a dual-middle school model, with schools dealing with hundreds more students than what they were built for, are done deals, at least for the next few years, it’s useful to consider what sort of places these schools will be.
Chief Kanim and Twin Falls middle schools are expected to add several portable classrooms to their inventory.
One of the things the Record would like to explore this fall is the nature of portable classrooms in local school districts. Exactly what are these transitory places of learning? How do they affect teachers and students? How prevalent and how useful are they? And most importantly, why are they used?
Such buildings have been common for decades. Is it now unreasonable to expect to build permanent places of education?
What are your experiences with portable classrooms? Do you think they work?
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