Hood River Middle School, an overcrowded locus of the ongoing school district boundary revision discussion, will be host of the last public forum on the subject Tuesday at 6 p.m. The community will see the revised report by the Hood River County School District Boundary Committee, and have the opportunity to provide feedback.
“I’m hopeful to see what the committee comes up with,” said Superintendent Dan Goldman.
A final decision is expected in either May or June. The district has heard protests over the boundary revisions, primarily from residents of the west valley areas where some students currently attending Westside Elementary would be placed next year in the Mid Valley district, and some students attending Hood River Middle would go to Wy’east.
“Some folks are okay with the change, and have said they understood the reasons, but others don’t want their kids to be moved,” Goldman said.
Both Westside and Hood River Middle School are overcrowded and adjustments need to be made to reduce the number of students attending those schools, and with it, the class sizes in those buildings.
“It’s gotten mixed reviews,” Goldman said of the boundary proposals so far. “Some people feel it goes to far and others think it does not go far enough.”
He said it is inevitable with the process that someone will be affected.
“If it’s not this neighborhood, it’s going to be that neighborhood,” he said. The new attendance boundaries will likely take effect in September 2020, but the school board must formally adopt the transition plan and timelines for new attendance boundaries. The committee took input from the first open house and made adjustments for a second draft proposal to be presented on April 23.
Boundary process information is available on the district website, including updated committee minutes scheduled to be posted April 18 (unavailable at press time).
Any final adjustments will be made after April 23 by the committee and a subsequent recommendation will be provided to the superintendent. The superintendent will make a proposal to the board for a final decision in May or June based on these recommendations. Goldman was asked about assertions that the district is rushing the boundary change decision process.
“The district has been working on this since October, and it requires a lot of data work and preparation in order to have a data-driven process,” he said. With May Street Elementary coming online, enrollment and program-based decisions need to be made that affect all students, according to Goldman.
“As it stands now, in some schools we have teachers and nowhere to put them."
“I need to reiterate that it is a real problem that needs to be addressed,” Goldman said. “We have schools with no room for classrooms at this time. There is simply no space. At the same time, we have ample space at other schools.”
A transition timeline will be recommended by the Administration after any boundary adjustments are recommended by the committee. According to the District website’s FAQ section:
Building a new school is not an option, as the district is not actually experiencing an increase in student enrollment overall. “Rather, the district is experiencing uneven rates of enrollment growth and decline throughout the County with a flat/slightly downward trendline over the next decade. With ample space in many schools (and overcrowding in others), it does not make financial sense to build a new school prior to utilizing existing facilities.”
The district, with the consultants at FLO Analytics, has collected and compiled data from various sources to determine residence-based enrollment projections. This includes historical and current student enrollment grade progression trends, population and census records, birth rates, land use laws, county and city planning and permitting of new housing developments, existing enrollment and facility capacities, etc.
“The committee has carefully considered existing walking paths and infrastructure, and the district’s transportation director has served as a technical advisor to the committee, weighing in on any impacts to bus routes.”
The committee took input from the first open house and made adjustments for a second draft proposal to be presented on April 23.
The superintendent will make a proposal to the board for a final decision in May or June based on these recommendations.
From the FAQ:
How do the boundary changes affect class size?
“Class size is primarily a factor of the state budget (“State School Fund”) and available space to add teachers. With adequate state funding, changes to boundaries will enable us to maintain smaller than average class sizes as there would be available classroom space to add additional teachers.”
The committee is working with specific maximum target capacities that they should not exceed based on projections for 2023. The numbers associated with the committee’s draft proposal indicate the number of students anticipated to reside within that school attendance area upon completion of the boundary revisions. This could change with future revisions to the proposed boundaries during this process.
FLO Analytics worked with survey expert “Critical Data” to survey 265 households in Hood River County. Critical Data completed one-on-one executive-style telephone interviews in order to get statistically significant and proportionally representative community feedback from parents/guardians across the district. These conversations informed the guiding principles and the committee’s decisions making process by elevating our communities’ values. Specifically, Hood River County parents care most about:
Small class sizes
Access to special programs like dual language instruction and engineering
Keeping elementary classes together in their transition to middle school.
Creating and maintaining neighborhood schools
Committee members include staff and community members from each of the school boundary areas.
The Committee consists of 13 parents, seven principals (from the five elementaries and two middle schools), and two district administrators. Parent members were nominated by their principals, and collectively, have children attending every school in Hood River County School District. The committee was designed to balance perspectives from various schools.