Finally, after months of task force work sessions, public meetings and school board discussions, the West Linn-Wilsonville middle school boundaries are set. The school board unanimously adopted map 9A as proposed by district staff at its meeting Monday, Feb. 6.
The boundaries at the Feb. 6 meeting were the result of months of work from the district's Middle School Boundary Task Force. The group was tasked with adjusting middle school boundaries in response to the opening of WL-WV's newest middle school, Meridian Creek Middle School, which is scheduled to open for the start of the 2017-18 school year.
The district's final proposal gave families living within the primary boundaries of Cedaroak Park, Stafford and Bolton a choice to attend one of two middle schools — Cedaroak Park and Bolton families can choose between Rosemont Ridge and Athey Creek while Stafford families can choose between Athey Creek and Meridian Creek. Sunset and Trillium Creek families will attend Rosemont, Willamette families will go to Athey Creek, Boeckman students will be assigned to Meridian Creek while Lowrie and Boones Ferry families will remain at Inza R. Wood.
Map 9A was largely the result of public feedback from public listening sessions and online comments, and means the large majority of WL-WV families will get to attend the school of their choice despite middle school enrollment numbers that are less than optimal in the short term. The district won't know concrete enrollment numbers until families of choice schools (Cedaroak Park, Bolton and Stafford) communicate where they'd like their students to attend, but Superintendent Kathy Ludwig estimated at the Jan. 25 work session that Meridian Creek and Wood will contain roughly 400 students, while Athey Creek will be closer to 700 and Rosemont Ridge likely around 800. Through the district's boundary implementation plan, Ludwig said the district anticipates those numbers will begin to level out in the long-term.
The public had one last chance to comment on the proposed boundaries before the board's deliberation, citing continued concerns about the high enrollment numbers at Rosemont under the new Map 9A, as well as the lack of choice for out-of-district students or in-district students currently attending schools outside their attendance zone.
Because Rosemont will be over its optimal capacity range next year, map 9A includes the contingency that the school will be closed to new in-district and out-of-district students who do not live in the attendance zone — meaning they'll almost certainly attend Athey Creek or Meridian Creek. Current nonresident and out-of-district sixth- and seventh-graders attending Rosemont Ridge will be allowed to finish out their middle school careers at the school, however.
West Linn resident Jim Farrell, who said he has two out-of-district grandchildren attending WL-WV schools, recommended adding portables to Rosemont Ridge to accommodate the non-resident and out-of-district students until a new middle school can be built in West Linn. West Linn resident Mike Taylor, meanwhile, believed that unbalanced enrollments would lead to substandard schools, and recommended using money from the district's ending fund balance to pay for aides to accommodate growing class sizes at Rosemont.
Bolton Primary PTA President Erin Moore and parent Morgan Langley, who both live in Gladstone and have out-of-district students at Bolton, wondered if allowing the out-of-resident students a choice of Rosemont or Athey would drastically affect enrollment numbers.
Moore suggested "grandfathering" in the current group of Bolton fifth-graders, which is only six students, allowing them to attend Rosemont. She also worried that the new plan implies that the need for adjusting boundaries was a result of students who entered the district through Open Enrollment.
"While it certainly is within your purview to segregate, for lack of a better term, non-resident students based on the application of the Open Enrollment law, I think levying this option conveys a strong message that non-resident students have caused the capacity issue," Moore said. "And even though I know that's not the case, there are certainly groups of parents within this community that feel that that might be true."
The board quickly dismissed the idea of adding portables, but wrestled with what to do with non-resident and out-of-district students who currently attend choice schools. Board members Betty Reynolds and Rob Fernandez asked Ludwig what would happen to enrollment numbers if out-of-district students at choice schools were allowed to attend Rosemont.
Ludwig informed the board that the upcoming cohorts of out-of-district students at those schools total 12 students in next year's sixth-grade class, followed by cohorts of 37, 32, 37, 26 and 25 students after that. She added that it was important to consider the full scope of the implementation plan, however.
"I think another component, even though that part is a numbers question, is that families who move in after spring break (when families in choice schools need to make their decision) will also be asked to join students going to the school with more space. So this is not exclusive to non-resident (out-of-district) families. In-district families asking to transfer will be asked to go to schools with more space, resident families who move in after spring break will also be asked to attend the school with more space. That's part of when we close a school, working on enrollment and bringing it down."
Vice Chair Regan Molatore said she was against giving choice to out-of-district students, largely due to concerns over growing class sizes.
"I want to represent all our children at all our schools, but at the end of the day if I have to pick and choose who goes to which school, I have to give preference to my constituents," she said.
Ultimately, Chair Keith Steele said the out-of-district student question was part of the implementation plan, and should be decided by district staff and not the school board, agreeing with Molatore. The board unanimously approved the proposed map 9A boundary, but Reynolds then proposed an amendment that would allow the out-of-district families attending primary choice schools to attend Rosemont. Her resolution was voted down, 4-1.
The board also passed an additional resolution during the Feb. 6 meeting, choosing not to participate in Open Enrollment this year, accepting no new out-of-district students. The district has participated in Open Enrollment all five years since the law came into place — allowing a decreasing number of students in the last couple years — but decided it made sense to take a break with high enrollment numbers across WL-WV.
"The fact is we do have some acute census issues at Rosemont Ridge Middle School and it's not being talked about a whole lot, but we have one at West Linn High School as well," Steele said.
"I think it's important to note that this is just a pause, and that that's all it's meant to be," Ludwig added. "We can revisit this next year and see where we're at."
The board unanimously approved the resolution. The board next reconvenes for a public work session with the City of Wilsonville Monday, Feb. 27.