Why Change School Boundaries?

The short answer is to save money by better utilizing our resources.

I have taken part in the Boundary Committee Meetings for the last few months.  Jim Dugan from Parametrix was the “moderator” over the meetings and the liaison between the committee and the District.  He was definitely the expert in the process and very helpful at keeping us on track and focussed on the task at hand. 

Over the last few months the committee discussed the enrollment issues in each of the 6 elementary schools in the district.  Our task was to alleviate some of the overcrowding in a few of the schools by moving neighborhoods into different elementary school zones.  We were told we would only be working with the elementary schools and not worrying about the middle schools or the high schools.  There have been 2 public forums where people were able to voice their concerns and share ideas, however, these forums were not as very well attended compared to the number of people in the District.  

Our district is comprised of 6 elementary schools.  Three of the schools (Littlerock, East Olympia and Peter G Schmidt) feed into Bush Middle School and Tumwater High School.  The remaining 3 schools (Michael T. Simmons, Tumwater Hill and Black Lake) feed into Tumwater Middle School and Black Hills High School.  When the committee started this process, in each of those groups there was one school that was overcrowded and one that was well below capacity.  Our goal was to move neighborhoods to get the schools within their capacity not including portables.  

The two schools that are over capacity also showed the most growth potential over time.  Therefore, if the boundaries are not adjusted, there would be 2 schools not able to house the students at that school while other schools in the district have ample space to accommodate those students.  Starting at the elementary level should ease the adjustment in the long term for MS and HS changes that are likely to occur later on.

What are the enrollment numbers?

In the table above it is clear that BLE and LRE have quite a bit of available space where MTS is quite a bit over and EOE is over a little bit.  We were also given the projected enrollment numbers looking towards the future in the form of a graph(see below).  MTS is projected to increase at the greatest rate.  The rest of the schools were projected to increase at about the same rate.  During the meetings the committee was also told TSD has 2 properties that they have slotted for elementary schools.  The committee was advised not to worry too much about that because if TSD decides to build a school, construction is at least 6 years away, which would not solve the immediate need to even out the enrollment numbers. 

What’s next

We met on March 4th to finalize our recommendations.   We are pretty close to sending our recommendations to the Superintendent.  The next step is for Parametrix to put together the finalized map with correct enrollment numbers.  Then the map will be provided to the Superintendent for his approval.  The Superintendent will then present the map (with any changes TSD makes) to the Board for their approval.  I believe there is also a second reading where the map will be approved and finalized.  The hope is to get those changes implemented in the fall of 2020.  

What does the future hold

At the peak of the graph (around 2030) the total elementary enrollment should be around 3775-4000.  Looking at the total capacity for TSD elementary schools(assuming no use of portables) capacity in elementary schools is 3050.  However, if portables were to be used capacity would be 4225.  Notably, enrollment is projected to peak around 2030, with a slight downward trend thereafter. 

If TSD can operate within its capacity over the next decade, which may involve another boundary adjustment, a good argument could made that spending millions of dollars on a new elementary school is not necessary.  Another piece of the puzzle that was not discussed, was the number of interdistrict students(students not living in the TSD boundaries) TSD enrolls.  From the numbers the committee were given, our elementary schools have a total of 85 interdistrict students.  That number doesn’t seem to significantly change enrollment.  However, TSD may be put into a position of being very selective when deciding whether or not to accept interdistrict kids at the elementary school level.

High School Projected Enrollment

The graph above is what our committee was given as a projection for high school enrollment.  Even though THS and BHHS have virtually the same capacity, the enrollment at THS currently outpaces the BHHS enrollment by about 300 students.  TSD has suggested that it may look at redrawing middle school and high school boundaries in the future.  The high school projected enrollment looks to be pretty stable for THS and significantly increases for BHHS around the year 2026 and upticks through 2036. 

Our building capacity for the High Schools without portables is 2200, and with portables is 2750.  At present TSD enrolls about 2000 high school students.  The total projected enrollment in the high schools in 2036 is approximately 2930.  The projected enrollment is 180 students over the capacity at our high schools. 

TSD currently has approximately 230 IDT students at the HS level.  The number of out of district students at the high schools is generally more impactful as there are proportionately more IDT students enrolled at the high school level than at the elementary level.  In the future, TSD may be faced with redrawing high school boundaries to alleviate some of the imbalance in lieu of spending the money to build a new HS too.  There are other financial implications for IDT students.  See our Out of District Students Impact on Budget for details on the impact IDT students have on the budget.

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