February 11, 2021
Dear Issaquah School District Community,
Under my directive three months ago, a dedicated committee of parents and principals began meeting to put their best thinking toward one of the most complex and significant processes a school district can undertake: a comprehensive school boundary review. Today, I am pleased to officially adopt the committee’s final recommendation for implementation in the fall of 2021. Please let me explain why I believe the new boundaries will benefit all students.
In the fall 2021, we will open an elementary on the Sammamish Plateau and a middle school on the Issaquah valley floor at the base of the Talus community. These two new schools will help us address overcrowding in a number of our elementary and middle schools. Since creating these new school boundaries will cause a significant ripple effect, we recognized an opportunity to analyze school boundaries District-wide and make a comprehensive adjustment. In the past 20 years, the number of students and schools in Issaquah School District has significantly increased, and the opening of these two new schools provides us with an opportunity to better balance school populations and create boundaries that promote:
- Fiscal responsibility and operational efficiency
- Bus routes of reasonable length and distance
- Utilization of building capacity
- Numeric balance of student populations between schools
- Keeping neighborhood student populations together at schools
- Long-term flexibility/options to accommodate growth
These quality boundary characteristics became the guiding parameters for the representatives on the Boundary Review Committee, around which they centered their process and final recommendation. Hopefully the parameters give you a sense of how boundaries are critically linked to learning. They “right-size” enrollment to fit classrooms and core building facilities, determine whether neighbors stay together from one school to the next, and maximize operational dollars.
The principal and parent representative from each school made up the voting membership of the Boundary Review Committee. The committee began meeting December 3, 2020 under my charter. All meetings were held virtually on Zoom and live streamed and recorded on YouTube and were open to the public, and many community members observed. The process began with a “springboard” proposal for boundaries, which committee members amended through proposals after analyzing data, speaking to their school community, considering public input, and weighing parameters. Members established a 75-percent threshold for acceptance of a proposal, ensuring a proposal could not pass without approval from every region of the District. In early February 2021, the committee finished its work and passed its final recommendation to me.
The charter, roster, minutes, and summary information are online under “Boundary Review” at www.issaquah.wednet.edu.
The committee’s final recommendation – which I am officially adopting today – achieves a remarkable balance of the parameters. I observed all meetings, and I was impressed by the members’ holistic approach. While the parameters were not rank ordered, members discovered certain parameters were logically more relevant depending on the circumstances of a particular boundary proposal. For instance, keeping a wider network of neighborhoods together at a school became more feasible depending on the possibility for growth and current utilization of building capacity.
The new boundaries meet the most basic requirements: boundaries were created for the new elementary and middle school and all school buildings will have student enrollment that efficiently uses existing capacity while preserving room in attendance areas with projected future growth. With the new schools and boundaries, the balance between building utilization will be more equitable.
With my adoption of the boundaries, we now move our focus to helping students and families prepare to transition with great care to their new schools in September 2021. Our schools and amazing PTSA’s are already planning welcoming and transition activities for their new students and families.
In all, 7 schools (2 elementary and 5 middle) will be impacted by the boundary changes. While boundary shifts are inevitable in a district that has grown as much as ours in recent years, I understand that school changes can cause great angst for families. However, I hope you can view the new boundaries in this light – as a catalyst for even greater learning. Proper enrollment, efficient facility use, provide a cornerstone for excellent education. While your family may have a narrow experience of our schools – having only had children enrolled in one particular elementary or middle school – my responsibility comes with a global view. I promise you: Each of our schools is consistently high quality, with common curriculum, equitable resource allocations, common professional development for staff, and common expectations for student achievement and enrichment. We strive to make the quality of education in the Issaquah School District equitable and not vary depending on your school or zip code.
Thank you for your understanding and optimistic outlook, which will make a tremendous difference to your students. Together, we will make the upcoming transition a success.