Boundary change shifts 175 students from Grand Ridge to Clark

December 4, 2012

By Lillian O'Rorke

When the first day of school comes next fall, 175 students who had gone to Grand Ridge Elementary School will say “hello” to Clark Elementary School.

The move was announced Nov. 19 as part of a boundary shift that will help alleviate overcrowding at Grand Ridge. Additionally, all kindergartners will go to Challenger and Endeavour elementary schools.

Located in the continually expanding Issaquah Highlands, Grand Ridge has the capacity for about 600 students, according to Jake Kuper, CFO for the Issaquah School District. With the use of portable classrooms, the capacity jumps to 800.

This year, the school has 879 full-time students and, without the boundary shift, would have 987 full-time students next year. The changes bring that attendance number to 730 next year.

If you go

Learn more about the change, and see boundary maps, at www.issaquah.wednet.edu. Click on ‘Grand Ridge boundary shift’ under ‘What’s Happening’ on the district’s homepage.

Sara Niegowski, executive director of communications, said the district always keeps a close eye on student populations and officials noticed the need for a boundary shift when enrollment projections were made in October.

Superintendent Steve Rasmussen announced the shift Nov. 19 in an email to Grand Ridge families and held an informational meeting the next night, which about 120 people attended, he said.

“There didn’t seem to be any room for discussion,” parent Elizabeth List said.

She and her family just bought a house in the Forest Ridge community in large part, she said, because they fell in love with Grand Ridge — its building, its PTSA, the community and the fact that it’s less than a five-minute walk from their front door. After the boundary shift, she will need to drive her daughter to Clark.

“It just kind of gotten taken from us without us having any choice or say in the matter,” she said. “It’s a hard pill to swallow.”

List is also concerned her daughter will be uprooted in the coming years, as the highlands continues to grow and bussing to Clark is no longer a feasible option.

“Growth is a great thing,” she said. “But if the school district is not on the same page as keeping up with the growth, then you are not going to build the effective community that you want.”

A week later, Rasmussen and his staff presented the shift to the Issaquah School Board during its Nov. 28 meeting.

“What we have said to parents is, we really try to make sure that there is at least someone, a familiar face from their previous school in their new classroom,” said Executive Director of Elementary Schools Jodi Bongard, outlining ways the district hopes to ease the transition.

She said in January or February there will be an open house at Clark for families to tour the building get to know their new school.

“It helps folks to feel more at ease when they have seen the facility and spoken with staff,” she said.

She is also suggesting parents subscribe now to Clark’s newsletter and is encouraging collaboration between Grand Ridge’s and Clark’s PTSA groups.

The boundary shift mainly affects highland families closest to Interstate 90, but it also includes a large part of the Black Nugget community, which has historically fed into Issaquah High School. The shift doesn’t make any changes to the middle school or high school boundaries.

Kuper said the shift also comes with added bonuses, like opening up more full-day kindergarten slots and making Grand Ridge an all-walking school.

As per district policy, it is ultimately up to the superintendent to make boundary adjustments. Rasmussen commissioned a Boundary Review Committee in 2008 to help redraw attendance maps for several schools. Made up of representatives from every school, the committee included in its final report that there could be future isolated pockets of growth that the administration would need to tweak in the coming years.

The Grand Ridge boundary shift will take effect at the start of fall 2013.

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