Bend-La Pine Schools Superintendent Shay Mikalson approved new enrollment boundaries Tuesday that will affect every elementary school in Bend, but especially High Lakes and Lava Ridge, which will lose students.
The changes were made despite complaints from Awbrey Butte families, most of whose children will now attend the new, north Bend elementary school at the corner of O.B. Riley and Cooley roads.
“Community members and staff spent four months doing (boundary) work, (and) I really believe their recommendation is the best balance of our priorities,” said Mikalson, who stuck with the final version of the proposed boundaries that the 26-member committee gave him Jan. 15.
The district made the changes as a way to balance enrollment.
The new map is very similar to the second proposed map presented to the public in December; the only changes made between the initial and final proposal affected children in two west Bend neighborhoods who have traditionally attended High Lakes.
First, kids living between the Deschutes River and the Bend Parkway, north of Portland Avenue and south of Riverview Park, were initially expected to be zoned for the new school, but were put back within the High Lakes’ boundary.
Also, a slice of the Awbrey Butte neighborhood located northeast of NW Putnam Road and north of Mount Washington Drive was originally slated to stay at High Lakes, but the committee recommended that students in those homes should attend the new school.
That latter decision came after a number of Awbrey Butte parents voiced their concerns to the school district, as many wished to keep their kids at High Lakes. They were primarily concerned about commuting from the butte to north Bend, clogging up Third Street and O.B. Riley Road in the process, as well as friendships at High Lakes being broken up.
After hearing of Mikalson’s final decision, Camden Hendricks, an Awbrey Butte resident and parent of a first-grader at High Lakes, said Tuesday that he was “extremely disappointed” in the final map, and was considering filing transfer forms to keep his daughter at her original school.
“We’re not worried that they’re going to receive a poor education, but they’ve got a bunch of friends at High Lakes, and we’ve got connections at High Lakes,” he said. “It just seems completely unnecessary that it had to happen this way.”
Terra Duey, who has twins in second grade at High Lakes, was also upset by the boundary change, particularly because her daughters have many extracurricular activities near their current school, and driving back-and-forth from far-north Bend would limit access to those programs.
“I think it’s disruptive to their education, socially and academically, to take them out of their school,” she said. “My feeling is that (the boundary decision) is very poor planning, and it’s going to cause transportation issues for families that live in Awbrey Butte.”
Mikalson said he supported the committee’s recommendation despite many students having to change elementary schools next year.
“It’s a pretty amazing district where parents want to stay in the schools they’re in,” he said. “But as we try to balance enrollment, looking at traffic and the population and demographics of our schools, we moved about 800 students. At the end of the day, this (boundary map) moved the fewest students while keeping balance across the district.”
Students with only one year left who would be affected by the boundary shifts can fill out a form to stay at their current elementary school if their parents wish, although the family will have to provide their own transportation to and from school. Mikalson said the district will honor those requests.
Families upset by the boundary changes can also fill out an Attendance Area Change Request form, available below, by March 1. Those area change requests will be enacted as long as the family’s desired school has enough space.
“I can’t predict the future, but in the last series of boundary changes, our district has always been able to honor all area change requests,” he said. “If history repeats itself, we believe we’ll be able to honor those.”
The new school, which will be named either North Star, Florence Drake or Ruth Reid elementary, is expected to open in September and hold 600 students. The new boundaries, which can be found at the district’s website, are expected to go into effect at the start of the 2019-20 school year.
— Reporter: 541-617-7854, email@example.com