Bend City Council, school board stress need to plan together

An exterior view of the yet-to-be-named new elementary school being built in north Bend. The location at the intersection of O.B. Riley and Cooley roads will accommodate growth in northwest and northeast Bend. (Submitted image)

When Bend-La Pine Schools’ new elementary school in north Bend opens next fall, attendance areas for all 12 Bend neighborhood elementaries will change. On Monday night, district staff and members of a committee creating the new boundaries explained their process to the community.

Although there weren’t a lot of parents present, many members of the 27-person attendance area review committee, along with Superintendent Shay Mikalson and a few school board members and district officials, were at Sky View Middle School’s gym, ready to chat.

Sky View is in Bend’s northeast corner, located next to Lava Ridge Elementary. Lava Ridge and High Lakes elementaries are expected to see the largest changes to their attendance areas, being the two closest K-5 schools to the new elementary.

However, committee member Joshua Boehme — who is also a counselor at Sky View — said he’s had to explain to parents that every elementary school’s boundaries will be affected.

“We’re trying to make our elementary schools as balanced as possible,” he said. “You pull some kids from here, so you pull some from here, so there’s a ripple effect.”

Committee members take many different aspects into consideration when redrawing boundaries, such as transportation. Committee Member Steve Lindsay remarked that typically, boundary lines don’t cross major geographic boundaries, like the Deschutes River or U.S. Highway 97, and he’s noticed that it’s easier for parents and buses to travel north-south in Bend versus east-west. He added that having a school’s boundaries cross the Bend Parkway or the Deschutes is still on the table.

Other considerations for boundaries include safe biking and walking routes, socio-economic balance and keeping neighborhoods intact. Boehme joked that coming up with a final map is like finishing “a giant Sudoku puzzle.”

Changing school boundaries can be a contentious process.

In 2011, the district moved some students in southeast Bend into Pilot Butte Middle School’s boundaries to ease overcrowding at Cascade Middle School, then the only middle school in west Bend. This move angered some southeast Bend parents at the time, although students in that area today once again attend Cascade, due to the new west-side middle school, Pacific Crest, which was built in 2015.

Boehme, who said he’s participated in four other boundary committees for Bend-La Pine, ensured parents that “there’s quality education everywhere” in the district, regardless of school.

“Having been a parent of four kids who went through the school district, I can say that I haven’t been in any one school that I would be afraid to put my kids in.”

Parents and the public can share their feelings about boundaries in an online survey, which will be open until Oct. 29.

Draft boundary maps are scheduled to be revealed to the public during two open house meetings: Dec. 4 at Sky View and Dec. 6 at Pacific Crest Middle School. Both meetings are from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. The attendance committee is expected to make its final boundary recommendation to Mikalson in January, and the new attendance areas will go into effect at the start of the 2019-20 school year.

The process of changing middle and high school boundary lines will begin in September 2019, in preparation for Bend’s fourth comprehensive high school opening in 2021.

— Reporter: 541-617-7854;jhogan@bendbulletin.com

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