All meetings will be held the Educational Service Center (516 176th St. E. Spanaway, WA 98387) from 10:30 to noon unless otherwise noted.
All meetings are open to the public.
- October 3, 2018
- October 30, 2018
- November 14, 2018
- December 3, 2018
- December 18, 2018 (School Board Meeting, 7 p.m. at ESC)
- January 10, 2019
Boundary Committee Updates
January 9, 2019: Boundary Review Committee awaits results of February Bond
The Boundary Review Committee kicked off the new year with some new information. Since their last meeting, the School Board had decided to put the bond that failed in November back before the voters this February.
That decision gave the boundary committee pause. Initially their goal was to kick off 2019 with their recommendations for the School Board. But the possibility of a bond passing next month would change everything.
“You have about 25 ‘what ifs’ and only one absolute," said Assistant Superintendent David Hammond. "The absolute is easy: we’re overcrowded. The ‘what ifs’ are tough. It’s a little ambiguous, but that’s your job. You have the expertise, the experience and the pulse of the community.”
Boundary changes in Bethel are inevitable. If the bond passes, once the new schools are built, boundary changes will need to be made to fill those new classrooms. If the bond fails, boundary changes will still be needed to help out the overcrowded schools, which are currently worse at schools in the northern end of the district.
The principals and community members that make up the boundary committee aren’t the only ones looking at the future of the district. The Long Range Facilities Task Force is also meeting this month to continue their discussions about possible solutions if the bond fails for a fifth time. Those include year-round, multi-track schools and double shifting.
With that in mind, the boundary committee decided to reconvene again after the election. They can then weigh the outcome of the bond along with the Task Force recommendations to the School Board, as well as the new enrollment projections for the fall.
One thing they did commit to, was to work hard to limit the disruption to families, and to make sure that communication was at the forefront, so there would be plenty of time for parents to prepare for the inevitable changes that are coming.
December 3, 2018: Changing school boundaries is NOT a black and white decision
The last time the Boundary Review Committee met, they came up with ideas for where school boundaries might be adjusted to help ease the burden of some of our overcrowded schools.
After that meeting, our Transportation Department took those suggestions and came up with some boundary adjustments for the committee to review at their meeting this week.
To ease the impact on families, the adjustments suggested included entire neighborhoods of houses, so boundaries didn’t run down the middle of a subdivision. The smallest neighborhood impacted had 35 students, and the largest had 226.
The elementary schools impacted by the suggested changes were Clover Creek, Frederickson, Graham, Nelson, Rocky Ridge, and Shining Mountain.
There weren’t as many options for our high schools. Both Graham-Kapowsin and Bethel High are both overcrowded and Spanaway Lake only has so much room. But the possibility of moving two neighborhoods (about 200 students) from GK to SLHS was discussed.
There were no suggested boundary changes for the middle schools, as they are currently not as overcrowded as the other schools.
The Boundary Committee also suggested that any new housing developments coming online that were located in more crowded areas, be bused to less crowded schools. The new Lipoma Firs development was specifically mentioned, as most of it will be in our district — around 1100 homes in three phases. We are already seeing the impact of Phase One, and there are more students to come.
The group had other ideas, such as shifting programs like Endeavor and SPED to less crowded locations, and putting all elementary specialists on carts, so they would travel from room to room instead of having a designated classroom space.
None of these options is anyone’s first choice. But this is where the district is at with four failed bonds since 2016. There is also no guarantee any of these changes would help for more than a few years, as the district continues to grow at the rate of 300 students per year. That’s the size of a new elementary school every two years.
Aside from school boundaries, there was also a lot of talk about the failed bond, some of the ideas the Long Range Facilities Task Force is exploring, and where the two groups overlap.
The Boundary Review Committee will meet again on Jan 9.
November 14, 2018: There is a storm coming…
With ballots still being counted for Bethel's School Construction Bond, the Boundary Review Committee sat down this week to discuss the scope of their work if the 60% supermajority was not reached, and construction on new schools cannot begin in the near future.
During their latest meeting, the group reviewed the new homes and developments within the district boundaries .
Dr. David Hammond, Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Schools, said the forecasted student population growth, including 296 new students from the new houses currently for sale, and the 973 students from the proposed subdivisions, is darkening the horizon.
“The storm is offshore right now,” he said. “But it’s getting ready to come onshore in a couple of years. But we don’t have the plywood for our windows, and we don’t have the sandbags. We are not prepared.”
The Boundary Committee broke into small groups and began problem solving, searching for remedies for the approaching storm. They also discussed which schools have a little capacity left to share — either in their main buildings or in their portables. This would help spread out the crowding so schools that are severely overcrowded, like Shining Mountain Elementary, could breathe a little easier.
Hammond encouraged creative conversations among the group members. Everything was on the table, from putting portables on Art Crate Field, to taking no action at all.
The group also heard from Karen Campbell, Director of Transportation, who shared some guidelines the district had adhered to in the past during boundary changes, including keeping a watchful eye on travel time for students, and the fact that only 9% of roads in the Bethel School District have sidewalks — making walking to and from school very dangerous, especially in the winter months.
Campbell also encouraged the groups to look at who would be at the bus stops in the early morning hours.
“Who is at the bus stop at 5 a.m.? It can’t be a kindergartener,” she said.
The Boundary Review Committee meets again on December 3.
October 30, 2018: KOMO News drops by the Boundary Committee
This week the Boundary Review Committee met for the second time to discuss the needed boundary changes for the 2019/20 school year. KOMO News dropped by to listen in on the discussion and ask a few questions.
The committee discussed special programs in Bethel that have specific placement needs. These ranged from preschool programs, to programs for medically fragile students.
At the meeting, committee members also reviewed the current boundary maps, along with building capacity projections through 2023. They then worked in small groups to discuss their areas of concern in regards to changing the boundaries next year. These included:
- Overcrowding at the north end schools
- Safety concerns – including safe walking routes, limited bathroom space, and campus security
The next meeting of the Boundary Review Committee will be November 14.
October 3, 2018: “Our schools are full”
Overcrowding demands boundary changes in Bethel School District
Bethel has been experiencing a population boom in the last decade, including 717 new students who have joined us in the last two years alone.
“We last opened up a school in 2009,” said Superintendent Tom Seigel. “Our schools are full.”
With all the new construction in our community, Seigel expects to be adding students at a rate of 300 a year for the next decade.
A Boundary Review Committee convened this week, crowded shoulder to shoulder in the boardroom as if in solidarity with the Bethel students packed into overcrowded classrooms. The committee is tasked with easing that overcrowding by creating new school boundaries, which will be implemented next year.
The committee consists of parents from every school in the district, as well as principals from all 27 Bethel schools. District administrators and two school board members were also present, but are not voting members of the committee.
“It’s a reality check,” said School Board President John Manning. “It’s a fact of life that we have to do this, and it’s best to involve everybody that this is going to impact. There’s just no easy way around it, and it’s best to get the information out there sooner rather than later.”
The exploding student population in Bethel has demanded 201 portable classrooms, which are now housing 5,000 of our students. That is so many portables that the district is nearly out of space to put them.
Only four elementary schools still have room to add new portables, and they’re in the “wrong place,” meaning they are not situated where our community is growing the fastest.
Meaning, a boundary change is needed now.
“The last couple of times we did this, we had new schools coming on line,” said Assistant Superintendent David Hammond. “This time, we don’t.”
Voters have failed three bond attempts in the last three years that would have built new schools and renovated and expanded old ones. Without the money from a passed School Construction Bond, there isn’t a ready-made solution. That’s why the task before the Boundary Committee is so critical.
The biggest outlier on the horizon is whether the November School Construction Bond will pass the state’s required 60% supermajority or not. Hammond said If the bond passes, the first new building wouldn’t come online until 2021. “We can’t hold our breath until then,” he said. “If the bond passes, that doesn’t mean our work is done.”
At this first meeting, the committee heard from principals who described the current conditions in their over-crowded schools.
- Bethel High School has 1,700 students, and only 4 bathrooms in the main building.
- There are 711 students at Graham Elementary, a building built for 400. Half of the students are in portables.
- Clover Creek Elementary was built for 525 students. It is now home to 777. The orchestra class meets in the hallway because there is no available classroom space.
- Graham-Kapowsin High School is the largest school in Pierce County by number of students. It is now home to more than 2,000 students.
The goal of Boundary Review Committee is to come up with some potential boundary revisions that are feasible and financially responsible. The impact on student achievement will also be considered.
This will be a fast-moving committee. They will meet a number of times before making their recommendations to the School Board in December. Members are also encouraged to reach out to their school community to gather input from other parents and staff members.
The community will be notified of the new boundary changes by February 1, 2019.
The next meeting of the Boundary Review Committee is scheduled for October 30. The meeting is open to the public.