No ‘crisis’ in mind with grade realignment

South Kitsap School District officials deny plan is related to new high school

South Kitsap School District officials deny there is any correlation between a plan to implement grade realignment and a possible capital facilities bond to build a second high school.

After Superintendent Michelle Reid made slight modifications during the July 15 school board meeting to her proposal to switch from a junior-high to middle-school format, which would move all freshmen to South Kitsap High School by 2018-19, longtime South Kitsap resident Bob Lamb spoke.

He said that locals “could draw a conclusion” that the plan is designed with the construction of a second high school in mind. During its June 23 meeting, SKSD’s board of directors gave Reid approval to pursue a capital facilities bond next year to construct a new high school on the 56-acre plot the district purchased in 2003 near the intersection of Old Clifton and Feigley roads.

“If the bond issue doesn’t pass … you’re in a spot where you’re notably overcrowded,” said Lamb, who noted a capital facilities bond that would have paid for a new high school in 2007 failed. “Please, before you jump in with both feet, give the bond issue a chance first.”

Reid, along with several board members, denied that grade realignment is related to constructing a second high school.

“We get the fact that the public may say they’re tricking us,” board member Patty Henderson said. “They’re moving kids up and now they’re asking for a new high school. That is not the reason we’re moving the kids up. It’s academics.”

Fellow board member Greg Wall said grade realignment will relieve overcrowding at some elementary schools and that South Kitsap High School is large enough to handle the influx of students.

“We’re not moving the ninth-graders up to create a crisis,” he said.

Lamb questioned the need for a new high school if SKHS is large enough to handle freshmen. But Wall said there are overriding reasons why construction of a new high school is necessary.

“We’re building a new high school not because we’re creating space, but because we need the programs,” he said.

Reid’s proposal to take “a more staggered” approach than the district’s Boundary Review Committee (BRC) was only slightly different than the one she suggested during the June 2 board meeting. Reid said she would like to treat grade and boundary realignment similar to her 2014 plan to integrate all-day kindergarten throughout the district within three years because a gradual approach gives families and faculty more time to adjust and relieves pressure on the budget.

Under Reid’s proposal, 2015-16 would serve as a planning year. Reid said freshmen who were assigned to Cedar Heights, which she said is the district’s most crowded junior high, would move to SKHS in 2016-17. She said freshmen who want to remain at a junior high during that school year would have the option to open enroll at John Sedgwick or Marcus Whitman.

“One of the key tenants of this is people have choice,” Reid said. “We’re not telling them you have to go.”

Sixth-graders from Sunnyslope and Sidney Glen Elementary schools would move to Cedar Heights that year under Reid’s plan. Burley-Glenwood or Hidden Creek would be the other elementary school that would transition that year.

In 2017-18, Reid suggests freshmen at John Sedgwick or Marcus Whitman — or two-thirds of the freshman population through another method — move to SKHS. In order to free up space for that transition, Reid recommends that Explorer Academy, a kindergarten through 12th-grade parent-partner program, move off SKHS’ campus to another building within the district. Three more elementary schools and John Segwick or Marcus Whitman would transition that year, as well.

The adjustment to middle schools and a four-year high school would culminate in 2018-19.

Reid said she reiterated that timeline could be adjusted based on community feedback. She noted that the all-day kindergarten rollout was expected to take three school years, but instead lasted only two. All SKSD elementary schools will offer that program this fall.

“If for some reason the community indicates they want to move more quickly we can reconvene,” she said.

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