After year of debate, Everett has new high school boundaries

Board members unanimously approved the changes, which take effect in 2020, starting with freshmen.

This map outlines the proposed boundary changes. (Everett School District)

This map outlines the proposed boundary changes. (Everett School District)

EVERETT — High school students in the Everett School District will be allowed to graduate at their current campus with new boundary changes. Board members voted unanimously Tuesday evening to approve a proposal that will move hundreds of students over several years, starting with incoming freshmen in 2020.

The move should bring relief to Henry M. Jackson High School in Mill Creek, which has been overflowing with students, and only is expected to get worse in the next decade.

“I believe the overcrowding situation requires us to act, and to act now,” board member Pam LaSesne said.

“Not everyone is going to be happy,” board member Jamyang Nhangkar said.

The school district is growing everywhere and at all levels, but nowhere more than its south end. The district’s high schools are expected to add 1,200 more students between 2018 and 2028.

By 2023, the boundary changes are expected to reduce the projected enrollment at Jackson from 2,463 to 2,052 — over 400 students. It would also reduce the demand for portables on the campus in the next four years, from 27 to 10.

Cascade High School would absorb the Jackson students arriving from the south, and lose students to Everett High School. Cascade’s enrollment would be expected to remain steady, between 1,952 and 1,972 students. Everett High School could grow from 1,543 to 1,918 students by 2023.

In general terms, the boundary recommendations suggest moving students living in neighborhoods south of 132nd Street SE and east of 35th Avenue near Thomas Lake from Jackson to Cascade.

Students in the Pinehurst and Valley View neighborhoods and living near Jefferson Elementary School would be the most likely to be moved from Cascade to Everett. A small pocket north of 112th St SE on the west side of I-5 will also be going to Everett High School.

The decision came after months of deliberation by the 30-member High School Growth Mitigation Planning Committee, comprising parents, students and administrators.

People weighed in through five community forums that saw over 400 attendees, as well as over 800 written comments.

The majority of suggestions came from the Jackson High School community, where many people opposed the proposal. They expressed concerns about longer and more dangerous drives for students, greater commute times and fear of splitting communities.

Eventually, another theme became clear in their comments: No one wanted to move students in the middle of their education.

So a compromise was made. Instead of moving kids all at once, the boundary changes would be phased in.

Mike Gunn, the district’s director of facilities and operations, stressed that the boundary change was only a temporary solution. All three schools will be well above the recommended 1,500 students, he said.

“I just want to underscore that. It doesn’t solve it,” he said.

The district may eventually need a fourth large high school, which would be built in the south end. But voters turned down a $330.6 million bond measure on the February 2018 ballot that would have gone toward a new campus. The measure received 55.4 percent, but needed 60 percent to pass.

Board President Carol Andrews said the board hopes the Legislature will consider changing the 60 percent requirement next year.

“It’s disturbing to think that a no vote can carry more weight than a yes vote when it comes to facilities for our students,” she said.

Eric Stevick contributed to this story

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; zbryan@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @zachariahtb.

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