Marysville Getchell High School. (Michael O’Leary / Herald file)

Marysville Getchell High School. (Michael O’Leary / Herald file)

Decision on Marysville Pilchuck, Getchell high schools looms

The School Board will mull a recommended restructuring at its July 16 meeting.

MARYSVILLE — A draft recommendation from the acting superintendent of Marysville schools suggests restructuring the high schools to base enrollment on boundaries rather than choice.

It’ll be another month before a final recommendation goes to the Marysville School Board. The draft report by Jason Thompson was presented Monday. Thompson recently was appointed interim superintendent.

The district for months has been mulling the idea of having two comprehensive high schools rather than choice-based schools.

Marysville Pilchuck is comprehensive while Marysville Getchell has four smaller schools on its campus. Students choose which to attend.

The proposed changes would divide students between the high schools based on where they live, and would make Getchell a comprehensive high school rather than a hub with small learning communities. There would be an in-district waiver process to allow students to attend the high school that is not their “neighborhood school,” according to the report.

Boundary-based high schools would allow students to see a clear path to graduation from a young age, Thompson wrote. They would know in elementary school that they were on their way to becoming a Charger or Tomahawk. It would allow for high school students and staff to build relationships with younger kids from feeder schools.

“Currently we are a divided community,” Thompson wrote. “Boundaries will help us be more intentional in our relationships.”

Proponents of small learning communities, including current and former Getchell students, say the tight-knit environment is a better fit for some. They oppose the proposed changes.

Thompson also suggested in his draft report that two new groups of staff, students, parents and neighbors be formed, one for enrollment and demographics, the other on improving learning.

It’s been 12 years since the district passed a bond measure, and there are school buildings that need improvements, Thompson wrote. After a 2016 bond failed, the district vowed to take better care of existing buildings and focus more on responsibly managing taxpayer dollars.

That same year, a report from the Washington Association of School Administrators reviewed the district’s small learning communities and found they were not, as a whole, improving academic success. The report also concluded the cost of small learning communities was notably higher.

While the possible high school reconfiguration has been controversial, it’s not the only issue worrying parents.

“Middle schools were identified by many as a continuing source of frustration in our district,” Thompson wrote. “Many feel the schools are overcrowded and/or unsafe. Additionally, the data supports (that) many families leave our district at the middle school level.”

Improving those school buildings would require a bond measure. The district also plans to review instructional issues in middle schools, Thompson wrote.

Thompson originally had hoped to have a final recommendation to the board by the end of the school year. Instead, he expects to bring it to the board July 16.

“With graduation ceremonies, a busy year-end with many changes in our leadership structure, as well as preparing for my new role as interim superintendent, we want to take the necessary time needed to get this right,” Thompson wrote in a letter shared with families Thursday.

People also have urged better communication and greater attention to school safety. Two new positions are being added in the district: a director of engagement and outreach and a director of student safety and security, Thompson wrote in the letter. Both are being filled by current employees.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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