Principal Dave Peters holds the door for students at Henry M. Jackson High School in Mill Creek in January. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Principal Dave Peters holds the door for students at Henry M. Jackson High School in Mill Creek in January. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Everyone agrees Jackson High School has ‘too many students’

The school district is in this position because voters didn’t support a $330.6 million bond measure.

EVERETT —There is no consensus on how best to ease crowding at Henry M. Jackson High School in Mill Creek.

A couple hundred people, many of them parents of current students or ones who could be in the future, showed up at a forum this week to weigh in on potential remedies, such as redrawing boundaries, adding portables or staggering schedules.

The crowd included members of the Everett School Board who are aiming to figure out by fall what path to take.

“Everyone agreed Jackson has too many students and the options are not desirable,” said board president Caroline Mason. “The concerns were quite varied and some of the suggestions were quite creative. I didn’t get the sense there was a strong direction or opinion for any one of the alternatives.”

School district leaders are in this position because not enough voters supported a $330.6 million bond measure on the February ballot. It contained money to construct a new high school, the district’s fourth, that would have opened in 2022. The measure garnered 55.4 percent but needed at least 60 percent to pass.

The failure of the bond “is putting the kids and our community in the south end of Mill Creek in a conundrum of less than optimal choices to choose from,” said Kim Cisneros, a parent of an elementary school student.

“All options presented are at a high cost to the community, the kids, as well as the district,” she said. “They will have an impact on safety, educational quality and basic needs such as access to restrooms, cafeteria, library and other educational supportive services.”

The district is dealing with a crunch of students that is only going to get worse.

Enrollment topped 20,000 in a recent headcount. With rapid growth in the south end, 1,600 more students are projected within the decade. High school enrollment is expected to go from 5,459 in 2017 to 6,324 by 2023, according to the district.

Jackson High School is packed; it was nearly 380 students over capacity at the start of this school year. Cascade High School will become more crowded in the coming years, as well.

Forums held in May at each of the district’s three high schools sought to engage residents on possible solutions. The May 29 event at Jackson drew the largest crowd of close to 250, officials estimated. The combined crowds at Cascade and Everett high schools totalled less than 50.

One option put forth by the district is to redraw school boundaries to better balance enrollment among the three high schools. Such a change could result in moving about 375 students from Jackson to Cascade and another 375 from Cascade to Everett.

At the Jackson forum, participants said they could understand the logic of such a move but opposed any revision that would lead to their children having to attend a different campus.

Another idea is adding portables. There are 17 at Jackson and 13 more would be needed by 2023 to accommodate growth, according to the district. Seven portables also might be needed at Cascade in the next five years.

“Generally, I don’t think they want us to keep putting in portables,” said Mike Gunn, the district’s executive director of facilities and operations.

Schedule changes are an option. These could take the form of double-shifting, staggered starts or year-round school.

There were a few ideas not on the district’s list.

For example, some suggested Everett High School be retooled into a magnet school for science, technology, math, art and drama. Others wondered if the district could buy space in empty buildings or have students attend less crowded high schools in neighboring districts.

District staff are compiling the comments for the board. On June 19, they will put forth a recommendation.

Board members will solicit comments on the recommendations through the summer and sometime in September make a decision.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald Twitter: @dospueblos.

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