EVERETT — Superintendent Gary Cohn presented his recommendation on elementary boundaries to the school board Tuesday, nixing the previously proposed move for some Mill Creek Elementary students.
His suggested boundary adjustment allows all 157 students from Mill Creek Elementary to stay put, instead of moving them to nearby Penny Creek Elementary.
As the district prepares for the opening of its 18th elementary, the school board needs to vote on how to redraw the boundaries that determine which students attend which schools.
A final vote on the topic was slated for September or October, but the district announced Friday it will take place at the June 19 school board meeting, after additional public comment.
“Finalizing elementary boundaries before school is out, instead of next fall, allows families and schools even more planning and transition time for fall 2019,” according to a school district news release.
The recommendation makes tweaks to a boundary plan released by a school district committee in early May. The superintendent’s proposal reduces the number of moving students from 1,350 to 1,225.
Cohn said Mill Creek is “built out” and there’s more room for growth near Penny Creek. That growth, he said, could come from The Farm, a proposed development that combines 356 multi-family housing units with retail and offices.
The project is owned by Vintage Housing, which also owns Vintage at Mill Creek, a senior living development. Company President Ryan Patterson said The Farm is set to break ground in November and will take about two years to complete. School district officials say they’d heard an earlier timeline.
The new elementary is under construction at 180th Street SE and estimated to open in September 2019.
In May, Mill Creek Elementary parents expressed concerns over how the move could affect children’s safety and well-being.
An online petition urging the district to reconsider moving the Mill Creek Elementary students received nearly 250 signatures. Additionally, people left more than 200 online comments for the district committee’s proposal. Cohn said his team read all of them.
On Friday, the district offered another opportunity for online feedback. The form is available until 5 p.m., June 15.
At first, Sarah Um, the mother of two Mill Creek Elementary students, said her children’s walk to school would be more dangerous if they moved to Penny Creek. Cohn’s recommendation provided a sigh of relief, she said, although her campaigning isn’t over.
“At this point, we’re in the boundary lines but we know that’s not confirmed,” Um said. “We’re going to continue to advocate for our kids and our neighborhood.”
Tom Gin is the father of two Mill Creek Elementary students. His family and others chose to live in the Northpointe neighborhood because of Mill Creek Elementary, he said, and the school boundaries could affect home values.
“We want to make sure they follow through on the current plan,” Gin said.
The school district is continuing negotiations from 2017 to acquire up to 22 acres in the south end between Sunset Road and Strumme Road for its 19th elementary. Funding for that land, along with the 18th elementary, comes from a $150 million bond approved by voters in 2016.
In Cohn’s recommendation, a boundary near Forest View Elementary and the 18th school would be shifted. For example, students would remain at Forest View if their homes’ driveways connect to 156th Street SE.
Additionally, families living south of 156th Street will send students to the new school.
The superintendent’s presentation also addressed earlier claims of racial discrimination in the plan’s proposed Mill Creek to Penny Creek shift. A Mill Creek parent alleged in a TV news report that a high percentage of minority students would be moved out of Mill Creek Elementary.
Catherine Matthews, the district’s director of assessment and research, said private data used by sites like GreatSchools and Zillow can be outdated or inaccurate. She pointed to data from the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, showing a percentage increase in Mill Creek Elementary’s students of color in every possible boundary redraw.
More than 500 students will be moved to the 18th elementary.