MARSYVILLE — Where you go to high school in Marysville might soon be decided by your address.
District leaders have been considering changes at Marysville’s two large high schools since 2016. The proposal to shift from choice to boundary-based schools has been controversial.
Students currently choose whether to attend one of four programs at Marysville Getchell or go to Marysville Pilchuck, a comprehensive high school. The proposed change would form two comprehensive schools with enrollment based on where students live.
Superintendent Jason Thompson presented his recommendation to the board Monday. Thompson was appointed interim superintendent after Becky Berg stepped down in May.
A vote on his plan could come at the board’s Aug. 6 meeting.
The district introduced small learning communities at Marysville Pilchuck in 2007, but that program didn’t last. The Marysville Getchell campus was built with small learning communities in mind, and houses the School for the Entrepreneur, Academy of Construction and Engineering, BioMed Academy and International School for Communications.
The board asked about budgetary differences between small learning communities and comprehensive high schools and for a detailed timeline ahead of the vote.
Enrollment in the district has been dropping. Staffing cuts over the past couple of years eliminated 13 positions at the secondary level, saving more than $2 million in annual costs, according to Thompson’s report to the board. That included reducing the number of principals, assistant principals and other positions related to small learning communities.
“Enrollment and demographics are always changing, and the perception in the community … (is that) our district has been growing when in reality our enrollment has been in a steady decline for years,” Thompson wrote.
Small learning communities are not financially viable, he concluded.
That’s one reason for suggesting the change. Others include a need for equal opportunity and diversity at both campuses. Marysville’s population is becoming more culturally and economically diverse. District leaders expect that soon the schools will not have a majority of any one ethnicity.
Also, changes in graduation requirements, namely an increase in the number of credits needed from 20 to 24, “adds additional stress to an already stressed system and played a major consideration in our recommendation,” Thompson wrote.
There would be an in-district waiver process to provide options for students, but most would go to their neighborhood school. Students currently enrolled in the school of their choice would not have to change campuses. Existing alternative high school programs are expected to continue.
High school boundaries would need to be established through an extensive public process, according to the district. The recommendation is to form a committee to draft boundaries with feeder schools, so that students go to the same high school as their peers from elementary and middle school.
Thompson’s plan also calls for two new permanent committees of staff, parents and students. One group would take a hard look at enrollment and demographics. The other would focus on instruction and programs to make school engaging and purposeful. That type of education, Thompson wrote, was the original purpose of small learning communities.
The district’s research turned up concerns about middle schools, as well. Families feel they are crowded and unsafe, according to the report. Many choose to leave the district. The report notes a need to update rundown middle school buildings and focus on behavioral programs and increased supervision, particularly during out-of-class time such as passing periods.
“While we do recommend we focus our efforts around instructional and cultural issues at the middle school level, the facilities question really can only be solved with a future bond to replace the aging facilities,” Thompson wrote.
Voters in the district have not passed a bond in 12 years.