Sarah Um describes the frustration she feels knowing her kids will have to cross twice at the intersection of 35th Avenue SW and Highway 96 in Mill Creek to get to school if the Everett School District decides to institute proposed boundary changes. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Sarah Um describes the frustration she feels knowing her kids will have to cross twice at the intersection of 35th Avenue SW and Highway 96 in Mill Creek to get to school if the Everett School District decides to institute proposed boundary changes. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

School boundary change has Mill Creek parents worried

Crossing 35th Avenue SE and Highway 96 presents problems for some students who walk to school.

MILL CREEK — Parents of elementary students who live in the Northpointe neighborhood are asking the Everett School District to take another look at proposed boundary changes they say would make their children’s walk to school dangerous.

As the district prepares to open its 18th elementary in fall 2019, officials are redrawing the lines that determine which students attend which schools.

About 1,350 children in the south end of the district would change schools under a proposal drafted by a committee of staff and parents. More than 500 would go to the new school on 180th Street SE. The rest would be moved among six other schools.

More than 150 would switch from Mill Creek to Penny Creek Elementary. That includes kids in Northpointe, off 35th Avenue SE south of Highway 96. An online petition urging the district to let those children stay at Mill Creek Elementary has more than 220 signatures.

The distance from the neighborhood to the schools is similar. But the route to Penny Creek, parents say, is much more hazardous.

There are two busy shopping centers and the intersection of Highway 96 and 35th Avenue SE. The five-lane highway and arterial meet at traffic lights where students would need to cross twice, over the highway and over 35th.

Sarah Um, who has two children affected by the proposal, saw signs of a crash near the intersection last week.

“It was a perfect example of why we’re worried about kids walking this route,” she said. “We’re talking about elementary kids, as young as 5 or 6.”

It’s especially bad in the afternoon, said Tom Gin, who also has two children who would be affected.

“I don’t want kids walking there,” he said. “I know they’ll offer a bus, but not all of the kids will take it.”

The boundary committee worked for six months on the recommendation, gathering feedback at public meetings and online. Students who walk to school now should be able to walk after the changes, according to guidelines written by the group. Safe routes are a priority.

By the district’s assessment, it’s not safe to walk along 35th from Northpointe to either elementary.

“From our perspective, we’re taking a group we currently bus to Mill Creek and busing them to Penny Creek,” said Gerard Holzman, planning principal for the new elementary.

Parents also say they feel blindsided. In an earlier draft of boundaries, there was no school change for Northpointe. The final recommendation was a shock, Um said.

“In situations like this, I feel that the school district may make some changes without any public consultation, and that’s my main concern,” Gin said. “I think now they’re trying to make it more transparent, but it wasn’t at first.”

The district gave notice of comment opportunities through the schools, district webpage, social media and parent groups. Um received an email before meetings in February, but with a day’s notice, she said. At the time, she didn’t think her kids were affected.

Um understands that a new elementary means boundaries must shift.

“If I could see that the committee followed their guiding principles and were objective and the lines fell where they fell … I would be OK with that,” she said.

But she and her neighbors feel communication was lacking and the committee didn’t follow through on its promise of safe routes.

The committee tried to be sensitive, Holzman said.

“Everyone likes the school they’re at, which is a good thing,” he said. “But the fact is our schools are over capacity.”

The district is taking comments online until May 25 at https://bit.ly/2I4VRJm. Superintendent Gary Cohn aims to give his recommendation in June, and the Everett School Board could vote this fall.

Northpointe parents plan to speak during the school board meeting at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at 3900 Broadway.

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

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