Seventeen portables dotted the landscape of Henry M. Jackson High School in Mill Creek on Jan. 22, 2018. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Seventeen portables dotted the landscape of Henry M. Jackson High School in Mill Creek on Jan. 22, 2018. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Tough decisions: Everett School Board weighs boundary changes

The district has heard from concerned families as it tries to address overcrowded high schools.

MILL CREEK — Picking a new superintendent isn’t the only weighty issue facing the Everett School Board these days.

While the board this week is winnowing down a list of candidates to lead the district, it’s also trying to decide what to do about overcrowding at Henry M. Jackson High School, which last year was more than 375 students above its building capacity.

And, after months of study and hundreds of public comments, a decision could be reached as early as Tuesday evening.

The board will consider an advisory committee’s proposal that would shift high school boundaries — and hundreds of students over several years — beginning with freshmen in 2020. Superintendent Gary Cohn has recommended the school board adopt the recommendations of the 30-member High School Growth Mitigation Planning Committee, which included parents, students and administrators.

The school district is growing everywhere and at all levels, but nowhere more than its south end. Its high schools are expected to add more than 1,200 more students between 2018 and 2028.

In 2023, the boundary recommendation would reduce the expected enrollment at Jackson from 2,463 to 2,068. That’s nearly 400 students. There are 17 portables on the campus now and that number could increase to 26 over the next four years.

Under the boundary proposal, Cascade High School would absorb the Jackson students arriving from the south and lose students to Everett High School. Cascade’s enrollment would be expected to remain steady, between 1,952 to 1,972 students. Everett High School could grow from 1,543 to 1,918 students by 2023.

Cohn said the board could choose to go in several directions. It could do nothing, approve the recommendation or make some tweaks. It also could take the matter under advisement and come up with a decision later.

“If they do nothing, then the default is to pile on more portables at Jackson, and Jackson continues to bear the brunt of the growth of the district,” he said.

Most public comments were from the Jackson community, where most opposed boundary changes. They expressed concerns about longer and more dangerous drives for students, greater commute times and fear of splitting communities.

Some also wanted the district to try again with a bond measure to build a fourth large high school in the district’s south end.

The district has been considering trying again in 2020. Even if that tax proposal were to pass, it’s likely high school boundaries would need to be changed in the interim. Voters didn’t pass a $330.6 million bond measure on the February 2018 ballot, which would have gone toward building a new high school in the south end. The measure received 55.4 percent but needed 60 percent to pass.

In general terms, the boundary recommendations suggest moving students living in neighborhoods south of 132nd Street SE and east of 35th Avenue near Thomas Lake from Jackson to Cascade.

Students in the Pinehurst and Valley View neighborhoods and living near Jefferson Elementary School would be the most likely to be moved from Cascade to Everett.

Under the proposal, any movement of students would be phased in over time. It would begin with freshmen in fall 2020.

“Once you go to a school, you are not going to be changing,” said Kathy Reeves, a school district spokeswoman.

For a closer look at maps and the proposal before the school board, go to www.everettsd.org/Page/26839.

The board is scheduled to meet at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Community Resource Center, 3900 Broadway, Everett.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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