Everett School District administrator Gerard Holzman talks with parents on Tuesday at Henry M. Jackson High School about new boundary lines. (Zachariah Bryan / The Herald)

Everett School District administrator Gerard Holzman talks with parents on Tuesday at Henry M. Jackson High School about new boundary lines. (Zachariah Bryan / The Herald)

Work underway to redraw Everett high schools’ boundary lines

Project manager Jim Dugan said there was no right decision, only bad or worse, when moving students.

EVERETT — A new committee has begun redrawing boundary lines to deal with overcrowding in the south end of the Everett School District.

And its deliberations will be closely watched by parents whose children now or soon will attend Henry M. Jackson High School. That became clear earlier this week during community meetings about potential changes to school boundaries.

Jackson is about 375 students over capacity. It’s absorbing the overflow with 17 portables. Based on growth projections, 13 more would be needed by 2023 without reshuffling some students.

The 30-member committee — composed of parents, students and administrators — was formed in August and is tasked with recommending new school boundary lines. Wherever those lines are placed, 375 students will have to leave Jackson High School in Mill Creek and attend Cascade in south Everett. Then 375 students from Cascade will go to Everett High School.

The advisory panel expects to present its proposals to the public in January, and make final recommendations to the superintendent in March. The new boundaries would take effect fall of 2020.

There’s no right way to draw the lines, said Jim Dugan, a consultant for the district. It’s a choice between a bad decision and a worse one, he said.

He said the hardest thing to tell parents is that they need to move their kids to a different school.

“I need them to swallow a rock,” he said, describing the difficult change ahead.

But it is necessary. Voters didn’t pass a $330.6 million bond measure on the February ballot, which would have gone toward building a new high school. The measure garnered 55.4 percent but needed 60 percent to pass.

At the moment, no one knows who will stay and who will go. Public meetings at the three affected schools gave an opportunity for parents and others to air concerns.

More than 120 people showed up to a Tuesday meeting at Jackson High School, while only a handful were at Cascade the next evening. Most of those at Cascade had students enrolled at Jackson.

Many Jackson parents shared similar concerns: They didn’t want to disrupt their children’s high school careers; they worried about time spent on the bus; and they were troubled about forcing more young drivers on the highways.

Some suggested the boundary changes should be phased in, or at least that seniors should be allowed to stay. Additionally, students who live within a couple miles of their campus shouldn’t have to go out of the way to a different one, parents said.

Angie Stevens, a Mill Creek parent, said she hopes the committee considers students with special needs. Her son has autism and moving him to a different school could be destabilizing.

“He’s just a creature of habit. He’s into routine,” she said.

Melissa Jenkins, who lives with her husband and two children in Mill Creek’s Apple Tree neighborhood, said she’s thought about getting her kids into Glacier Peak High School. It’s part of the Snohomish School District, but just as close to her family as Jackson.

Her husband, Harrison Jenkins, wondered aloud whether enough effort was put into getting the bond passed to build a new school.

“We wouldn’t be having this conversation,” he said, if it was successful.

A map distributed last spring by the school district showed potential changes, but the consultant said the committee has not even considered it. As far as he’s concerned, the planning process is a blank slate, Dugan said.

The real work will start at the committee’s next meeting Dec. 12, when members will sit down with a map and start working out possible boundary lines.

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; zbryan@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @zachariahtb.

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