It won’t be the only opportunity, but parents and students in the Everett School District this week can weigh in with their ideas and comments on how the district will address overcrowding at its southernmost high school, Jackson High. And depending on how that overcrowding is addressed, it could mean changes for all of the district’s high school and middle school students for the next decade.
Jackson, with about 2,200 students enrolled, is about 375 students over its building’s capacity, an overflow of students that requires some classes are held in the school’s 17 portables. By 2022, enrollment there could top 2,400 students. Growth continues in a district that now serves about 5,500 high school students and is expected to add more than 1,000 additional high school students by 2023.
Among the solutions being considered, the immediate overcrowding at Jackson could be resolved with the incremental addition of yet another 13 portable classrooms at Jackson campus, schedule changes including double-shifts of students at the school, or the district-wide redrawing of high school boundaries that would send about 375 students from Jackson to Cascade High School, and a similar number from Cascade to Everett High School.
All options come with drawbacks for students and parents, but redrawing the boundaries and sending some students to new schools is likely the best option to maintaining effective learning environments for all students.
Schedule changes and double-shifts at Jackson would mean disruptions for students and families, and aren’t seen as providing an ideal learning environment. Nor does the addition of even more portables. Space is already limited on the Jackson campus, and portables would likely have to be located on tennis courts and parking lots.
Significant numbers of families would be affected by a shift in boundaries.
Earlier meetings regarding the proposals raised concerns for additional student time spent on buses, potential loss of student participation in sports and extra-curricular activities and the desire to allow juniors and seniors to graduate from their present school.
The school district is faced with the overcrowding at Jackson, largely because of the failure in February of a $330 million bond election that would have provided for a fourth high school in the district’s south end as well as making other infrastructure improvements at district schools.
The bond was approved by a majority of voters — 55.4 percent — but state law requires that school district bond elections be approved by 60 percent of the voters. The school board continues planning to resubmit a bond to voters in April 2020. If approved, the earliest a new 1,500-student school would be open would be 2024.
Ultimately, the only solution to overcrowding — for a district that is projected to approach nearly 22,000 students by 2023 — is to build the fourth high school, an investment that in addition to serving that population will also allow the district to continue plans for innovative concentrations of career options at each of the four high school campuses.
Until a new high school is built, students and parents at the high schools — and those coming up in the middle and elementary schools, too — should participate in planning for how best to create good learning environments at each school.
Changes aren’t imminent. If new boundaries are adopted, they wouldn’t go into effect fall of 2020.
But the district needs to hear from students and parents now as plans are made.
High school boundary forums
For more about information, go to tinyurl.com/ESDgrowthforums.
Three 90-minute forums are scheduled:
6 tonight at Jackson High School’s cafeteria
6 p.m. Wednesday, Cascade High School’s cafeteria
6 p.m. Thursday, Everett High School’s cafeteria