January 17, 2013 | Vol. 116 -- No. 39

Cheney School Board tables elementary school boundary revisions for two weeks

Cheney School Board directors voted to table a proposal on elementary school boundary revisions presented at their Jan. 9 board meeting. Board members said they felt they and the public needed time to review and possibly offer different options on the changes, which were presented for the first time at a public meeting in Airway Heights of the Boundary Review Committee just two nights earlier.

Associate superintendent Sean Dotson said the boundary review process actually began when the district was planning for the new middle schools. Finalizing the process in preparation for the new Snowdon Elementary School, being built at Hallett and Holly roads, along with enrollment, revealed that Sunset Elementary in Airway Heights and Windsor Elementary in the county were full.

In fact the current boundaries make Sunset the largest elementary school on the West Plains in the district is a distinction reserved for Windsor, Dotson said.

“Which creates a real problem because Sunset was not built to be the largest on the West Plains,” he added.

One purpose of the school bond passed to build Cheney and Westwood middle schools along with the state matching money to construct Snowdon was to relieve school overcrowding. The committee needed to move 45-50 students from Sunset to Snowdon while also moving students from Snowdon back to Windsor.

To do that the committee moved boundaries around, including using U.S. Highway 2 through Airway Heights as a dividing line between Sunset and Snowdon, with students south of the highway going to the latter. This raised questions and concerns from parents at the Monday meeting, Superintendent Deb Clemens said, because it has always been the district’s intent to try to create neighborhood schools, something the boundary proposal might change.

Dotson said they were in discussions with the transportation department about how to accommodate that through arrangements that would get students back to Airway Heights from Snowdon in time for important after school activities, or back to parents should students become ill. He added that using Highway 2 as a boundary could impact Airway Heights’ sense of community.

“Moving any section of the Airway Heights community is a difficult one,” he said.

Airway Heights resident and City Manager Albert Tripp also expressed concerns about community impacts to the board, and asked if there wasn’t a way to delay the decision for further discussion and possible consideration of options.

“This seems to be new information,” he said.

Clemens said the board didn’t need to make a decision right away, and that a delay of two weeks during which another public meeting could be scheduled wouldn’t impact the district’s coming enrollment timeframe.

“I would feel more comfortable with time to contact people and do some research,” Director James Whiteley said. “I would really appreciate those two weeks.”

In the end the board tabled the proposal, but no date and time for a public meeting was available at press time.

Also at the meeting the board voted to terminate the contract with Columbia Virtual Academy for online educational services. The district has worked with Spokane Virtual Learning to create its own online courses and no longer needs Columbia’s services, although the district will be using both until the end of the school year.

Finally the board listened to a student writing presentation created by Windsor teachers Lisa Lordan and Erica Lebens-Englund. The teachers explained how students were taught to narrow a broad list of topics to just one small item about a fun moment in their lives, create a draft through the writing and editing process, develop a timeline with a beginning, middle and end and finish the work with detail such as artwork.

Windsor students Paige Evans, Brefia Taylor, Logan Mink and Cooper Stoda read their works to the board.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

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