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Cheney's boundary review process progressing


Last updated 12/13/2018 at 11:16pm

On Dec. 6, the Cheney School District hosted the third of three community forums designed to get additional feedback from residents on the attendance review process currently underway.

The district boundary review advisory committee (DBRAC) gathered at Sunset Elementary in Airway Heights with parents and families to discuss their concerns with school officials and learn more about the effect a review would have on the local school system.

Superintendent Rob Roettger told attendees that the district is taking the issue extremely seriously and has gone so far as to hire a demographer to assist in the process. Education officials have also met with representatives from Airway Heights and Cheney, he said.

The Cheney district is one of the largest in the state, covering about 380 square miles from the rural West Plains to Airway Heights to the heart of the city that shares its name. That made transportation a huge priority among responders to the district’s online Thoughtexchange survey, Assistant Superintendent Sean Dotson told attendees.

In fact, proximity and transportation ranked as the number one issue for parents and community members, with more than 100 people voicing similar concerns relating to zero-hour transportation and activity buses at the review forums.

More than 715 people participated in the survey, with 250 leaving comments earning about 16,160 ratings.

Dotson presented the current numbers for the local elementary and middle schools, showcasing the staggering growth the district has undergone in just a few short years.

While Betz and Salnave schools have experienced minimal increases in their student populations, other schools have been on the front lines of an enrollment boom — like Sunset Elementary, which went from 384 students in 2015 to 522 in 2018. Windsor and Snowden also increased by nearly 100 students each in just over three years, while Westwood Middle School’s enrollment has leapt by more than 140 students since 2015, thanks in part to a massive class of sixth-graders this year.

Thanks to its recent construction bond, the district is adding 25 new classrooms at the elementary level and 17 new high school classrooms. The added space was intended to see students through 2028, but given rising enrollments it’s likely schools will hit maximum capacity before then.

“Schools are already approaching the capacity that we are building them for,” Dotson said.

The need for additional schools weighed heavy on participant’s minds in the survey, with about 60 comments. However, district officials say that has less to do with what they’re currently working on than you might think.

Right now, what’s being conducted is an attendance boundary review, in which administrators shuffle attendance boundaries to even out class sizes and make the most of the available space in the district. That’s very different from a district boundary, which would fundamentally change land designations in the area and would likely require much more time, effort and bureaucratic red tape to complete.

And while the district is working with a Realtor to scout future school sites, that plan is unlikely to gain ground — or break ground — for several years yet.

Attendees at the community forums uniformly sought confirmation that the district would seek parent approval before moving forward with any concrete plans, and asked officials to try to maintain equality of resources like special education funds and free and reduced lunch rates among the various schools.

The district is currently creating draft options based on this feedback, and the DBRAC will soon review those options and make a recommendation to the school board. Once the school board has voted, it will fall once more to the district to implement those changes — hopefully in time for the 2019-2020 school year.

Shannen Talbot can be reached at


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