Cheney Free Press -

By SHANNEN TALBOT
Staff Reporter 

New Cheney school boundaries approved

 

The Cheney School Board checked one major item off the district’s to-do list at its Feb. 27 meeting, unanimously approving new attendance boundaries for local elementary and middle schools in a move that puts an end to a months-long attempt by the district to even out student body populations throughout the West Plains.

The new boundaries will go into effect at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year. With the shift, Snowdon Elementary on Hallet Road has space for projected growth, as does Sunset Elementary in Airway Heights. Both schools have experienced rapid enrollment increases in recent years and that trend is predicted to continue.

“There’s no easy solution to really reduce Sunset significantly, but we did gain them some capacity,” Assistant Superintendent Sean Dotson said at the meeting.

The middle school revisions move more students to Cheney Middle School, particularly from neighborhoods west of Thomas Mallon Road and south of Sunset Highway in Airway Heights, freeing up space at Westwood Middle School.

“We really do believe these projections put us in the best place possible moving forward,” Dotson said.

The boundary review process has been in the works since October 2018 when school officials sent out an online survey to gauge the needs of students and families. A committee handling the review has met several times in the intervening months and hosted several open houses to get local feedback.

Superintendent Rob Roettger said he would be happy to have conversations about grandfathering in existing students and the option of choicing students into certain schools, but couldn’t make any guarantees.

“We don’t take this all lightly,” Dotson said. “We know this will mean some students not being in the place they’re used to.”

Those with questions regarding school attendance boundaries can visit http://www.cheneysd.org or call the district office at (509) 599-4599. The district will be sending out information in the spring and communicating with families to make sure students know which school they will be attending next year, Dotson said.

The board also heard a report from the district’s chief financial officer Jamie Weingart, who presented a list of upcoming planned expenses. The district will be setting up portables at several sites within its boundaries next year to the tune of more than $157,000. Also planned is additional transportation space in the form of a new or renovated bus garage and eventually, additional school sites.

The district has just over $1.2 million from various sources to spend on land for school buildings to be built down the road, but Weingart said it may not be enough. The current market value for land ranges from $1-4 per square foot, which comes out to about $43,500 per acre. Elementary school sites must be at least 10-12 acres and can cost up to $2.1 million, while middle school sites usually sit at 25-30 acres and cost between $1 million and $5.2 million. High school numbers are even higher, with sites measuring up to 50 acres and costing anywhere from $2.1 million to more than $8 million.

And that’s just for the land. Last year, the district hired a Realtor to assist it in scouting potential new school sites, though officials don’t anticipate making an offer for the foreseeable future.

At the meeting, the board also approved girls slow-pitch softball as an additional sport at Cheney High School to address the school’s 10 percent disproportionality between male and female sports participants and keep the district in compliance with state Title IX regulations.

A policy governing project bidding and the use of state funds was unanimously approved, and board members received a legislative update detailing relevant bills on everything from firearms and student health to school resource officer training and delinking standardized test scores from graduation.

District officials will visit Olympia to speak with legislators at the end of March.

Shannen Talbot can be reached at shannen@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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