New Boundary Info: Superintendent Discusses Portables and Transfers

posted Jan 28, 2015, 4:26 PM by Tianna Hubbenette   [ updated Jan 29, 2015, 10:11 AM ]
(Letter can also be viewed here.)


Message from the Superintendent, January 28, 2015

Boundary Adjustment:  Additional Information and Process Update

The Sherwood School District formally began its boundary adjustment process in fall 2014, in response to the enrollment imbalances we are currently facing across the district.  Some schools are over capacity, while others are under capacity.  Once boundary adjustment changes are finished, they will be in effect starting in the 2015-16 school year.  

To ensure a fair and objective boundary recommendation which would ultimately be adopted by the Board of Directors, I appointed a committee that would steer the process toward a final recommendation.  Appointing a committee is simply a formality; this committee acts independently and they conduct all of their business autonomously with no involvement from me as the Superintendent or the Board.  We received 31 candidate applications over a nine-week period, and with the help from the Board Chair and Vice Chair, we selected twelve volunteer parents - two from each of the affected schools.  Each has proven to be committed to carefully examining all of the data made available so that they can make the best recommendation possible for current and future students in Sherwood Schools.  They have donated their personal time to hours of research, deliberations and evening meetings to develop potential boundary options to be presented at two community forums.  At the helm is Margot Helphand, an outside facilitator that has led many school districts around the State of Oregon through prior boundary adjustments - including Sherwood.  The committee is very dedicated and stays focused on impartial and thoughtful analysis of dozens of possible boundary changes, some which may result in challenging moves for their own children.

The Board of Directors provided the committee with guiding principles to consider while making their boundary change recommendations:

Students shall be assigned by neighborhoods to the closest school when possible, with an emphasis to minimize the number of students impacted 
School boundaries should take both current enrollment and future growth in the Sherwood city limits into account 
Transportation routes and efficiencies should be considered 
Every effort should be made to do the best job possible to maintain the newly defined boundaries for several years 
Seek ways to help ensure access for comparable programs across schools for all students

These recommendations are to be used as a guideline to the best ability of the committee.

Boundary changes are never an easy process due to the inevitable impacts on families and students.  Sherwood School District has experienced boundary adjustments in the past; in fact, three of our current School Board members’ children have been affected by those changes.   To help families prepare for transitions as much as possible, we have worked hard to provide a transparent, communicative boundary adjustment that would invite community input during various stages throughout the process.  To support that effort, the District created a boundary adjustment web page dedicated to all the information that was available related to the work.  Additionally, the boundary adjustment committee was set up with its own email address where community feedback could be submitted for their consideration.

While applying the guiding principles provided by the Board of Directors, the committee was asked to analyze and incorporate data from 2010 and 2014 Portland State University population studies and growth forecasts, City of Sherwood boundaries, Sherwood School District boundaries, facility capacities, transportation routes and school walk zones, while exploring potential boundary changes.  

In December, the committee revealed its first three potential boundary options which were developed based on the data reviewed.  As promised, the community was invited to learn more about the options and how the committee arrived at them at an Open House at Middleton Elementary on December 9, 2014.  

After incorporating feedback received from the Open House and emails sent to the committee’s dedicated email, the team returned to deliberate and determined that two new options would be shared to solicit input in January at a second Open House.  On January 22, 2015, those two options were presented to the community.  At this time, the committee is reviewing comments received as a result of that forum.  

At the February 11th School Board meeting, the Board of Directors will receive the final recommendation that has been developed by the boundary adjustment committee.  We expect the Board will make a decision regarding the boundary adjustment at the March Board meeting, on March 11, 2015.

PORTABLES

The committee has received questions from Sherwood families regarding the viability of adding portables to the Edy Ridge Elementary School campus to reduce the overcrowding at that facility.  I would like to address that question and share why it is that the committee has specifically been advised by the School Board that adding portables should not be considered.

“Portable” buildings are not considered appropriate spaces for ongoing classroom learning and would not resolve the capacity issues facing Edy Ridge or other schools in the district.

Portables currently exist at Hopkins, Archer Glen, and Middleton Elementary Schools, and Sherwood Middle School.  Use of portables in over-crowded conditions are only considered as an extreme last resort, and even then, is only acceptable temporarily.  These portables were installed at each of the schools as a temporary, short-term solution until The Ridges construction was complete.  Now, the portable units are primarily used for storage or meeting space purposes, with only two classes meeting daily in portables district-wide.

Availability of classroom locations is not the only concern when a school reaches or exceeds capacity.  Capacity also relates to safety, teacher-student ratio, access to special programs, participation in elective courses and extracurricular activities, and facility overcrowding.  As a school district, our leadership must consider all of these issues when determining the maximum enrollment allowable for any school building.  As the numbers grow, the educational experience for students is diminished as a result of too many students and not enough equitable resources.  

Adding classrooms using portables does not reduce the overcrowding in common areas such as the cafeteria, media center, bathrooms, gyms, recess structures, and hallway circulation.  For the 2014-15 school year, Edy Ridge converted its Community Room to a classroom as a short-term effort to add space, but it also displaced staff, students, parent groups, and community members that used the room for various activities and events.

Safety is the first priority for all Sherwood Schools.  We are regularly performing emergency drills and reviewing our procedures to ensure the highest standards in safety for every student.  The use of portables as classrooms raises serious concerns for our administrators and law enforcement partners regarding safety.  The portables are separated from the main school buildings which means that they are not connected to the same sound and security systems that may be triggered by an emergency alarm or lock-in situation.  The main facilities also have safety equipment installed throughout to maximize security and would not be available for students and teachers isolated in portables.  Portables also do not have bathrooms, which requires students and staff to travel outside between buildings in various weather conditions, and would involve key card access or staff escort for students needing to re-enter the main building.

We are committed to providing the best educational experience for students that we can in our District - we pride ourselves on this standard and believe that this work is what helps to make Sherwood such a desirable community in which to live.  Reflective of this mission, are the new elementary schools that were built across the District to accommodate and welcome the many new students that arrived with new residents as a result of the construction “boom”.  As a general rule, elementary schools are built to hold fewer students than other levels so children can enjoy a smaller community, which is best for an optimal learning environment.  

We also prioritize retaining manageable class sizes for our staff, which also allows equitable engagement of students with their teachers.  Increases in class sizes challenges the district to make more funds available to add staff to maintain the student-teacher ratios that avail the highest student achievement.  In addition, one of the guiding principles provided by the School Board includes ensuring access for students to enjoy comparable programs throughout our schools.  Allowing the overcapacity at Edy and using portables for classrooms will permit reduced access to programs and activities that have a limited number of staff, equipment and space to support them, such as athletics, clubs and arts.

Finally, the costs of purchasing or moving portables within the Sherwood School District are exorbitant or unrealistic.  A single portable can range in cost from $100,000 to $120,000.  There are other costs incurred from consultant soft costs, permitting, and utility connection that can range between $15,000 to $25,000 per installation for one or more portables.  Without any funds from a new bond, a school district would be forced to divert funds from another program such as curriculum, technology, staffing, etc., to pay for these costs - cuts we are unwilling to make when boundary adjustment is the more appropriate and longer term solution.  The portables currently located at other schools are between 10-20 years old.  Moving them is not an option the District can consider as these structures would not survive a physical move due to their aged condition.

While portables may seem like a simple solution, Sherwood School District is not willing to sacrifice the safety or quality education for Edy Ridge students when they can be served at any one of our other excellent elementary schools that have plenty of space to welcome them.

TRANSFERS

Another question that has been raised in community feedback is how intra-district and inter-district transfers impact the enrollment numbers at each school.  More directly, we have been asked if students on transfers into Sherwood are contributing to the overcrowding.  I would like to clarify some questions related to this topic. 

Intra-District Transfers 
Students within Sherwood attending a school outside of their attendance boundary.   

Edy Ridge

Archer Glen

Hopkins

Middleton

Students Entering

2

28

4

8

Students Exiting

12

3

17

12

Net Effect on Enrollment

-10

+25

-13

-4


Inter-District Transfers 
Transfers into and out of the Sherwood School District.  The aim of the District has been to meet the needs of individual families, while balancing enrollment in our schools and within the broader district.  We placed students in schools and grade levels where the smallest class sizes existed.  We allowed families to inform of us of their preferences; when it did not adversely impact schools, we honored that request.

Edy Ridge

Archer Glen

Hopkins

Middleton

Students transferring INTO Sherwood

3*

5

4

1

Students transferring OUT of Sherwood**

0

0

0

0

Net Effect on Enrollment

+3

+5

+4

+1


*Two students attended Edy Ridge in previous years prior to being approved for the 2014-15 school year.  One student was enrolled in full day Kindergarten at Edy Ridge, as that is where capacity existed for full day Kindergarten. 
**4 elementary students requested transfer out of the Sherwood School District.  Those students were homeschool students and did not attend Sherwood Schools at the time of their request.  Per House Bill 2747, they are still required to request release to attend school in another district.

Open Enrollment 
Students who become residents through the Open Enrollment process under House Bill 3681.  During the first year of open enrollment in 2012-13, the District opened slots at Hopkins, Sherwood Middle School, and Sherwood High School.  At that time, those schools all had significant capacity.  We never opened slots at our other schools to open enrollment.  We have not opened any slots to open enrollment since 2012-13.   

Middle School Summary
Only two students requested transfer out of Sherwood from our middle schools and two students requested transfer into Sherwood Schools at the middle level.  Both students were placed at Sherwood Middle School.


We recognize that the changes our students and their families will face next year are challenging and we intend to make resources and events available that will help students ease their transitions into their new schools once the boundary adjustment is decided.  In the meantime, I ask you to please continue to follow the process on our web site, and submit your comments to the committee at boundarycommittee@sherwood.k12.or.us.

We know that boundary adjustments can be very emotional and that families and students will be affected.  Our staff, teachers and administrators are committed to making every school in our district a wonderful place for Sherwood students to learn.  

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