Major changes ahead for Schools - efficiency efforts to alter grade configuration and feeder patterns

Lake Washington School District Makes Changes to Handle Growing Student Population

Change in grade configuration, feeder patterns allows more efficient use of current school space

Lake Washington School District is growing, by the equivalent of one elementary school a year for the next five years. The district has looked at alternatives to house this boom in student population and made two decisions, effective with the 2012-13 school year, to use its current school building space more efficiently. These two decisions, announced at last night’s school board meeting, include changing its school grade configuration and shifting the junior high schools into which three elementary schools feed.

The majority of the district’s growth over the next five to seven years will occur at the elementary school level. Moving from a grades K-6 elementary, 7-9 junior high and 10-12 high school system to a K-5 elementary, 6-8 middle school and 9-12 high school will shift one grade out of the elementary schools where space is already tight and move the population to the secondary schools, where more space is available.

Dr. Chip Kimball, superintendent, expressed his intent last spring to move toward a change in school grade configuration for academic reasons. He is concerned that ninth graders in the district’s grades 7-9 junior high schools often do not fully recognize, despite admonitions from parents and teachers that their high school transcript for graduation and college admissions purposes begins in ninth grade.

“This move allows us to make some important shifts to our academic program while at the same time making the most efficient use of our classroom space,” noted Dr. Kimball. “We have also heard from our community that if we have to add space, do so at the junior high and high school level rather than elementary. This shift conforms to that preference.”

While the grade configuration change addresses the imbalance in elementary and secondary school populations, there are also imbalances in school population between geographic areas. Three changes in feeder patterns are planned, to coincide with the 2012-13 grade configuration change. Bell Elementary will feed into Finn Hill Junior High and Juanita High School, instead of Kirkland Junior High and Lake Washington High School. Audubon Elementary will feed into Rose Hill Junior High and Lake Washington High School instead of Redmond Junior High and Redmond High School. These changes effectively shift population westward, from Redmond High through Lake Washington High to Juanita High School. In addition, Einstein Elementary students will shift from Evergreen Junior High to Redmond Junior High but will still go on to Redmond High School.

“If we don’t make any changes, we will need over 100 portable classrooms at the elementary level and about 28 at the secondary level to house the expected enrolment and to provide space for all-day kindergarten in the next five years,” noted Dr. Kimball. “Changing feeder patterns reduces the need at the secondary level. I know it will be a difficult change for families who have expectations and connections to specific schools but we have to find the most efficient ways to use our current space and this is one of them. Changing the grade configuration will make another large difference.”

After these changes, the district still must find funding for additional space at the junior high and high school level. The district will seek community input next fall in developing a plan for the rest of the space needed to house its growing population.

Graphics courtesy of LWSD: http://www.lwsd.org/SiteCollectionDocuments/News/School-Changes-2012-2013/School-Configuration-May-3-with-options.pdf