Spokane Public Schools board delays vote on school boundary changes

Spokane Public Schools
Copyright 2019 KXLY.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without prior permission.

SPOKANE, Wash. — On Wednesday night, the Spokane Public Schools board decided to delay the vote on school boundary changes until next week.

The school board discussed boundary changes again, and at the end of the night decided to discuss the new maps for elementary, middle and high schools next Wednesday. This means that thousands of students may have to wait until then to find out for sure what schools they’ll be going to in the next few years.

Board member Jenny Slagle advocated for the delay in order for further discussion of high school programming. Though no vote was taken, members agreed that the discussion would be tabled until next week.

Devony Audet spoke during the meeting and supported the delay before the decision was made. She said she does not believe all options have been explored to make the boundaries as equitable as possible.

A former teacher and principal also brought up concerns. Stefan Lallinger urged the board to get another perspective in terms of research and rationale behind the current proposal. He told board members the current proposal further segregates people based on socioeconomic status, using the free and reduced lunches metrics as an example.

A presentation showed questions from board members posed during the first reading. Many addressed historic patterns, proximity of cohorts and boundary adjustments in the Greystone area.

Since it was shown to the community in late March, few changes have been made, even though it’s created quite a stir. Change can be unsettling and SPS proposed boundary lines aren’t sitting right with quite a few people.

Major changes haven’t been made to the maps in more than 40 years. Audet, the mother of three kids, won’t be seeing many changes in northeast Spokane, and that still struck a nerve. They want change.

Being in the Rogers High School area, one of the more poor neighborhoods in Spokane, they were hoping some help was on the way with the new boundary lines.

“There’ve been some things we [the school district] missed. One of them, being making sure that all areas of Spokane are being heard equally so we are not overlooking any of our populations,” Audet said.

The school board has heard a lot from families in the last few months. Some good, but more bad; many community members are concerned about equity.

With new lines being redrawn, some schools on the north side are seeing more students eligible for free and reduced lunch, while some south Spokane schools will have fewer.

Over the last few months, the district says those rates don’t necessarily represent a school’s quality. They say it’s the teachers.

School board president Jerrall Haynes agrees, and knows that the conversations of boundaries can be contentious. He says they’ve been reading all the emails and listening to the community about their concerns and wants to be careful about their decisions.

“It’s important to our community for us to get it right,” said Haynes. “Historically, boundaries changing and the decisions made around them were made for the wrong reasons, and we just want to make sure as we consistently pursue building a more equitable system, that we’re making the right decisions for the right reasons.”

PAST COVERAGE: Parents express concern, support in emails to Spokane Public Schools over boundary changes 

PAST COVERAGE: Breaking down Spokane Public Schools’ proposed boundary changes