Shifting school boundaries

Ron and Sherrie Sweet are unhappy.

The couple, alumni of Sequim schools, lives in the "gray area" near the boundary that previously separated the students who were to attend Helen Haller Elementary and those who were to attend Greywolf Elementary. According to the new boundary line, approved unanimously by Sequim school board members at the March 17 meeting, the Sweets' daughter Elizabeth may be one of approximately 30 students to switch from Haller to Greywolf in September.

"To have invested two years of her social growth as well as her academic growth at Haller, while (the switch) may be necessarily, I wonder about the ramifications," Ron Sweet said at the regular board meeting, addressing both the board, Sequim superintendent Bill Bentley and Haller principal Vincent Riccobene.

The change, which affects students living in an area near Seventh Avenue and Silberhorn Road, is not ideal but it is necessary, said Bentley.

"The real purpose of drawing new attendance boundaries is to accommodate changes," Bentley said. "As the district population tends to shift to the east side (of Sequim), that is a factor."

According to Bentley, Haller is at its capacity with more than 650 students enrolled. Greywolf, on the other hand, has only 550 students. Enrollment is projected to decrease at Greywolf, he said, while continuing to increase at Haller.

"It would be difficult to imagine adding 50 students at Helen Haller," Bentley said.

Board member Virginia O'Neill said the unbalanced numbers causes a lose-lose situation for both Sequim elementary schools.

"The bigger classes at Haller means students don't get as much attention and the smaller enrollment at Greywolf means we cannot fund as many teachers there and we lose teachers," she said. "Both schools are losing."

Riccobene added that both he and Greywolf Elementary principal Patty Grenquist would work hard to make sure the 30 or so affected students would have a smooth transition.

"There are a whole lot of ways to make this more comfortable for kids," Riccobene said, adding that both schools have the same curriculum and the faculties do professional training together. "Both schools have (a common standard) for what a first-grader should look like (academically)."

Riccobene said there also would be informational meetings and time for input once things have been finalized.

Parent Beth Logan, whose son Ben is in the same class as Elizabeth Sweet, had a suggestion for the board and Riccobene.

"It would be great if we could move the kids together," Logan said, so all the second-graders who are at Haller and have to switch would be in the same second-grade class at Greywolf. "That way they'd have (some of) their community."

The list of those students affected due to the boundary change has not been released to the public yet.

Board president Sarah Bedinger said the boundary decision was not easy but it needed to be done to try and balance the two Sequim elementary schools.

"We tried to come up with the best solution that affects the least number of people," she said. "It's not a perfect solution, but I think we did what we had to."

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