Dr. Traci Pierce had barely put the microphone down and stepped off the stage when a group of parents surrounded the new Lake Washington School District superintendent to discuss overcrowding at Rosa Parks Elementary School.
It was feedback time at last Thursday night’s community meeting that drew about 150 people to Rosa Parks, and it was as if Pierce was a coach and the parents were players asking the superintendent about her game plan.
Presently, the Redmond Ridge school is 11 percent over capacity at 793 students, the highest number in the district. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss a long-range plan for Rosa Parks and seek feedback on some potential short-term solutions that could be implemented beginning in the 2013-14 school year.
Pierce fielded questions mainly about two short-term options under consideration: two grade levels temporarily moving to another school for the next two years and a temporary boundary that would move some students to another school for the next three years.
While Pierce spoke with some parents, others wrote down their thoughts on forms that school district members passed out.
“I spoke to a good number of people who asked very good questions, who all are very concerned about their students. Everyone’s very thoughtful, very respectful,” Pierce said after the meeting. “It was a very positive experience. The parents here love this school, and rightly so. They’re supportive of the school district. I think people understand that it’s a difficult situation and that we’re all going to work together to figure out what to do about it.”
Also on people’s minds was an upcoming bond, which the school district plans to run in February 2014. If the bond passes, they plan to build a new elementary school on property they own in Redmond Ridge East. If it doesn’t pass, they will complete a comprehensive district-wide re-boundary process.
Julie Chicoine, a mother to first- and fourth-graders at Rosa Parks, said she’d like to see some students moved to another school, possibly Laura Ingalls Wilder, which currently houses 343 students and is 38 percent under capacity.
“It’s a busy school. Kids have to eat in their classroom, so we need a solution for the overcrowding — it’s way too (many) kids in that school,” Chicoine said of Rosa Parks. “We all take our kids’ education very seriously.”
Karen Swenson, who has a second-grader at Rosa Parks, said grade shifting will split families apart and make it hard for parents to arrange drop-offs and pick-ups and get involved in PTAs.
“Just the whole communication of what is going on at each school — it just becomes a logistical nightmare for parents,” said Karen, who also has a sixth-grader at Evergreen Middle School.
Ram Thiru, who has a first-grader at Rosa Parks, added that he’s heard of Redmond Ridge parents discussing that Redmond Ridge East students shouldn’t be attending Rosa Parks because that adds to the overcrowding problem.
“The thing that I’m worried about is creating a boundary that separates Redmond Ridge and Redmond Ridge East. I think it will create a rift between the neighborhoods,” Thiru said.
He’s asking the school district to consider moving the two grade levels out of Rosa Parks.
“I think that’s the best for everybody, so that way you get a mix of both neighborhood kids so you don’t create a separation,” Thiru said. “The community has a lot of things in common and I don’t think we should create a division between communities.”