Sixth-grade students would move to middle schools from elementary schools next fall under a proposal the Kent School Board will consider in late January.
The Kent School District is redrawing its school boundaries for the first time in a dozen years due to the opening of a new elementary school next fall on the West Hill.
A consultant hired by the district recommends that sixth graders be moved into middle schools for the 2021-2022 school year because of overcrowding in elementary schools.
Nine of 28 elementary schools are at or over their designed capacity while none of the middle schools (seventh and eighth grade) and only one of the four high schools (Kent-Meridian) are over their designed capacity, according to a School Boundary Review interim report by Florida-based MGT Consulting Group.
“Elementary schools are over capacity by more than 1,000 students and there are approximately 2,000 sixth grade students,” said Rob Tanner, of MGT Consulting, in a Dec. 2 report to the school board. “Moving sixth grade students to middle school will result in 1,750 excess seats at the elementary level.”
If sixth graders are moved to middle schools, the district will need to bring back Sequoia Middle School, which currently is home to Kent Phoenix Academy and Kent Mountain View Academy. Those two academies will combine into one next fall at a new site on the East Hill where Panther Lake Elementary formerly was located.
The district will hold a work session at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13 for a presentation and discussion regarding the boundary revisions. That will be followed by a public hearing on the proposal at 7 p.m. during the school board’s virtual meeting.
Starting Jan. 9, the public can submit written comments at kent.k12.wa.us/PublicComment. All comments for the public hearing must be submitted by 6:30 p.m. Jan. 13, prior to the start of the regular board meeting, and are limited to 450 words.
The Final Boundary Report will be publicly available online Jan. 8 at kent.k12.wa.us/boundary and will be filed at the Office of the District Superintendent from whom any person may obtain a copy upon request.
The school board is scheduled to vote on the proposed boundary revisions at its Jan. 27 virtual board meeting.
Several people submitted comments against moving sixth graders to middle schools during the public comment period of the Dec. 9 board meeting. A couple of people were concerned about the timing of the move since students have been in remote learning since March due to COVID-19.
“The last time they were in school was March of their fourth-grade year,” according to one letter, meaning the students would go from fourth grade at an elementary school to sixth grade at a middle school.
A couple of people favored delaying the move of sixth graders to middle schools to the 2022-2023 school year.
The boundary report also recommends changes to keep the same students together from elementary school to middle school to high school.
Twelve elementary schools split into multiple middle schools and/or high schools, according to the report. For example, Covington Elementary School splits up to Cedar Heights and Mattson middle schools and then to Kentwood and Kentlake high schools.
“It allows students to stay together with their peers through high school, which can create a sense of belonging, especially in areas such as sports, music, art, band and extracurricular clubs,” according to the report. “Additionally, educational programs can be distributed equally into the four high school feeder strands resulting in more equitable access.”
Another recommendation would be to turn Kentlake High School into a magnate school because the campus is currently underutilized.
“The Kentlake attendance boundary is very large because of the lower population density immediately surrounding the school,” according to the report. “This has resulted in the attendance boundary being expanded to bolster enrollment.
“Reducing the Kentlake attendance boundary will reduce the travel time for some students that may be closer to another high school. This will however reduce the enrollment of Kentlake, which is already underutilized in comparison to the other high schools in the district. As part of the review of educational programs mentioned, KSD should consider magnet program opportunities at Kentlake to address the underutilization. Response from the family survey indicate there is potential interest in a variety of magnet programs.”
A magnet school would offer specific courses not offered at other schools that students would be willing to travel to Kentlake to take.