A Small District Gets a Comprehensive Boundary Review

Client: Washougal School District

Location: Washougal, Washington

As school planning consultants, we often hear from administrators that their district is too small to need student enrollment projections. But experience tells us that’s a misconception.

Case in point: Washougal School District, a Southwest Washington district of around 3,000 total students that found itself in need of an immediate way to meet school capacity requirements, as well as a lasting solution to accommodate future growth.

In February 2015, Washougal voters approved a $57 million capital improvement bond to address school building improvements and increase student capacity without the use of portable buildings. With funds from the bond, the district set out to build Columbia River Gorge Elementary, a school with capacity to meet the district’s growing student population.

With construction under way, the district needed a new attendance area boundary, as well as a revision of all middle and elementary school boundaries to balance enrollment. Working closely with the district superintendent, other district staff, and community stakeholders, FLO guided Washougal School District through the boundary review process.

Here’s a brief synopsis of our boundary review work that led to swift approval of the district’s new boundaries in March 2017:

Student Enrollment Assessment and Projections

Before we could help the district update school attendance boundaries, we needed a baseline understanding of the district’s current and future student enrollment. Our investigation of enrollment trends, past projections, school capacities, student generation rates, and demographic and socioeconomic characteristics helped the district understand their current student population and what their population likely will look like in the future.

Land Use Analysis

By mapping and analyzing existing and future zoning, building permits, urban growth areas, and anticipated housing developments, we identified where new residential growth likely will occur in the district and how it will affect future patterns of enrollment growth. We used this information to help ensure that enrollment will be balanced at all schools for as long as possible when the district’s attendance area boundaries are redrawn.

Springboard proposal

Using our enrollment assessment and projections, land use analysis, and core values and principles (such as balancing socioeconomic and ethnic diversity among schools, and maintaining school feeder patterns to keep students attending neighborhood schools from elementary school through high school whenever possible), we developed a first draft of new school attendance area boundaries to give the district’s boundary review committee a solid place for from which to start their 11 weeks of committee meetings to refine the boundaries.

Weekly boundary review committee meetings

We supported and facilitated a series of meetings where ten parents and six principals, representing each of the elementary and middle schools, refined the springboard proposal.

Our interactive Web-based mapping tools enhanced the committee meetings with on-the-fly scenario modeling, so the committee could immediately see the effects that potential boundary adjustments would have on enrollment numbers, free- and reduced-price-lunch assistance, diversity, and more, for every school in the district. This blog post has more about how we use interactive mapping tools to facilitate boundary review committee meetings.

Open houses

To engage the community, be transparent, and ensure buy-in on new boundaries, we worked with the district to organize a series of open houses to gather community feedback and incorporate it into boundary revisions.

Is your school district is prepared for the future? Get in touch to learn how we can help predict your future boundary review and facility needs.

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Tyler Vick

Tyler Vick

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