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Sierra Vista, Harrison boundaries topic of meeting

A draft version of 2006-07 school year boundaries for Harrison Middle School and the new Sierra Vista Middle School were unveiled Thursday during a special meeting of the Sunnyside School Board.

With help from Yakima County's GPS technology, the district plotted out the location of where students lived throughout the school district, noted Transportation Director David Taylor.

"We plotted each bus stop," Taylor said of the 180 square mile district.

The system was so precise, he added, that of 4,000 kindergarten through eighth grade students only seven addresses could not be accounted for by the system. Of those only two were actual Sunnyside street addresses, and those were because of incorrect information.

The resulting proposed boundaries, with some adjustment to ensure an even distribution of students, ended up with all middle school students in Outlook heading to Sierra Vista. Those coming from Pioneer Elementary will attend Harrison, according to the draft.

Middle school students from within the Washington Elementary boundaries north or west of S.W. Crescent Avenue will attend Sierra Vista, according to the proposal. Those south or east of S.W. Crescent will attend Harrison.

Another boundary line is South First Street, with students living west of the street heading to Sierra and those east going to Harrison.

The other prominent boundary contained in the draft is that middle school students south of Highway 12 will attend Harrison and those to the north attending Sierra Vista.

As proposed Outlook and Pioneer are the only elementary schools to send all of its students to one middle school.

Washington and Chief Kamiakin will see students going to both middle schools.

"Ideally we'd like to have kept all the students together in each of the schools as they moved into middle school," noted Superintendent Rick Cole.

He added that the district will keep an eye out in case the student population changes enough for students from Chief Kamiakin and Washington, respectively, to stay together in middle school.

The constraints facing the district, noted Taylor, are making sure there are an equitable number of students in each middle school. Another factor, he said, is keeping the distances of bus routes manageable so students can arrive at school and home in a timely fashion.

Cole observed that the district was successful in keeping class room sizes equitable between the schools, with an even distribution of experienced teachers.

He praised the teacher's union, in particular, as a key to successfully apportioning staff between the two middle schools.

"Their unanimous agreement to go by teams rather than seniority was crucial," he said.

The school district's steps in setting out the boundaries between Harrison and Sierra Vista is presenting the draft to the public in an open house format.

School board members will, at the earliest, make a final decision on the proposal at its Feb. 28 meeting or sometime in March.

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