Salem-Keizer school officials want citizen opinion about boundary changes affecting thousands

Proposed changes to Salem-Keizer high school boundaries are being reviewed. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

A group of community volunteers and Salem-Keizer School District staff wants to hear from the community before finishing a proposal that would shift thousands of local students to new schools.

Four community forums have been scheduled across the district starting next week.

Under the plan, students would be more evenly spread across the district’s high schools, alleviating overcrowding at McKay by adding students to North, South and Sprague.

Changes will take effect next school year and complement school construction and expansions planned through 2023.

Some parents have raised concerns that the changes are more onerous for the district’s poorest students. McKay serves northeast Salem and high percent students living in poverty.

Because one of the district’s goals is to fix overcrowding, elementary and middle schools that currently send graduates to McKay would shift to other high schools. The elementary and middle schools now feeding into North are also seeing a large number of changes, while West Salem, Sprague and McNary would see relatively few.

“There was a lot of concern about equity,” said Jesse Lippold, school board member who represents northeast Salem and attended a community forum about the boundaries earlier this month at Waldo Middle School.

He said district staff addressed those concerns by explaining the need to reduce crowding at McKay.

Adriana Miranda, a parent who co-chairs the boundary task force, said she’s heard similar concerns and wants to ensure parents get answers.

The task force will recommend new boundaries in December and the school board is expected to approve final boundaries in February.

“The goal as a process is to balance enrollment across high school feeder systems and prepare schools for growth. The goal isn’t to equalize social economics across the district but it’s critical to the success of this process to have these conversations,” Miranda said.

Some families at Four Corners Elementary said they worried about transportation with to attend South, rather than North. Parents without cars said they would have trouble getting their students to school if they couldn’t make the bus due to medical appointments or extracurricular activities.

Parents and community members can comment on the proposed changes at any of four forums scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 4 at 6 p.m.

Childcare and snacks will be provided at all forums, and presentations will be in English and Spanish at Four Corners and Waldo. Spanish interpreters will be available at all four sites.

Kennedy Elementary School

4912 Noren Ave. NE, Keizer

Areas of focus will be Keizer/McNary and West Salem schools, most notably: Claggett Creek and Whiteaker middle schools; Clear Lake, Cummings, Forest Ridge, Gubser, Kalapuya, Keizer, Kennedy, Myers and Weddle elementary schools.

Four Corners Elementary School

500 Alma Ave. SE, Salem

Areas of focus will be North Salem/McKay area schools, including: Houck Middle School; Auburn, Chávez, Eyre, Four Corners, Hammond, Hayesville, Lamb, Miller, Swegle and Yoshikai elementary schools.

Waldo Middle School

2805 Lansing Ave. NE, Salem

Areas of focus will be McKay/North Salem area schools, including: North Salem High School; Parrish Middle School; Hallman, Hoover and Washington elementary schools.

Judson Middle School

4512 Jones Road SE, Salem

Areas of focus will be South/Sprague area schools, including: South Salem and Sprague high schools; Bush, Candalaria, Lee, Liberty, McKinley, Morningside, Salem Heights and Schirle elementary schools.

This story was updated on Dec. 3 to add additional elementary schools to the list being discussed at Kennedy Elementary.

Reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.