Current Salem-Keizer School Board zones, adopted in 2011.

Some Salem residents will soon be represented by a new school board member as the board weighs changes to the maps used for board elections.

At a Tuesday work session, the board will look at three possible new maps dividing the Salem-Keizer School District into seven zones, each intended to better balance population based on 2020 Census figures.

The work session begins at 6 p.m. virtually and can be viewed online here.

Board members will seek public input over the coming weeks before adopting a new map. The district will have detailed information about the maps and public comment process online by Nov. 17, said Sylvia McDaniel, the district's director of communications and community relations.

Regardless of which map is adopted, the changes will have little immediate impact on school board elections. That’s because the board is elected at-large, meaning all voters in the district have a chance to vote on all seats.

But new map could prove more influential if the board changes that system - something that’s also on the table before the next round of school board elections in May 2023.

The board considered moving to a by-zone system last spring after a proposal by former school board Director Jesse Lippold Peone, which would have had voters elect the representative for their district only, similar to the ward system used for Salem City Council elections.

At a March 2021 meeting, the board voted 4-3 to review its election process and consider moving to a by-zone system, with a plan to be developed by the fall of 2022.

Board directors currently have to live in the zone they represent, but current board members can retain their seats even if a new map pushes them outside their zone.

School board directors Marty Heyen and Maria Hinojos Pressey worked with district administrators and the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments to create the new maps based on Census data. Heyen presented the maps at a Nov. 9 board meeting.

The maps were made to bring each of the district’s seven zones close to a target of about 38,600 people. That’s one-seventh of the school district’s population according to the 2020 Census.

Heyen said in addition to balancing population, school district leaders had several criteria for the maps.

They wanted the district’s six major high schools spread between six zones, something two of the three maps achieve.

In all proposals, Zone 5, which covers southeast Salem, would be without a major high school.

The school board’s current boundaries also leave a small portion of south Salem in the Candalaria and Salem Heights area in Zone 1, which otherwise covers west Salem. Heyen said moving south Salem out of the west Salem zone “to the greatest extent possible” was another goal.

Finally, state rules require zones to have a “transportation link,” meaning someone can travel from one part of the zone to another without having to travel through another zone.

Because of those constraints, Heyen and Hinojos Pressey said they had few workable options for shifting boundaries.

Alternative 1, one of three proposed Salem-Keizer School Board zone maps to adjust for 2020 Census population shifts.

The first map is the most similar to current zone boundaries and leaves boundaries for Keizer (Zone 6), southeast Salem (Zone 5) and north Salem (Zone 7) untouched.

Zone 2, which includes McKay High School and portions of northeast Salem, would expand several blocks south to State Street along its southwestern edge.

Zone 4, the portion of south Salem including Sprague High School, would expand slightly, and the portion of south Salem included in Zone 1, would shrink, with Madrona Avenue South rather than Brown Avenue South as the dividing line.

Alternative 2, one of three proposed Salem-Keizer School Board zone maps to adjust for 2020 Census population shifts.

The second map would remove all south Salem streets from Zone 1 and put the portion currently included there in Zone 4. To compensate, the west Salem zone would be extended to cover downtown Salem north to the Grant area. North Salem High School would remain in Zone 7, and Zone 5, southeast Salem, would extend west to 14th Street.

Alternative 3, one of three proposed Salem-Keizer School Board zone maps to adjust for 2020 Census population shifts.

The third map would expand Zone 2 to cover both McKay and North Salem High School, leaving Zone 7 with no high school.

Because of that, Heyen and Hinojos Pressey recommended the board move forward with seeking public comment only on maps one and two.

At a work session Tuesday, the board will give district leaders a green light to move forward with printing maps for display at locations around the district and seeking public comment.

The board will vote on a new map following a comment period and is aiming to adopt a new map by early 2022.

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

JUST THE FACTS, FOR SALEM - We report on your community with care and depth, fairness and accuracy. Get local news that matters to you. Subscribe to Salem Reporter starting at $5 a month. Click I want to subscribe!