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Middle School boundaries - Asking for forgiveness instead of permission?

The San Juan School District is currently running expensive construction projects at the Arcade Fundamental Middle School and former Creekside Elementary School sites - about $60M at each location. There is also a lawsuit in play asserting that the school district is playing fast and loose with your Bond Act money, specifically in that the new middle school strategy isn't in the district's Facilities Master Plan, wasn't disclosed to voters when Measure P went on the ballot in 2016, and the investments haven't been reviewed by the Bond Oversite Committee as required by Measure P.  Is it possible that the school district is just doing what it feels like doing, regardless what the tax-paying public wants? Well...maybe.

The latest indication that ther school district considers itself smarter than you is the current proposal to fiddle with middle school attendance boundaries. One would think such things would be driving the process, rather than be driven by it. But, no, you would be wrong to think that. You see, there is a reason why the school district is only just now revealing its boundary scenarios for the public. Those boundary scenarios are bound to upset a few apple carts. But, by waiting until AFTER the construction projects appear to be locked in, the school district has effectively foreclosed options such that only those options the school district can tolerate will be considered. You and your opinions don't matter unless you already agree with what the school district has decided. And, of course, its the privileged neighborhoods that win out. A lot of impacted households are working class families living paycheck to paycheck, and they are the ones whose daily lives will have to be reconfigured to chauffeur kids to and from the middle schools that cannot be safely accessed by walking. Many parents, deeply concerned about the dismal  academic performance record at the Katherine Johnson MIddle School at Encina, are doubtful that merely relocating that school to Creekside will improve performance statistics. Parents who want their kids on the "fundamental" track are just now learning that Arcade Fundamental MIddle School will be hereafter just another ordinary middle school.

All of this - the $120M construction projects, the financing games, and the tinkering with boundaries - is being done to accommodate what the school district said was a TEMPORARY bulge of 300 middle school students that could be easily absorbed by the existing high schools. It only takes around 10 portable classrooms to serve 300 middle school students, yet the school district is building two permanent, new middle schools for 650 students each. The best time to question that odd solution would have been BEFORE the construction projects were locked down. But since they didn't want the public asking questions about the pre-determined middle school strategy, the school district held off on revealing the boundaries - issues with the greatest likelihood of public outcry - until now.

May contain: chart, plot, map, atlas, and diagram
One of the 3 scenarios for which the school district wants your feedback. Will they do anything with your input?

So here we are with three boundary scenarios to review. San Juan Community Relations has emailed: "San Juan Unified is committed to investing in facilities that will support the district’s projected enrollment for coming years. In order to match projected student resident populations with the capacity of each school (including those that are in the process of being modernized), adjustments to middle school boundaries for several schools (Arcade, Arden, Katherine Johnson, Starr King and Winston Churchill) are necessary. As part of this process and as approved by the board, Arcade will be given an attendance boundary, as it does not currently have one. These schools will need appropriate geographical spacing, and suitable walking and travel distances for students."

They have posted maps of 3 different boundary scenarios for your review and they will be holding public meetings, for which you are supposed to pre-register, to display the maps and get feedback from the public:

  • Monday, May 8 at 6 p.m. at Dyer-Kelly Elementary
  • Wednesday, May 10 at 6 p.m. at Greer Elementary
  • Tuesday, May 16 at 6 p.m. - Virtual meeting option

The timeline for the process, according to the school district, is:

  • PHASE 1: March-April 2023. Share information with the community regarding the middle school boundary change process and gather feedback on criteria for map development
  • PHASE 2: April-May 2023. Demographer develops middle school boundary change map options. District gathers feedback on boundary change map options from community.
  • PHASE 3: Summer and Fall 2023. Boundary change map recommendations shared with the Board of Education. Board of Education adopts final boundary change map.
  • PHASE 4: Decenber 2023 and beyond. Implement new middle school boundary change map for enrollment for the 2024-25 school year and beyond. Open enrollment for the 2024-25 school year will begin in December 2023 and targeted outreach will be conducted to families affected directly by the boundary changes for enrollment options for the 2024-25 school year.

This exercise feels a little like the barn door being shut after the cows got out, doesn't it? Still, it is an opportunity for you to weigh in. Keep in mind that 1) the Board of Trustees has an even number of members until the special election in November, i.e. they could be stymied by a 3-3 split vote for several months, and 2) election season is underway (1 seat for November 2023 and 3 seats for primary/general in 2024). The game isn't over.


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