Our Voice: Pasco parents should be involved early in plans

Now is the time for Pasco parents to be involved in the boundary discussions involving the new Marie Curie STEM Elementary school and Barbara McClintock STEM Elementary.

District enrollment continues to grow and school officials are tasked with deciding how to best house the ever-growing student population.

Ideas for the future of some Pasco schools are significantly different than what the district has been doing and also different that what neighboring school districts do. It’s important that parents are engaged in the decision-making process to give their input and to know what to expect in the fall.

It would be a shame if parents neglect the opportunity to speak early in the process, and then come late to the table with complaints.

One change families will be interested in is moving the 6th graders back to the elementary schools. Those students now attend one of Pasco’s three middle schools, all of which are overcrowded.

Another big change is separating two neighboring elementary schools by grades. The existing Whittier Elementary and the nearly finished Curie Elementary share a playfield.

The proposed boundary change would put kindergarten through 2nd grade at Whittier and 3rd-6th grade at Curie. Family members in different grades would still be able to walk to school together.

The new building so close to the old one also will cause a redrawing of the boundaries near those schools, so the effects ripple beyond current Whittier boundaries.

Another related proposal has to do with reverting Captain Grey back to an elementary school — this time with a STEM emphasis — when McClintock opens on the far east end of town. For the past several years, Captain Grey has been a designated early learning center housing only kindergarteners from several school’s boundaries and taking kindergarten students out of those schools. McClintock is scheduled to be an early learning center.

These ideas are not new to the district. Some of them were floating around even before the bond to build the new schools was passed in June 2013.

All too often, though, parents either don’t know what their district is planning or they just don’t act on it until late in the process.

The district is making a good-faith effort to educate and involve the parents. Meetings are being held in multiple locations in the affected boundaries. The first meeting — during our recent cold snap — had a low turnout. Three more are scheduled. One is tonight at 6 p.m. at Captain Grey; the two are Dec. 11 — one starting at 5:30 p.m. at Robert Frost Elementary and the other is at 6 p.m. at Longfellow Elementary.

Parents are a school district’s partners. They should be working together by talking to each other and school officials to help make good decisions.