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Adjustments made to attendance boundaries

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Ron Havniear, director of facilities, gives a tour of the renovations in progress at the site of the new Oakdale Middle School in Medford.
In absence of a packed public hearing, Medford School Board members agreed on district recommendations on where Hoover Elementary students should go to middle school

Based on feedback it received from Hoover Elementary School families, the Medford School Board agreed Thursday to some changes district officials recommended to the proposed scenario that would change attendance zone boundaries to make way for a third middle school next year.

The results showed 40% of those surveyed want their child to go from Hoover to Hedrick Middle School and then North Medford High School. The current scenario shows Hoover students going to the up-and-coming Oakdale Middle School, with those students being divided between North and South Medford high schools.

The revised scenario would keep the new North-South high school boundary lines the way they are, but the Hoover students who reside in the North Medford High School boundary would attend Hedrick instead of Oakdale.

“It’s better to split them earlier,” board member Karen Starchvick said during the meeting.

Though district officials reported to the board Thursday that Hedrick’s poverty level would decrease while Oakdale’s would rise under such a revision, they felt it should be prioritized first among three revision recommendations.

District officials will redraw the proposed scenario to reflect what was discussed Thursday and bring it back to the board for review June 2, when the board is expected to make the new middle school attendance zones final.

“We get together as a board and make the final decision. There are seven of us that make the board — I cannot make that decision,” Board Chair Suzanne Messer said in an interview after the meeting. “My expectation (for June 2) is we will go forth with this process, but we welcome more public comment before that meeting; email, text, phone call (or) you can show up.”

A marquee item on Thursday’s school board meeting agenda was a hearing to allow the public to sound off on the recommended attendance zoning scenario a committee had put forward to the board.

While the start of the meeting showed a packed house inside the North Medford High School Commons, it appeared many families were there to show support for the winners of the SkillsUSA competition or this year’s valedictorians. The room had noticeably fewer people during the public hearing period.

What’s more, board members noted at the top of the hearing that no constituent had signed up to speak. One comment was submitted in an email, and Messer read it aloud during the meeting.

Ryan Martin, the father of 9-year-old twins who attend Hoover Elementary School, wrote the board May 5, mere hours after the attendance zoning committee unveiled its recommendation for the board to consider. That recommendation was a variation of the four scenarios shown at events hosted by the district last month for families to provide input.

Martin noted in his email how his kids represent a small percentage of the 43 Hoover students who are slated to go to North, as he did. That pocket of students was referenced by district officials Thursday, when they unveiled the results of the Hoover families’ survey requested by the board.

“If the attendance zoning is approved as recommended, I would request that parents of these 43 students have the choice of where their children go to high school,” Martin wrote, before concluding, “I just hope the outcome can be slightly tweaked for 43 students.”

Another district parent, Jessica Young, was present at the meeting but did not speak because she did not have time to sign up for public comment.

She did, however, show up with a sign that said “Hoover+North=Hedrick,” expressing her support for students who attend Hoover to go to Hedrick Middle School instead of Oakdale. Young has four children, two of whom attend North while the others are at Hoover.

“I was really happy tonight; I’m so relieved that they’re considering the feedback,” Young said after the meeting. “The board is obviously very dedicated and working very hard and they love feedback from parents.”

Her concern with Oakdale is that it’s too far away from where her family lives.

“My students ride the bus. I’m worried that it might be a 40-minute bus ride or even longer,” Young said. “We’re talking (about a scenario in which they’re) driving past Hedrick.”

She admitted the prospect of a new middle school like Oakdale is “exciting” and there’s “all sorts of potential with it,” but board members need to consider proximity and continuity with regard to where students are sent to school.

Regardless of what the board decides or how many people did not show up to Thursday’s public hearing, constituents have the right to voice any concerns they might have about the new attendance zone boundaries, Young said.

For his part, in the email read for the record Thursday, Martin described the attendance zoning process as “truly a situation where no matter the decision there will be many angry people.”

Several board members Thursday hailed the attendance zoning process as one that has been full and transparent. Vice Chair Cynthia Wright speculated that it may be the reason there were so few comments during the public hearing.

Asked how she felt about so few comments during a public hearing, Messer said, “it means we did a good job” getting the message out that attendance zoning changes were happening and who would be impacted.

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.