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Drawing lines is far from easy

Some parents are upset, but new school boundaries are necessary

Not an end to the process or a new process or even a radically different process.

None of that is necessary as a Medford committee makes its way this month through the sticky work of drawing new school boundaries.

The committee has proposed moving nearly 400 students ' — percent of Medford's attendance ' to new schools to balance population, academics, race, wealth and other factors among the campuses.

It's a process that is both necessary and bound to create hard feelings.

Families have compelling stories about how the changes will hurt. Their kids are thriving at one school and must move to another. They've bought their house specifically so they're in one school's attendance area only to find themselves suddenly on the wrong side of the line. Their kids have trained for one high school's athletic program but now won't be able to take part.

These are real problems, and the committee can't turn its back on them.

— Here's the thing, though: In the end, it still has to draw the new lines somewhere. It is a hugely difficult task, and from all appearances one the committee is undertaking with as much consideration for kids as possible.

This past week, as the resignation of the district's superintendent shook the community, some suggested the committee abandon the boundary process altogether. Others pointedly asked, When are you going to get it right?

We think community members upset about changes have raised points the district should consider, including, for example, the possibility of allowing students to finish at the high schools they attend now. High school students often face the toughest adjustment at a new school, and the proposal involves only 47.

The district also might take another look at transfer students. At the high school level, for example, 184 more transfer into the district than out of it, undoubtedly leaving less room for Medford kids. On the other hand, each new student means &

36;5,200 to the district. The 184 high school transfers amount to nearly &

36;1 million.

That's just the kind of head-scratcher that greets this committee at every turn. There is no ultimate right answer to how to draw the boundaries, only a moving target of factors ' new housing projects, student movement, staff changes ' from which the committee must attempt to make its best guess at what will work.

It's right that families likely to be affected by the changes demand the committee's very best effort on this subject. But it's reasonable, too, to ask them to look further than their own troubles.

Moving school boundaries is a process sure to displease some. It's necessary as well.