Of boundaries and buses: Nampa residents seek to leave district

(UPDATED, 3:07 p.m., with information from Vallivue.)

Some homeowners on the northern fringe of the Nampa School District want out.

They would rather send their children to the Vallivue School District, and schools that are within walking or bicycling distance of home. The parents say it would be easier to shuttle their kids to afterschool and extracurricular activities at a neighborhood school.

Ultimately, hundreds of Nampa-area homeowners could get the chance to vote on the boundary issue. But first, a petition must wend its way through a convoluted legal process involving two state agencies.

The State Department of Education held a public hearing on the petition Monday night.

The boundary issue

The petition centers on three north Nampa subdivisions: Colter Bay, Astoria Park and North Pointe. The area takes in about 520 homes. According to the petition, about 449 children live in the area, including 136 children under the age of 5.

For now, the school-aged children attend Nampa’s Snake River Elementary School, East Valley Middle School and Columbia High School. Snake River is 3 to 4 miles away from the subdivisions, Columbia is 6 to 7 miles away and East Valley is 8 to 9 miles away.

“The routes to these schools include crossing over a freeway, passing through multiple stop lights (and) signs and for the middle and high schools, the entire city of Nampa,” according to a homeowner petition submitted to the Nampa School District in November.

But while the petition process began a few months ago, this boundary issue has been decades in the making. It dates back to the formation of the Vallivue district in 1961. According to Pat Charlton, Vallivue’s current superintendent, much of the land on the northern edge of the Nampa district was owned by a Nampa school trustee, who convinced his neighbors to stay within the Nampa district.

Fast forward back to the present.

For the two districts, the boundary issue affects student headcount — which can affect class sizes, but also affects funding. State K-12 dollars are distributed based on average daily student attendance. A boundary shift would mean additional state dollars for Vallivue, but fewer state dollars for Nampa.

Nampa and Vallivue trustees voted to take no position on the boundary issue, but district officials are mindful of the potential impacts.

The Nampa district has heard from parents on both sides of the boundary issue, spokeswoman Kathleen Tuck said Tuesday. The district would love the students to stay put, she said, but it isn’t pressing the issue.

“We’ll do what the residents there want,” Tuck said.

For Vallivue, growth is an ongoing concern. Unlike some districts which have an open enrollment policy, Vallivue does not accept students from outside its borders. Even with a new high school that opened in 2016-17 and a new elementary school due to open in the fall, accepting students from the north Nampa neighborhoods would be a “challenge,” Charlton said.

What happens next?

Now that Monday night’s SDE hearing is in the books, it’s up to Jean Uranga, a Nampa attorney and a state-appointed hearing officer, to sift through the case. Uranga is supposed to make a report on the boundary proposal. This would be due to the State Board of Education in mid-June, SDE spokesman Jeff Church said.

Based on that timetable, the State Board could discuss the issue at its August meeting. It’s up to the board to decide whether to schedule an election, which would be open to homeowners in the affected subdivisions.

A boundary change election could be held on one of the four dates available to school elections — in March, May, August or November. Since the State Board isn’t likely to consider the issue before August, an election would likely be held in November.

If area residents approve the boundary change, students could attend Vallivue schools in fall 2018.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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