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Pasco School District eyes options ahead of vote to redistribute students

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(The Center Square) – The Pasco School District is opening a new school, but in doing so, it might move most of its low-income students to one of the district’s oldest facilities.

The district currently operates two high schools, Pasco High School and Chiawana High School. However, it plans to open a new facility, Sageview High School, in fall 2025, but before doing so, the district needs to establish new boundaries and redistribute its students.

During Tuesday’s School Board meeting, PSD officials discussed three possible options. Each has advantages and disadvantages, but choosing one over the other could result in shorter bus rides and, in turn, a less diverse student population.

PHS opened its doors in 1953, and its most recent major remodel occurred almost 30 years ago. According to a presentation during Tuesday’s meeting, 83% of PHS’s student population is Hispanic, and 74% of the total student body is considered from low-income backgrounds.

Scenario A, the least diverse option, would increase PHS’s Hispanic population to 95% of the total student body; meanwhile, students from low-income backgrounds would constitute 86% of the school’s population, according to the presentation.

Chiawana’s Hispanic population would then constitute 68% of its student body, with 57% of total students coming from low-income backgrounds. Additionally, the option would leave Sageview with a student body that is 56% Hispanic, with 49% of all students coming from low-income backgrounds.

While Scenario A would undoubtedly result in “diverse” populations at Chiawana High School, which opened in 2009, and Sageview High School, PHS’s makeup of low-income students would increase by around 10%, according to the presentation.

Meanwhile, PHS is falling behind Chiawana in meeting state standards despite spending almost the same amount per student, according to the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

PHS and Chiawana have similar graduation rates, ranging from 81.7% to 84.8%; however, only 40.5% of PHS’s students met the state’s ELA standards, with 10.3% meeting that standard for math and 29.7% meeting that for science, according to OSPI’s Report Card.

In comparison, 44.9% of Chiawana students met the ELA standard, 17.9% met the math standard, and 40.1% met the science standard, according to OSPI’s Report Card. While each subject only varied by 4% to 11% from one school to the next, increasing PHS’s percentage of low-income students could, in turn, affect its performance on standardized tests.

The second option, Scenario D, which also lacks diversity, is the most cost-effective in terms of transportation. That’s because the scenario keeps most students at the school closest to them; however, in doing so, like in Scenario A, most low-income students would go to PHS, according to the presentation.

The district’s Transportation Department drives 1,423 miles daily to get students to and from school. Scenario A would increase that amount by the most, taking the total to 1,658, an annual difference of 42,300 miles. Scenario D, however, would only bring the total up by a daily average of 100 miles, or an annual difference of 18,000 miles, according to the presentation.

Scenario F, the most diverse option, adds a daily average of around 200 miles, equating to an annual difference of 40,140 miles; however, it decreases PHS’s Hispanic population by 2% and only increases low-income students by 1%, according to the presentation.

Under that scenario, Chiawana High School would have a 72% Hispanic student population, with 61% of all students being low-income, While Sageview would have a 62% Hispanic population, with 54% of all students being low-income.

Pasco’s School Board will vote on which scenario it will advance during a meeting on June 11.

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