Problems arise with senior scenario

KINGSTON — In most cases, when a school district opens a new high school, the graduating class of the new school’s first year is allowed to finish at the same place it has spent its high school tenure. But the North Kitsap School District is in a unique position which may not allow the norm.

The placement of the North End senior class of 2007-08 — currently sophomores at NKHS — has been a topic of discussion and debate throughout the NKSD administration since October 2005, said Supt. Gene Medina.

The affected students have yet to be informed or heard from on the matter. Their parents, however, were briefed at an informational meeting Feb. 28 at Kingston Junior High School.

Last year, an Attendance Boundary Task Force — primarily made up of NKSD parents — tackled the process of realigning the NKSD borders in order to accommodate the upcoming grade-level transition as well as the opening of Kingston High School. When members presented their final product to the school board in June, they included a recommendation that all 2007-08 seniors attend NKHS with provided transportation.

The school board did not act on the advice and asked that the NKSD administration further review the issue.

“Not only are we opening a new high school but we are redistricting, so the question is: What about the seniors?” Medina asked. “That’s one piece. Another piece of the puzzle is part of our capital program. The final project online is the completion of the modernization of North Kitsap High School set to begin in September 2007.”

That final project of NKSD’s capital program adds a unique complication to North Kitsap’s situation.

The second and final phase of modernization at NKHS will be a full-scale upgrade of the entire main building — including the bulk of the school’s classrooms — as well as parts of the adjacent music building. During construction, students will have to be juggled in order to allow space for the work to be done.

“It’s a lot like musical chairs, quite frankly,” said NKSD finance and operations director Nancy Moffatt. “The more kids you have in the building, the harder it is to phase.”

Students and administrators have agreed that NKHS is already overcrowded with 1,300 students. With the upcoming grade level transition, in 2007-08, if the estimated 404 seniors stay at NKHS, along with the incoming group of freshmen, the total number of students will remain near 1,300. At the same time, at KHS, there will only be 625 to 650 lower classmen, leaving nearly 25 percent of the new school’s instructional area unused.

The rationale for allowing the senior class to stay intact at NKHS is based on student relationships and social environment issues that tend to make up much of the educational experience.

“So I may be stuck in an overcrowded school just because some of the (current) sophomores want to keep their friends?” NKHS sophomore Chris Wade asked Medina.

“Is it more problematic to keep the seniors at North Kitsap or move into Kingston?” Wade added.

Though Medina did not have a definite answer, he did note that housing the seniors at NKHS would be significantly more costly due to the associated construction implications.

In addition to continued overcrowding, possible complications with the modernization project and costs of transporting students in from the North End, retaining seniors at NKHS might have a negative impact on some course offerings at KHS due to limited staffing.

However, keeping the class together would maintain social relationships while assisting with the evaluation of graduation credits and — one thing many community members seem to have a stake in — maintaining current athletic and activities opportunities at NKHS.

“The board asked us to look at the nooks and crannies and that’s what we are doing,” Medina said.

Wednesday: The Herald will look into how athletics would be affected with of the proposed placement of the 2007-08 seniors.

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