The West Ada Board of Education is expected to vote on boundary changes for the school district Tuesday, Jan. 16.
The plan is to reduce overcrowding and create boundaries for the new Star Middle School; but some parents say the proposed changes inadvertently impact students in the district’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) program.
“We’ve had three public hearings and the original plan has been modified based on the input we’ve heard from our community,” said district spokesman Eric Exline.
Some concerned parents say the plan seems to have forgotten about students enrolled in the DHH program.
“It would move the entirety of Ponderosa Elementary to Meridian Middle, while still having the DHH students go to Sawtooth [Middle School],” said Genevieve Troske, member of Ponderosa Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Association. “So, these DHH children will be separated from their peers.”
West Ada’s DHH program is only available at Ponderosa Elementary School, Sawtooth Middle School and Rocky Mountain High School.
If approved, opponents say the plan would destroy the climate of inclusion fostered at the elementary level.
“When this program was originally designed, the idea was to keep these kids together with their hearing peers as they progressed through the system, so they would have that community of support surrounding them,” said Tara Adams, an American Sign Language (ASL) teacher.
District leaders say it may be inevitable Ponderosa Elementary students are separated this fall, but that the district is committed to ensuring a smooth transition for everyone.
“We need to make sure that we have a transition plan in place, that those kids are welcome, they meet others, they integrate into the culture that Sawtooth has built, because we are committed to it,” Exline said.
West Ada, the largest school district in the state, is seeing close to 1,000 new students a year.