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Evergreen School District #114

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Evergreen School District #114Boundaries are a Breeze with Tyler's VersaTrans RP

Mastering the Challenge of Creating New District Boundaries

Just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon lies Vancouver, Washington and Evergreen School District #114. The fifth largest school district in Washington State with 25,000 students, Evergreen has 20 elementary schools, six middle schools and three high schools - and one more high school under construction. When it comes to the safe and efficient daily transportation of thousands of students, VersaTrans RP plays a significant role.

Transportation Coordinator Carol Arthur said Evergreen School District purchased VersaTrans RP in May 2004, a few months before she assumed her position in September 2004.

“VersaTrans is renowned all over the state,” Arthur said. “I used it for five years at a previous school district and when I heard Evergreen purchased VersaTrans RP, I knew that coming here would be a good fit.”

On a day-to-day basis, four people in the district office use VersaTrans RP. They update and create routes, add and edit student information and ensure that school bus routing is an efficient and cost-effective operation meeting the needs of students, parents, drivers and school officials.

Arthur oversees the daily routing operations. At the same time, she faced a significant planning and redistricting challenge with a fourth high school opening. “That meant the current school boundary maps all needed to be re-drawn,” Arthur said.

It also meant an emotionally and politically charged redistricting issue, with few parents wanting their children to change schools. Plus, the existing boundaries roll up neatly, with two middle schools each feeding one of the three high schools. Now the six middle schools would need to move students into four high schools.

“Adding the fourth high school threw the current boundaries completely out of whack,” Arthur said. “We had to create new boundaries to populate the fourth high school and relieve pressure on the other three high schools, all while touching as few middle schools and impacting as few students as possible.”

Adding to the challenge, a boundary review committee defined 9 separate criteria that needed to be met by the new district boundaries. The criteria included everything from anticipating future growth and equalizing the number of students in each school based on capacity, to minimizing total transportation costs and distances, preserving important links students have to their neighborhoods and ensuring ethnic and social diversity in all schools.

The answer to this complex redistricting challenge has been VersaTrans RP. Arthur, who also sits on a boundary review committee, used VersaTrans RP to quickly model various boundary scenarios.

“We all agreed that none of the criteria was more important than the others and our goal was to meet them all to their optimum possibility,” Arthur said. “VersaTrans RP made this easy to do.”

Arthur said she started with an obvious boundary using a major street running North/South through the entire district, and from there used VersaTrans RP to create what she calls ‘chunk maps’ of groups of students. Sophisticated and easy-to-use filters allowed Arthur to quickly create student groups based on various attributes in the database and test out different ‘what-if’ scenarios.

“I could go back through the filters and design chunk maps of students and move the chunks from one school to the next and immediately see how any scenario met our criteria,” Arthur said.

“I love the fact that when I design a boundary it’s immediate. I draw it, apply it, add filters and I’m done in six minutes. It used to take six hours to do this type of design and filtering by hand-drawing maps and searching through student databases. The time savings has been tremendous.”

Arthur also said that VersaTrans RP eliminates the margin for error. “It doesn’t miss any students, or overlap any boundaries.”

“It’s really a wonderful program. It only considers facts and there’s no bias, which is so important when you’re dealing with students, parents and officials on an emotional issue like redistricting. I just plug in the criteria and it helps us meet each of them to the optimum.”

Ultimately, Arthur was able to create and present to a public forum a new district boundary map, drawn with boundaries optimally aligned to meet the ambitious criteria set forth by school officials. “Using VersaTrans RP allowed me to best meet the needs of everyone who had a stake in realigning our district boundaries. I’m very pleased,” Arthur concluded.


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