Seattle Schools Capacity Issues Affect Hamilton

It seems that the Seattle Public Schools in the north end of Seattle has had its share of capacity issues — including here in Wallingford where John Stanford International School has had its boundaries resized twice since the New Student Assignment Plan.

Now a capacity issue looms large over the middle schools in the north end — particularly with the influx of kids planning to attend sixth grade in the fall (2013-14 school year). Back in December, the School Board looked at projected enrollment numbers for next year and found that it was critical to devise a short-term capacity plan to accomodate all of the middle schoolers in the north end, including students who plan to attend Hamilton International Middle School here in Wallingford. The School Board has come up with various, short-term capacity management options including the following two that directly affect Hamilton-bound students:

  • Moving around boundaries so that kids from Laurelhurst Elementary will attend Eckstein instead of Hamilton
  • Creating a sixth grade academy in the John Marshall building (on Ravenna Blvd in Green Lake) for incoming sixth graders assigned to Hamilton and Eckstein

If you’d like to review the School Board’s spreadsheet with all of the options being considered, you can find it here. The School Board will vote on these options on January 23. Keep in mind, though, nothing has been set in motion and the School Board has not yet decided whether or not they will make any sort of changes in the 2013-14 year. I suspect all will be revealed after the vote on January 23. If you’d like to read an additional perspective on the issue, you can read this post from the Seattle Schools Community Forum.

Meantime, parents can attend a meeting tomorrow night (Thursday, January 17) to learn more about these options. Hamilton International Middle School has posted the following information on their home page:

These alternatives include the development of a Sixth Grade Academy at the John Marshall building, where all incoming Hamilton and Eckstein sixth graders would attend the Academy for one year before transitioning to their respective middle schools for seventh and eighth grade. We understand that the Academy option has gained traction and want to alert parents of an upcoming meeting (listed below) with School Board members where interested parents can be part of the conversations and express their views.

Thursday January 17, 6:30 p.m.

Featuring SPS Board Directors Harium Martin-Morris and Sherry Carr, and SPS Assistant Superintendent of Operations Pegi McEvoy.

The School Board will vote on January 23. For official updates please refer to the SPS Capacity Planning & Management page.


  1. Helen said,

    It seems unfair for Wallingford students to be denied going to their local middle school. It seems like part of the problem is that the Lowell APP program is too big and they are getting the space at Hamilton next year in lieu of the neighborhood kids. A temporary 6th Grade Academy sounds like a ridiculous solution from a school district that doesn’t seem to plan more than 6 months ahead.

    Wed, January 16 at 2:28 pm
  2. Margaret said,

    Agreed! It’s very unfair for my fifth grader, who looks longingly at the school across the street and, for his whole little life, thought that he’d be going there in sixth grade.

    Wed, January 16 at 2:44 pm
  3. a said,

    Does anyone know how Laurelhurst parents are greeting the first option? Seems like the least painless option to me, but then I am a Wallingford parent.

    Wed, January 16 at 3:12 pm
  4. Margaret said,

    I don’t know first hand, a, but I intend to go to the meeting. I’ll report back what I hear.

    Wed, January 16 at 3:20 pm
  5. Elizabeth said,

    My biggest concern about the “6th Grade Academy” option is “Limits access of 6th graders to advanced courses (e.g. world languages, advanced math, instrumental music) and sports.” I’m unclear on what this means in regards to immersion students at JSIS, but it’s clearly treating all 6th graders equally–with a deficient solution.

    Wed, January 16 at 5:10 pm
  6. tri-p said,

    “6th Grade ACADEMY” is a joke. More like a “6th Grade Holding Pen”. Nothing good can come from it. APP is too big and needs it’s own Middle School. Keep HIMS an International Focus and neighborhood school.

    Wed, January 16 at 5:57 pm
  7. Corliss! said,

    tri-p is absolutely right!!! Yours IS the solution that would work for most families. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that, once again, SPS will probably choose an option that alienates families, seeks very little community input (only having meetings on the options that THEY have put on the table) and separates siblings. Bend over again SPS families!

    Wed, January 16 at 6:05 pm
  8. four time loser said,

    This is the fourth time that I find myself entering into a situation with the Seattle Public School is changing my neighborhood’s school boundaries in the past four years.

    Each time, I have engaged principals, school board members, the John Stanford Center, and whoever else supposedly has influence over decisions. In addition, I have attended community meetings, written letters, basically whatever I could to influence the situation.

    Not once have I ever felt that my voice has had any influence.

    At this point, I feel like the Seattle Public School system is completely out of control. In their defense, they are over capacity and under budgeted. That said, for years it has been clear that the school age population is increasing in this area of Seattle; yet for some reason it always seems that they wait until the eleventh hour to address the situation. As a result, they find themselves crushed on time, out of options, and lacking any viable options for a good decisions.

    Today I (once again) wrote the capacity group to encourage them to choose Option 2 (open a comprehensive middle school at Jane Addams. To me, option 2 appears to be the best of the three options they are considering.

    However, recognizing that Option 3 is the most expensive option, I hardly expect that it will be chosen.

    Wed, January 16 at 7:17 pm
  9. Tamar said,

    I thought SPS was pushing for neighborhood based schools, all the kids from the north-end at one school is by no means neighborhood based

    Wed, January 16 at 7:44 pm
  10. moodenhancedthruexercise said,

    well, my background working for Seattle… this has been a constant difficulty.. shifting numbers and budget cuts and constant change.. which has upset parents, kids and teachers.

    I have been in a number of schools where portables have been placed out back and staff lunchrooms no longer exist.. to deal with capacity.

    what about the Lowell APP go to John Marshall.. or to the school on 90th..where CPPC is located.. empty classrooms there and some which could be consolidated..

    Wed, January 16 at 7:56 pm
  11. Fruitbat said,

    Lowell APP is elementary students. Hamilton is the north end school for middle school APP. Yes, APP brings some students to Hamilton who are not in the assignment zone (as well as including many student who would be at Hamilton anyway), but APP is not large enough to have a building to itself, especially not in the current overcrowded conditions.

    You all realize that Hamilton is IN Wallingford, but is not the middle school just for Wallingford–the “neighborhood” includes Ballard, Fremont, U-District and, at least for now, Laurelhurst.

    The entire north end is overstuffed with students and there’s not money for extensive new construction. There are no simple answers. Best I can come up with is new full-on middle schools in John Marshall AND Jane Addams–but where is that money going to come from?

    Maybe we can combine this post with the one about Wallingford park, and talk about putting some Hamilton portables in the park.

    Wed, January 16 at 10:13 pm
  12. Huber said,

    Plus one to Four Time Loser. My oldest child will be going to another neighborhood’s kindergarten next year because the school district allowed JSIS to become overcrowded and then didn’t confront it head on before it got out of control. The enrollment zone proposal that ended up getting enacted last year had about 16 business hours between its publication and passing the school board (unanimously) for public comment. JSIS’s enrollment zone is now smaller than several Wal-Mart parking lots I’ve seen.

    Make no mistake about it: JSIS is no longer a neighborhood school. It has become a heredity school. And if the School Board has its way, it will be an option school after next year. Sorry to all the people who moved into the zone (what of it there is) recently. You will get no better chance of sending your children to the neighborhood school than you have of making it in show business.

    After the last year or so of dealing with SPS, including constructive proposals not even read, ignored offers to volunteer time, etc., my wife and I have had decided the old Soviet Politburo is more transparent and certainly more effective. We are considering selling our plasma, if necessary, to send our children to private school.

    Put me firmly in the voucher camp until SPS proves it can manage its assets.

    Wed, January 16 at 10:53 pm
  13. khrt said,

    6th grade academy: How will numbers work when they let these 6th graders come in for 7th grade at Hamilton? At this rate, Hamilton will never have 6th grader class and will be stuck as a 7th/8th grade school unless they either reduce the boundaries again, acquire a 2-campus school setup by getting the Lincoln bldg, or reduce the number of programs they service such as APP. They should consider also that the current 4th grade class is considerably bigger than the current 5th grade class so we will forever be sending our 6th graders to a “6th grade academy” unless we find a better solution like working on Jane Adams MS. Thruth is the APP class at Hamilton is around 1/3 of the school population, and kids who live in the boundaries would follow the program to wherever it is located in the north end, they wouldn’t choose their neighborhood school if it didn’t offer the program they want. and they get busing. The school should prioritize sensible neighborhood school feeder patterns over hosting special city programs in congested family neighborhoods like Wallingford.

    Thu, January 17 at 8:40 am
  14. prop 3 said,

    Move the only program that draws from outside the HIMS boundaries (APP) to John Marshall or some other location. That would solve the overcrowding at HIMS with minimal disruption. Or consider sending your 6th grader to Salmon Bay. I hear they have art on the walls.

    Thu, January 17 at 10:00 am
  15. gregf said,

    School District admin did not understand the incredible benefit that the School Choice Plan provided when they dismantled it in favor of the current neighborhood plan. No, the District could not afford to continue to provide transportation to every student, but that could have been easily remedied by making transport beyond a certain distance the family’s responsibility.

    Establishing rigid boundaries for enrollment leaves the District susceptible to impacts from households willing to move to get a “guaranteed” seat at a neighborhood school. The old tiebreaker system at least allowed the District to say a school is full and offer folks their second choice school. I suspect we will be seeing perennial tweaking of the school boundaries from here forward as the population shifts and moves to try to gain access to a preferred school.

    Many Wallingford planners still believe that Hamilton belonged at Lincoln, as planned since the 1980’s, where the program would have a site size appropriate for a middle school, including a full-size performance space, an all-weather athletic field, and an additional 12,000 to 20,000 square feet of space for the APP cohort. Instead, with BEX IV, the District now plans to turn Lincoln into an undersized high school with no athletic field and insufficient parking.

    The proper fix for selling off Queen Anne High School is to bite the bullet and provide a new high school to serve QA/Magnolia at Interbay, not bus kids from Magnolia to Wallingford. How short-sighted!

    Perhaps the District should consider not compounding their error. Move the program at Hamilton to Lincoln in BEX IV and fix the property up as a full-featured middle school with an athletic field and space for APP. Convert Hamilton to a neighborhood K-8, as was proposed during the neighborhood planning process.

    Thu, January 17 at 1:28 pm
  16. JSIS parent said,

    I fully agree with gregf. Unfortunately, nothing of what he proposes is being identified by the Seattle Public Schools as an option.

    Thu, January 17 at 2:19 pm
  17. Fruitbat said,

    gregf–Given how overcrowded the whole system is, how do you think school choice would help? Granted, I really yearn for the days of choice–schools tried to distinguish themselves–but in this climate, it would just result in more angry parents as fewer students got their first choice. In fact, Wallingford parents angry that their kids did not get into JSIS were a vanguard in fighting to eliminate choice.

    There is, sadly, not money to build a new high school building on new land. Even if you pick out construction proposed under BEX IV and tell those schools sorry, not can do, see you in six years, it is going to be difficult to find land to build an new HS on that doesn’t piss of some constituency.

    Let me be very clear–I have LOTS of beef with the school district and the board on various topics, including eliminating choice and some of the BEX IV decisions. However, we all have to live in the real world with very finite, small resources and figure out how to best work with what there is, not hope the capital fairy will come and finance new schools. On this topic, the school bard has my sympathy.

    Thu, January 17 at 7:37 pm
  18. gregf said,

    Hi Fruitbat – I understand what you are saying. My perception is that nothing much would change if choice had been retained other than that the District would not have spend the time to readjust the school boundaries every year. Some will still be angry, but at least they will not have purchased a home based on an unsustainable promise of attendance and the District can focus on more productive activities. School Choice also did not throw the South End under the bus.

    Yes, there is a shortage of money. Unfortunately, there likely always will be. Please consider the following: The District sold off QA HS in the 80’s over the objection of many activists. The District owns far more property in the city than most folks know. They traded away property at Interbay several years ago to Parks that could have been used to accumulate a parcel large enough for a high school. All is not lost, however, as the District also recently traded (or will trade) Memorial Stadium to the City. The new property received in exchange could be used for a new high school, or traded yet again with another property owner at Interbay.

    New building construction is actually less expensive than remodeling old schools. I believe Garfield ended up being on the order of $130 million. If the District has the property, the cost for a new high school is likely little different than constantly shuffling and remodeling that brings the District no closer to the service layout that is ultimately needed. Stop patching and reacting and take the time to plan for twenty years down the road.

    I am very supportive of the School Board. They are essentially elected volunteers serving to try to make our schools better. The amount of work is incredible. They should be allowed to serve unless corrupt or completely incompetent. We need the continuity to provide the time to make effective change and implement a long term plan (and know when some District staff is shining them on).

    My beef with District Facilities is that they treat local residents as a problem to be dealt with rather than as a resource with intimate knowledge of how local school work (or do not work) in the community. Staff appears reactionary, applying patches, rather than taking a long term view toward a unified vision that avoids painting themselves into a corner and having to repeat or modify work that is already completed… much like the failure to move Hamilton to the middle school sized Lincoln campus. Two years and it is already too small! It’s not like the concern was not voiced by many during their design process.

    My youngest will be graduating next year from Seattle Schools. The same discussions were taking place when I started nearly twenty years ago. My response then was to get as active as possible in my children’s schools and to engage with the Wallingford neighborhood planning process. Create a reading group, help with tutoring, participate in the classroom, provide I.T. support, install playgrounds, tend the grounds, hold science fairs, join a field trip. Provide sweat equity to help overcome the funding shortage because the shortage is unlikely to change. Get involved at your schools, even if it is not your first choice. They can all be great.

    Fri, January 18 at 8:15 am
  19. jsis parent said,

    Does anyone have an update from last night’s meeting?

    Fri, January 18 at 9:15 am
  20. Margaret said,

    I do, @jsis parent, and I intended to write a separate post about it but my family and I are grieving right now over the loss of our dog, so please bear with me. Let me, for now, give you the highlights:

    The three options on the table that I’ve noted in the post are still on the table; however, no one is crazy about the formation of a sixth grade academy. It’s something the District has never done before and it would affect well over 800 families. Plus, last night, I asked the question if they had thought about things like HOST (Hamilton out of school time) and band and sports and all that for sixth graders. How would they get these kids over from John Marshall to Hamilton (or Eckstein, for that matter?) It’s just not well thought out.

    Why is that option still on the table then? I don’t know. But I don’t think it will be the option chosen. There was an operations meeting held at the John Stanford Center yesterday, before this meeting, where the board addressed this with facilities. You can read Melissa Westbrook’s recap of that meeting here:

    It seems like they will either decide to “do nothing” this year and make adjustments to Hamilton (add Wifi in the building; convert the computer labs to science and math classrooms) to accommodate the “surge capacity.” But, they said last night, doing nothing will result in an 18million dollar budget gap…and then they still have to do something the following year AND deal with the budget gap.

    They really want to open a comprehensive middle school at Jane Addams this fall, rolling it up beginning with sixth grade. If this is the case, then the kids from Laurelhurst will attend that school (it’s close to Northgate) rather than Hamilton. Again, this will all be voted on this Wednesday (the 23rd). Stay tuned.

    I have news for everyone, folks: boundaries WILL BE REDRAWN in 2014. Make no mistake about it. You’ll be hearing a lot more about that in the fall. On the plus side, though, Lincoln will open in fall of 2018 (provided BEX IV passes next month…I have a post coming about that this Sunday.)

    Fri, January 18 at 10:43 am
  21. a said,

    JSIS Parent, here is a detailed report:

    Fri, January 18 at 10:43 am
  22. a said,

    Cross-posted with Margaret-wouldn’t have posted that link had I seen her more useful response!

    Fri, January 18 at 9:31 pm
  23. a said,

    I think that the 6th Grade Academy is still on the table simply because it was one of the original three ideas. It seems pretty clear that one is not going to happen. What is clear is that the School Board is uncertain about the best course. If you have clarity, write them! Your opinion does make a difference.

    Fri, January 18 at 9:34 pm
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