[There is a wrenching debate going on around the John Stanford International School and whether it should remain a neighborhood school, providing a center of community for those families who live around it, or whether it should be an option school, making its enviable immersion program available to children throughout the city, including those who can't afford to live nearby. Cathy Lu wrote asked that we share her opinion below. In the interest of balance, we would like to offer equal space to those on the other side of the debate.]
Last week my husband and I attended a meeting to go over the Seattle School Board’s growth boundaries proposal, which would convert John Stanford and McDonald International Schools into option schools and send almost all of Wallingford’s kids to Greenlake Elementary. As long-time residents of the Wallingford neighborhood, we strongly oppose this. For five years, we have looked forward to enrolling our daughter (who will attend kindergarten next year) in a neighborhood school that we can walk to; meeting and joining a community of families who live in, care about, and are invested in the same neighborhood as us; and supporting our local school, from fundraisers to PTA meetings.
Unfortunately, with the proposal to convert JSIS into an option school Wallingford will be left without a single attendance school–a huge oversight for such a central, well-populated, and vital neighborhood. Furthermore, with the proposal to convert McDonald as well to an option school, we are losing both of the schools closest to us, forcing us into an attendance school that is nearly two miles away from our home. It is outrageous that most Wallingford children will be attending Greenlake Elementary School when there are several more conveniently located schools that are within walking distance for most Wallingford families.
Although geozones will be created, this is not the same as a neighborhood school. It will force many families who fall slightly outside these zones out of the neighborhood, and it will create traffic and congestion as we drive our children across two crowded and slow-moving arterials into Greenlake (which we all know already has a slew of traffic problems).
Furthermore, with siblings getting priority at option schools, there is decent chance that families within the geozones won’t even make it into these option schools. It is a common misconception that geozone families are guaranteed admission to an option school. It is by lottery, and should siblings take up the majority of spots (as I have heard they are forecasted to do next year), our family is potentially looking at a situation in which our daughter will be unable to attend a school that is just four blocks from her house, and instead, will have to be driven or bused to a school that is nearly two miles away. This is not my idea of neighborhood and community.
Wallingford is a wonderful place to live, and good neighborhood schools that children can walk to have been at the heart of what makes this community so vital and attractive. By converting John Stanford (and McDonald) to option schools, Wallingford will lose its neighborhood elementary schools and a piece of what makes it so special.
If you are concerned about this proposal, please send an email to the Growth Boundaries Proposal general feedback line at email@example.com. Also, please look at the recent Wallyhood post, “Current and Future SPS Parents, It’s Time to Get Noisy” for another parent perspective on this issue.
Others to contact:
- Flip Herndon, Assistant Superintendent – Capital Facilities and Enrollment Planning, firstname.lastname@example.org,
- Joseph A Wolf, K-12 Planning Coordinator, email@example.com, 252-0551
- Sherry Carr, School Board Member District II, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tracy Libros, Manager Enrollment & Planning, email@example.com, 252-0511
- Cathy Lu