Welcome to Wallingford’s Seattle Public Schools Wonkathon, running Monday to Thursday this week! Sherry Carr is retiring from the School Board, so our area is up for a new District 2 representative, with Rick Burke and Laura Obara Gramer running for the seat.
SPS buildings are funded by two alternating 6 year long levies that are spaced 3 years apart for renewal. We are currently a couple years into the BEX IV levy, with the BTA III levy to be renewed as BTA IV in a 2016 vote. Of local interest, BEX IV paid for Green Lake Elementary’s great new cafeteria / performance space (opened a few months ago) and will pay for Lincoln to be renovated and reopened as a high school at the end of this decade.
Wallyhood’s School Assignments Question: Wallingford does not currently have a neighborhood elementary school, with both John Stanford and McDonald being designated as language immersion option schools. School assignment policies mean that people directly across the street from these schools may not get into the schools even if it is their first choice, instead being assigned to BF Day or Green Lake.
Do you see a need to change Wallingford’s school assignment policies or curriculum to address this issue, and if so, how?
Laura: I can relate to this issue with the plans for Wilson Pacific school which is walking distance from my home. My neighbors with families were looking forward to having the school open for the neighborhood children. It was disappointing when we found out that it was going to be an AP school instead. Parents voiced their concerns among many other issues about this but there was no resolution. The last thing we heard was about the possibility of mixing AP students with general education students. As a parent, I can understand why a parent would want to send their children to a neighborhood school that is “walking distance.” My question for SPS is why do they have 2 language immersion option programs in the same neighborhood of at the only 2 elementary school in that neighborhood? If this is a concern for the families in the neighborhood- it needs to be heard.
Rick: I believe that we DO need to tweak the neighborhood assignment plan, specifically:
1. To address the scenario where families look out their windows at a school they may not be able to attend, every choice school should have a portion of seats allocated to attendance area residents.
2. Schools should develop a close bond with their neighborhoods. Engaging with local families is the best way to achieve this.
3. I also believe in the value of choice, allowing families to act in the best interest of their students.
I don’t suggest that the school revise the curriculum, as that forms the basis for the school’s vision. A school with a unified vision that promotes student learning will be more effective than one which is trying to be all things.
When my kids were in elementary school, we made the difficult decision to move from a wonderful school with a cohesive community to another wonderful school which had a shared focus on academic development. For our family, that worked out to be a great choice, so I’m a proponent of the combination of choice and shared school vision.
Wallyhood’s Capacity Issue Question: It’s no secret that the North end is in the midst of a capacity crisis. High School capacity shortfalls is one of the biggest issues facing Seattle School District in the next 4 years. There are estimates that the north end will be 1500 seats short by the time Lincoln High School opens in 2018 or 2019, and potentially 500 seats short even then. The likely interim solutions may involve extended or split schedules (some students start early, some late).
What is your solution to the need for more capacity, and in particular north end high school capacity?
Laura: Seattle is definitely growing and I do feel the growing pains in the North End. SPS needs to explore different strategies to deal with this growth. Will the students accept the split times schedule? Will SPS be open to considering to provide more assistance to families so they can take advantage of programs like “Running Start” at local community colleges and University of Washington?
Rick: From the data I’ve seen, we should all expect this problem to get worse over the next few years, especially in the North End and West Seattle. The ongoing work under BEX IV and BTA III is heavily focused on K-8 capacity and maintenance but still may not be enough at our current growth rates. As these additional students roll up, the high schools will become even more overloaded.
Our current capacity crisis stems from inadequate long-term projections, so joint planning with the city Department of Planning and Development is imperative, along with reconvening Facilities and Capacity Management Advisory Committee (FACMAC) for community oversight.
The near-term options available to SPS are strongly dependent on funding from the legislature, along with project selection and successful passage of the BTA IV levy in Feb 2016. To mitigate the short-term reality of more portables to expand school capacity, BTA IV projects should be prioritized towards common spaces (libraries, cafeteria, restrooms, etc.) in growth-impacted schools.
For the long term, Seattle needs another comprehensive high school, most likely located centrally in the Queen Anne/East Magnolia region to reduce the capacity pressure on the North End.