The difficult economy has been a curse for the population at large and Seattle Schools in particular. Yet, there may be a silver lining. More families are coming to Seattle Public Schools because the private option is financially no longer an option. This is even more reason to get Seattle Public Schools in shape. Keep in mind, the current incumbents went along with the plan to close schools.
Enrollment on the rise
Enrollment at Seattle Public Schools fell throughout the 1990s, and the district already was closing schools to save money when a low point came several years ago. Now that enrollment is rising again, the district is reopening schools. About 800 more students are projected this year.
Source: Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction
Here is what Seattle School Board members Mary Bass, Sherry Carr, Cheryl Chow, Michael DeBell, Peter Maier, Harium Martin-Morris and Steve Sundquist said in the November 3, 2008 Seattle Times opinion piece, Closing Seattle Schools Brings Excellence to All
In June, our decision to do what is right for our students came in the form of a unanimous vote for Seattle Public Schools’ strategic plan, “Excellence for All” This plan establishes the framework for moving toward our vision of a district where all students achieve at high levels and graduate ready for college, career and life. We believe strongly that this plan set the right priorities to strengthen our district and pointed out correctly that in order to do so, shortfalls in our systems and infrastructure must be addressed.
Today, the board is united again.
Last week, we voted unanimously to take immediate steps to create a stable, long-term financial position that ensures available resources are concentrated to deliver academic excellence. Facing a funding gap of $24 million for next year’s budget and acknowledging the national economic downturn, we directed Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson to accelerate work to address the long-standing space imbalances across the district. We can no longer bear the expense of operating more facilities than needed. We know that to fully implement our strategic plan, we must protect the Seattle school district’s financial health.
Outside audits stretching back to 1990 underscored the need for the district to bring the number of facilities in line with enrollment in order to more effectively use resources. Managing our space capacity and creating a new student-assignment plan are top priorities of the strategic plan.
We recognize that closing buildings is one of the greatest challenges a district can face, but we must move forward to support our students. Budget dollars are spread thin by maintaining more buildings than necessary. Our students receive fewer resources when they attend schools that are not fully enrolled. Ensuring equal access to a quality education means we must redirect these resources to the classrooms where they will directly benefit our students.
Balancing capacity in our schools is critical and we fully understand that we can only be successful if we involve the community throughout the process. We will work with the superintendent and her staff to develop a fair and transparent process as well as criteria for closing buildings.
We need the public to be engaged in this conversation and we understand that many of these discussions will focus on the fate of individual schools. As members of the School Board, we pledge to continue to act in the best interest of the entire district, and make our decisions based on what will be most effective in serving students across the city.
We hope Seattle students and families join us in a dialogue to bring “Excellence for All” to life. We believe our success as a community and the success of our children hinges upon our coming together. We must do whatever it takes to make our students successful.
Two Seattle Schools will be re-opening.
Emily Hefter is reporting in the Seattle Times article, Growing Enrollments Bring Rebirth for 2 Seattle Schools
The Seattle School Board voted in 2006 to close the two schools in opposite corners of the city, farming out students to nearby schools and letting jungles of weeds grow in the courtyards.
At the time, enrollment in Seattle Public Schools was at a 50-year low, and the contentious closures felt like evidence that families were fleeing the city, or at least the city’s public schools.
But after deciding to close 11 schools between 2006 and 2010, the district saw its enrollment trend reverse. Enrollment is up in other area districts, as well. The Northshore, Bellevue and Highline school districts all report gains this year.
So many new students enrolled in Seattle Public Schools that the School Board voted in 2009 and 2010 to reopen five schools, including Viewlands and Rainier View. McDonald, Queen Anne and Sand Point elementaries opened last year.
“The projections turned out to be inaccurate,” said Seattle School Board member Peter Maier. “There’s been a sea-change in enrollment. It went down, down, down for a number of years, and after these closure decisions were made, things changed.”
Maier attributed some of the enrollment rise to the difficult economy; fewer families can afford private school. And he said the district’s new, more predictable student-assignment plan — guaranteeing children enrollment in their neighborhood schools — attracted some families.
There are a number of candidate forums scheduled where voters will have the opportunity to meet incumbent school board members and challengers. Voters should question whether school closures saved the projected funds and voters should attempt to get factual answers about the true cost of school closures.
Here are some newspaper articles which provide some historical perspective about the school closing issue:
Jessica Blanchard’s Seattle PI article, Second phase of school closings halted which was Published 10:00 p.m., Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Dick Lilly’s January 05, 2009 Crosscut article, Seattle School Plan Due Tuesday Still Doesn’t Add Up
Closing Seattle schools: bringing excellence to all
Op-Ed, Seattle Times, November 30, 2008
By Seattle School Board members are Mary Bass, Sherry Carr, Cheryl Chow, Michael DeBell, Peter Maier, Harium Martin-Morris and Steve Sundquist.… Read the entire article here.
Seattle School Board approves talks on school closures
Seattle Times, October 30, 2008
With the Seattle School Board’s approval Wednesday, discussions about another round of school closures are about to begin in earnest… Read the entire article here.
Some schools must close, board Decides
Seattle PI, October 30, 2008
Seattle Public Schools needs to close an unspecified number of schools, save money and address longtime enrollment imbalances that have led to overcrowded schools… Read the entire article here.
A strategy for closing schools in Seattle
Editorial, Seattle Times, October 28, 2008
Two years ago, Seattle Public Schools closed seven buildings in a strategic step toward running a more efficient system… Read the entire article here.
First steps, finally, to a school vision
Seattle Times, May 14, 2008
Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson has mostly listened and learned about her new city and district… Read the entire article here.
Seattle Superintendent’s Lofty Goals Deserve Community Support
Seattle Times Op-ed, May 14, 2008, By Greg Nickels and Jon Bridge
At the Alliance for Education community breakfast this morning, an expected audience of 800 will hear Seattle school district Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson outline her strategic plan… Read the entire article here.
Seattle schools chief unveils academic goals in new “strategic plan”
Seattle Times, May 8, 2008
Seattle Public Schools would more than double the number of students meeting college-entrance requirements and vastly improve performance in science and math… Read the entire article here.
Seattle school chief’s plan puts district to the test
Seattle PI, May 21, 2008
The strategic plan Seattle Public Schools chief Maria Goodloe-Johnson unveiled Wednesday would mean… Read the entire article here.
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