Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Explosive growth just south of the border.

The growing number of young families in the city's North End is raising concerns about the capacity of the elementary schools there, with hundreds of families on waiting lists this year for their favored schools.

Jennifer Smead said she was stunned to find out the Seattle School District had assigned her daughter to kindergarten at a school she did not ask for, in a neighborhood she did not know, in a building at least four miles away.

"I kind of was in this disbelief," said Smead, who lives within walking distance of Bryant Elementary School — the school she wanted most.

The district saw a spike in enrollment this year, with 11,116 applications, including new students and transfers, up from 10,880 last year. But there was a downside: In a system where parents rank schools in order of preference, fewer got their first or second choice. In the northeast part of the city, the problem is particularly acute. Elementary-school enrollment has increased by 229 students in the past five years, with Bryant Elementary emerging as the hands-on favorite. This year, 82 families are on the waiting list.

Some have been assigned to John Rogers Elementary School, at the opposite end of their neighborhood cluster — district-defined boundaries for assigning students to schools. At Bryant Elementary on Thursday, about 100 parents gathered to discuss their overall concerns with district officials — everything from outdated boundaries to long bus rides.

"We have a system that's failing, and we know that it's failing," School Board member Harium Martin-Morris said after the meeting.

The School Board is revamping the way it assigns students to schools and expects to have a new plan in place in fall 2010. Under an outline the board passed in June, families would still be able to choose a school, but the district would guarantee each student a seat in a school near his or her home.

District leaders say the new plan would be more predictable and consistent than the current system. Now, students and their families submit a list of preferences, and a series of rules determines where students are assigned.

But the district can do nothing to change demographics. And a new study projects about 600 additional elementary-age students in the North End by 2012.

"I think this is a crisis, and I think it's not going to go away," said Erin Gustafson, whose daughter starts at Bryant Elementary next year. "People who want to send their kids to public school in Seattle are going to keep moving into this neighborhood."

In the South End, declining enrollment has forced several schools to close. But Beacon Hill Elementary, where a dual-language immersion program begins this fall, has a waiting list — 48 students — for the first time in years. Graham Hill and Kimball elementary schools also had waiting lists in the fall.

Still, the longest kindergarten waiting lists were in the North End, from 50 families at Salmon Bay K-8 to 93 at TOPS K-8.

School Board member Michael DeBell said the trend is troubling because there's just not enough room on that end of town. The district shut down a slew of schools there starting in the 1970s. Now it has to consider other options.

"I think the situation at Bryant is the leading edge of the district having to grapple with this," DeBell said. The district has already created four additional kindergarten classes, at View Ridge, Wedgwood, Laurelhurst and Rogers, to meet the demand in the northeast for next year. And at Thursday's meeting, officials promised to create another class, the location of which to be announced next week.

Cara Solomon


Anonymous said...

just close schools or ask the mexicans to move in to your house.

Anonymous said...

Here's info on the tech levy as posted on the Edmonds School Distrcit home page. They're getting two "No" votes at our home.

Message from the Board and Superintendent
The Edmonds School District is holding an election Tuesday, May 20, 2008, to renew its Technology/Capital Levy. Below you will find more detailed information on this measure.

The intent to put this measure on the ballot for renewal was shared extensively with the community when the original measure was put before voters in May 2004. Since that time, information on how the funds from the 2004 levy have been used to support student learning has been shared in Edmonds School District News newsletters to the community, through presentations to community groups and organizations, website postings, and through school-based communications and meetings.

"We continue to manage our assets wisely," said School Board member Gary Noble. "We work very hard to ensure capital and technology improvements contribute directly to student learning and safety. We are committed to make sure these taxpayer-funded improvements are maintained, repaired, and replaced so that students are learning with appropriate technology tools in safe, well-maintained schools."

School Board Vice President Ann McMurray, formerly a longtime district Citizen Planning Committee (CPC) member, is quite familiar with the ongoing efforts of the District to involve its community in identifying needs and priorities.

"There is a need for continued and diligent maintenance of all of our schools and for each classroom in these schools to continue to have the technology tools used in helping to improve student learning," McMurray said.

Superintendent Nick Brossoit added: "This is a supportive community and the passage of this levy in 2004 was an important first step. We now have an opportunity to put each of our classrooms on a replacement cycle to ensure basic operable and up-to-date technology for student learning is equitably available to all students.

"Additionally, this measure allows us to continue the work we do with students and to support a safe learning environment in which it can occur. We encourage people to vote on May 20, 2008."

Anonymous said...

I think the board and supt. and staff have their heads buried in the sand! Who's going to protect students and staff the first time someone enters a building with a load weapon(s)? Will the Supt. take a bullet for me? I doubt it! The emergency process we have in place doesn't even work on a daily bases with non emergency notifications, drills and such so how do they think a real emergency will be handle and save lifes! I'm looking out for number one "ME" if the big one hits and not depending on the emergency processes.