Proposal to close 6 school buildings
Seattle Public Schools unveiled school-closure recommendations Tuesday that include mothballing six buildings, closing another one for at least a few years, and moving nine schools or parts of schools from one building to another.
Seattle Times education reporter
Meetings to discuss planHere are dates for upcoming meetings and votes on the school-closure decision.
Community workshops: Dec. 4, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Seattle Public Schools headquarters, 2445 3rd Ave. S.; Dec. 6, 10 a.m. — noon, Filipino Community Center, 5740 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
Public hearings: Dec, 15,16,18 — locations to be determined. Jan. 22, 6 p.m., Seattle Public Schools headquarters, 2445 3rd Ave. S.
Final recommendation: Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson will release her final recommendation Jan. 6.
Final vote: Jan. 29, School Board votes on final proposal, Seattle Public Schools headquarters, 2445 3rd Ave. S.
Comments: In addition, comments can be e-mailed to email@example.com or mailed to: School Board, P.O. Box 34165, MS 11-010, Seattle, WA 98124-1165
Source: Seattle Public Schools
Recommendations to boardThe Seattle Public Schools has made a preliminary recommendation to close or relocate these schools:
Schools that would close: T.T. Minor Elementary, African American Academy, Alternative School No. 1, Arbor Heights Elementary and Meany Middle School.
Schools that would relocate: Lowell APP, NOVA, Pathfinder K-8, Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center, Summit K-12, Thornton Creek, T.T. Minor K-3 Montessori, Thurgood Marshall EBOC, Van Asselt.
Buildings that would close: Genesee Hill (houses Pathfinder), Lowell, Mann (houses NOVA), T.T. Minor, Pinehurst (houses Alternative School No. 1), Van Asselt, Old Hay (houses Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center).
Source: Seattle Public Schools
Seattle Public School officials unveiled recommendations Tuesday to mothball six buildings, close another for at least a few years, and move nine schools — or parts of schools — to different buildings.
The proposals are the latest effort to bring the number of schools in Seattle in line with the number of students. They are intended to save money, but district staff also say they worked to strengthen the district's academic offerings and give students in some neighborhoods better access to specialized programs.
The gifted program for the district's most capable elementary students, for example, would move from Lowell in Central Seattle to two schools — Thurgood Marshall Elementary near Interstate 90 and Hawthorne Elementary in South Seattle.
In addition, strong programs housed in buildings in poor condition, such as Pathfinder Elementary in West Seattle, would get new homes. Pathfinder would move to the building that now houses Arbor Heights Elementary, which would close.
"This is not fun," said Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson. "This is really difficult."
No one on the staff wants to close schools, she said, "but the brutal fact is that we don't have a choice."
The recommendations are preliminary, and School Board members raised many questions and concerns at a meeting Tuesday. Several worried about the number of changes proposed for the Central Area, for example, and why staffers didn't recommend closing a large high school.
Some parents from the affected schools had already head the news, and showed up with protest signs.
Goodloe-Johnson will make her final recommendations Jan. 6, and the district plans a series of public meetings and hearings over the next two months before the School Board takes a final vote Jan. 29.
Under the recommendation, any closures or moves would take effect in fall 2009.
The closure discussion is part of a district effort to cut costs. The changes wouldn't save enough to fill the anticipated budget gap for the 2009-10 school year, staffers say, but they'd help. For this school year, the district dipped into reserves to balance the budget, knowing it was a short-term fix.
The district has estimated it would have to reduce its expenses by $24 million for the 2009-10 school year. But the district's Chief Finance and Operations Officer Don Kennedy said Tuesday possible cuts in state funding could potentially double that. Seattle's not the only district with budget woes. The Lake Washington School District recently considered closing one of its schools, although the board eventually decided against it.
Seattle closed seven schools in 2006 but that didn't take care of all the district's excess capacity.
It's unclear whether this recommendation would either.
The buildings recommended for closure are: Lowell, which now houses some special-education programs along with the gifted program; NOVA alternative high school; Pathfinder K-8; T.T. Minor Elementary in Central Seattle; Alternative School No. 1 in North Seattle; Van Asselt Elementary in Southeast Seattle; and the secondary Bilingual Orientation Program (BOC) on Queen Anne Hill. The building that houses the secondary BOC, however, might reopen as an elementary school because schools in its neighborhood are crowded.
Most of the schools in buildings slated to close would move to newer buildings in better condition, except part of T.T. Minor, and Alternative School No. 1, which would close.
Besides Arbor Heights, T.T. Minor and Alternative School No. 1, the other programs recommended for closure are the African American Academy in Southeast Seattle and Meany Middle in Central Seattle.
The district estimates it will save $300,000-$600,000 a year from closing an elementary school, and $600,000-$1.2 million from a middle school. Precise numbers are still in the works. One of the more interesting recommendations is for NOVA alternative school to share space with the secondary BOC in the building that now houses Meany Middle.
The hope is that the two programs would give the BOC's immigrant students more opportunity to talk to English-speaking peers, and give NOVA students the chance to interact with students from all over the world.
There also are plans to turn the secondary BOC into a school where students stay for their full high-school careers.
The staff also recommended moving Summit K-12 alternative school, with its strong arts program, to Rainier Beach High School, which is putting renewed focus on the arts under the district's Southeast Initiative. The two schools would be separate but share the building.
Staffers also recommended opening a new, regular elementary school in Northeast Seattle to help ease overcrowding in that part of the city. That school would be where Thornton Creek Elementary is now. Thornton Creek, an alternative school, would become a K-8 and move to Summit K-12's building.
Students in schools that close would be assigned to another school close to home or could apply elsewhere. Students at schools that move could apply to a different school, too.
The recommendations also include a number of changes for special-education programs at the affected schools.
The criteria used to choose which schools should be closed were similar those used in 2006. The condition of the building played a big role, as well as how many students go to school in the surrounding neighborhoods and the school's academic performance.
But this time, staffers also looked for ways to help strengthen the district's offerings.
That wasn't ignored in 2006, said district spokeswoman Patti Spencer, "but it was not as intentional."
The recommendations are sure to draw opposition. Parents with students in Lowell's gifted program, for example, have long been an organized and vocal group. And discontinuing the African American Academy is sure to be a blow to the people who fought to create that school two decades ago, and have done a lot to nurture and support it.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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