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Originally published Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 10:54 PM

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Changes proposed for Seattle schools

Seattle Public Schools may close another school next fall, and add or move programs as it works to ease overcrowding, expand popular offerings and fulfill its promise to offer challenging courses at all schools.

Seattle Times education reporter

Seattle Public Schools may close another school next fall, and add or move programs as it works to ease overcrowding, expand popular offerings and fulfill its promise to offer challenging courses at all schools.

In discussions with the School Board, district administrators have raised the possibility of closing Alternative School No. 1, the oldest public alternative school in the city, although a number of board members Wednesday night doubted whether that would be fair or smart, given that there might not be room for those students at nearby alternative schools.

The other proposal under consideration is to give the school more time to attract more students. Alternative School No. 1, which has about 150 students this year, has been threatened with closure several times over the past few years.

To ease overcrowding at Garfield High, administrators are looking at opening a new program at Ingraham High aimed at attracting some of the gifted students who otherwise would be assigned to Garfield.

The proposed new program would be modeled after one at Interlake High School in Bellevue, where students finish the rigorous International Baccalaureate program by the end of their junior year, then do internships or take college classes as seniors.

There's also talk of adding six more international schools over the next three years, places where students can learn a second language by spending a part of their day in classes where teachers speak only Chinese or Spanish or Japanese.

It's unclear how much money the district might have for any of these proposals. It is expecting to lose as much as $11 million to $12 million in state funding alone, and maybe more.

But they are all under discussion as the district works on its budget for the 2011-12 school year, and prepares for "open enrollment" in March — the time when parents can request schools other than the ones where their children would automatically be assigned.

Any decisions that would affect families' choices will be finalized before then.

Those decisions will also include any changes to the way the district is phasing in its new, neighborhood-based system of assigning students to schools.

That system, which started this fall, caused some problems including overcrowding at Garfield High and a number of other schools.

The board is scheduled to vote in January on any changes to the phase-in plans.

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One recommendation that is sure to raise controversy is to stop efforts to place all incoming kindergartners at an older sibling's school if that school isn't their assigned school.

Parents lobbied hard for that this year, but the district says there's just not enough space to continue doing it.

The idea of opening a new program for highly gifted students at Ingraham seemed to have a lot of support among board members Wednesday. Coupled with other proposals, such as perhaps reducing the size of Garfield's boundaries, they hope it might be enough to solve overcrowding there.

But the district also is considering a nonvoluntary program that would split students in the Accelerated Progress Program between Garfield and Ingraham, starting with next fall's freshmen.

Most board members did not express support for closing Alternative School No. 1, with some saying that the central office hurt the school by threatening it with closure in the past.

Two other schools also have been singled out for having low enrollment — Madrona K-8 and Rainier Beach High. At those schools, district staff are talking about adding programs to draw more students.

Some of the other proposals under discussion:

• Opening a new program for elementary-school students who are learning to speak English at Viewlands Elementary, one of the schools closed a few years ago. The district would close the English program that now exists at John Stanford International School.

• Expanding the classes offered at the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center, the school where older immigrants go to learn English. The idea is to offer enough classes so that students can stay at the center through high school. The district is talking about phasing in that new program, starting with ninth-graders next fall.

• In addition to starting a new gifted program at Ingraham, that school may be one of the new international schools and house a new career-and-technical-education program.

Linda Shaw: 206-464-2359 or lshaw@seattletimes.com

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