West Seattle is getting a new elementary school, starting next year, after having closed two elementary campuses in the past four years. The Seattle School Board voted unanimously tonight to spend $6 million for a “short-term capacity-management” plan that includes reopening the former Boren Junior High School on Delridge – which has long served as an interim site for schools whose permanent campuses are temporarily out of commission – as a new elementary school. The district says it will focus on STEM – science, technology, engineering, mathematics – and will be an “option” school, the second one in West Seattle (joining Pathfinder K-8), meaning that it will admit students by application only, instead of serving a specific neighborhood zone. Boren is supposed to be the school’s temporary home, but its permanent home is not stipulated in the board motion, only that it will open this fall. Though this was part of the district’s “short-term capacity-management” proposal, intended overall to deal with overcrowding at many elementaries, district staff had previously acknowledged the new school would not likely draw off enough students from jampacked campuses to avert addition of more portables elsewhere – board member Harium Martin-Morris stressed before tonight’s vote that the district will wait for this spring’s enrollment data before deciding which schools, if any, need them.
In a series of community meetings, and other discussion venues (including here), West Seattle’s new board member Marty McLaren acknowledged she heard a strong sentiment for adding a new neighborhood school, but that was not possible for next year, and a week and a half ago, she changed her mind about trying to delay the “option” school plan. Board president Michael DeBell acknowledged during tonight’s meeting that West Seattle had been “tough” to deal with during the capacity-management discussions – without elaborating.
Next step: The district’s “open enrollment” period starts February 27th, and by then, we should know more about what the new school is supposed to be like. Meantime, the board is expected to start work soon on “intermediate” and “long-term” capacity management, which would include decisions about opening more schools, and possibly building at least one with money to be raised in the future BEX IV levy.