By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The organization that was planning to open West Seattle’s first charter school in the former Freedom Church space at 35th and Roxbury is putting the plan on hold for at least a year.
That announcement comes amid uncertainty about the fate of charter schools in our state, after the state Supreme Court ruled that they weren’t entitled to “common” state funds, and refused to revisit the ruling.
A West Seattle parent just forwarded us this e-mail announcement sent last night by the Summit employee hired to lead the West Seattle school, Summit Atlas – Greg Ponikvar:
Dear West Seattle families,
I want to thank you all for your ongoing support of Summit Public Schools. I have been so impressed with the passion you have shown for ensuring your children and all students in Washington have the choice of attending a public charter school.
Unfortunately, with the state Supreme Court ruling public charter schools “unconstitutional,” we have had to make some difficult decisions. While we are still deeply committed to opening a middle/high school in West Seattle, we have decided to delay opening Summit Atlas until the 2017‐18 school year as we work toward a legislative fix that will ensure public charter schools have a secure future in the state of Washington.
I know this is incredibly disappointing to our families and students in West Seattle who are eager to enroll their students next fall. I want to encourage those of you with incoming 9th and 10th graders to consider Summit Sierra.
I hope you will also continue to be a voice of support for public charter schools so that we are able to open Summit Atlas in 2017. The state legislature meets again in January, and we need our state legislators to hear from parents and students about the importance of school choice and the need to move forward with a Summit Public School in West Seattle. If you would like to contact your state representatives to make your voice heard, you can find them here.
While we have delayed the opening, we will continue working hard on our plans in West Seattle. An additional year will allow us to continue building community support for the school which will ultimately make our school’s foundation even stronger. Please join me for coffee on Tuesday, December 15 anytime between 8 and 11 am at Dubsea Coffee in White Center to ask questions and share ideas.
Thank you again for your ongoing support and partnership. We will continue to keep you updated with important events and announcements as we approach the upcoming legislative session.
As reported by the education-news site Seattle Schools Community Forum, the state Charter School Commission – chaired by West Seattleite Steve Sundquist – met this week and started the process of shutting down, with state charter funding running out as of next week. Meantime, some of the already-open schools have been reported to be looking at other options for staying open and funded, including affiliating with a small school district in Northeastern Washington.
We broke the news of the West Seattle charter-school plan at the start of this year, after discovering early-stage documents in city Department of Planning and Development files. Summit Public Schools – a California firm that opened its first Washington schools this fall in Tacoma and in Seattle’s International District – was soon revealed as the school’s prospective operator, and this summer it was approved to open a middle-and-high-school campus at the 35th/Roxbury site.
Meantime, Washington Charter School Development – also the local arm of a California firm – bought the site from Freedom Church for $4.75 million. Interior renovations were planned so that the first two grades could start next fall, with building additions planned later; Freedom Church leased the site back for a while but has now purchased and moved into its own new location in Skyway, so the prospective school site is in essence vacant.
We’re checking with Summit for more information on what happens now, both for families who had been seeking to attend the future school and for the site, a prominent, sizable piece of Arbor Heights real estate. The organization had told WSB twice since the Supreme Court’s ruling on charter funding that they were moving forward with the West Seattle plan.