Happening now: New Seattle Public Schools attendance boundaries

(scroll down for updates from ongoing School Board “work session”)

(map added 4:43 pm – click here for full list of full-size map links)
We’re at district HQ in SODO, where Seattle Public Schools‘ new school-by-school attendance boundaries are to be presented to the School Board momentarily. We’ll add a link as soon as they are published online, and will also add noteworthy details from the meeting as it happens; the district has two meetings in West Seattle next week to answer questions and take feedback, and a final board vote is planned next month. We have a printout with a citywide look at the maps – for starters, the high-school attendance areas for West Seattle are fairly easy to read on the map – the border between WSHS and CSHS attendance areas starts in the west on the north border of Lincoln Park, then jogs up a bit to SW Myrtle running east to 35th SW, and then it jogs north to be SW Graham (straight line to the Duwamish from there).

4:28 PM UPDATE: Dr. Tracy Libros says that new enrollment counts show SPS enrollment is up and they might have to tweak what they are presenting now, since these boundaries are based on data from a year ago, with “moderate growth projections.” She says they will need to “open buildings to meet the needs of current and projected students” – reversing past school closures. Meantime, we’re continuing to review the printout of the attendance-area map: For West Seattle’s two middle schools, Madison’s area includes the areas for Alki, Lafayette, Schmitz Park, Sanislo, and part of Gatewood – looks like everything else is in Denny’s area.

4:34 PM UPDATE: The maps have just been posted online. Meantime, Dr. Libros is listing the closed schools that are proposed to reopen – none in West Seattle (so far) – Sand Point, Old Hay, McDonald, Rainier View, Viewlands. And now – which schools feed into which middle school – she lists the feeders for Denny International Middle School as Arbor Heights, Concord, Gatewood, Highland Park, Roxhill, West Seattle. Feeder schools for Madison Middle School – which will be adding the Spectrum gifted program, it was noted – are Alki, Lafayette, Sanislo, Schmitz Park.

4:50 PM UPDATE: Now the “implementation issues,” as Libros puts it – grandfathering of current students means they “may stay through the school’s last grade and need not reapply, as long as the services that student needs are available at that school” – they will keep assignment if they move within the district, but will lose grandfathered status if they leave the school. 2010-2011 assignments “will apply to entry-grade students – K, 6, 9 – students in other grades may apply to their new attendance area school; assignment on a space-available basis using tiebreakers.” They are working on a “transition plan” – addressing issues including kindergarten siblings, “open choice” seats at high schools (10% but what does that mean?), transportation grandfathering, geographic zones for “option schools,” equal access to advanced-learning programs.

5:04 PM UPDATE: There’s also, it’s noted, a “lookup tool” on the same page from which the maps are linked – click the big yellow badge and you’ll be able to look up the schools in the proposed attendance areas for your address. (We’re trying it right now and it seems to be hourglassing, FWIW.) Board Q/A is about to begin – president Michael DeBell says “it’s been 39 years since we’ve had a reliable assignment plan for (the district).” (5:11 pm – we got into the lookup tool. Here’s a direct link. 5:20 pm – There’s a survey online for plan feedback too – go here.)

5:27 PM UPDATE: West Seattle school-board rep Steve Sundquist’s first question was a followup on the mention that Madison is going to offer the Spectrum advanced-learning program – he wondered if there also will be a “West Seattle South” elementary school offering Spectrum (which currently is available only at Lafayette, in WS) – the answer from Libros was a little convoluted but it sounded like it boiled down to “yes” and that information indicating where, will be on the district website by tomorrow.

5:37 PM: School board member Harium Martin-Morris is asking about an issue that parents have brought up in West Seattle as well: Can Metro handle all the student transportation it’s being asked to handle? Libros says the district is working closely with them – but Martin-Morris is concerned, for example, about students having to spend a lot of time on Aurora because of Ingraham’s new area: “I have some concerns about the reliability of the service and the safety of the service,” he says. Sundquist is following up on that by noting the difficulties that Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill families have had in getting to Sealth, and saying “this is a transition issue for us.”

6:03 PM: Reminder that two meetings are coming up next week where you can ask about the plans and offer feedback – Thursday 10/15, 6:30 pm, West Seattle HS; Friday 10/16, 6:30 pm, Denny IMS. Full list of meetings citywide, here.

6:19 PM: The meeting’s in a break and we’re leaving. For continuing coverage, we recommend saveseattleschools.blogspot.com, where writer/district watchdog Melissa Westbrook is here, and where you’ll find discussion threads on each separate component of the plan. Also, our partners at the Seattle Times have published an overview story here.

10:37 PM UPDATE: One point of discussion in the comments has been the fact the attendance boundaries for Denny and Sealth are not aligned – considering that the two schools will be co-located in less than two years. Here are screen grabs:

37 Replies to "Happening now: New Seattle Public Schools attendance boundaries"

  • Lisa K. October 6, 2009 (5:12 pm)

    Thoughts out there as to why Sanislo is entirely in the Madison pool? Many families there are choosing Denny these days for middle school, and geographically, it makes sense for those of us (especially in the southern portion of the cluster) to attend Denny. Seems to make sense to me that if Gatewood is being portioned (I assume geographically) to feed both schools, it would make sense to do the same for Sanislo (and WS Elem??).

  • WSB October 6, 2009 (5:22 pm)

    Lisa – Tracy Libros is talking right now about “diversity” (of many kinds, not just ethnic) regarding one of the factors they used when drawing the boundaries – Steve Sundquist hasn’t asked any questions yet (wouldn’t it be great if you could “tweet” or text him a question directly that you’d like to see asked on WS behalf?) but I wonder if they were trying to avoid an absolute north/south or east/west split … TR

  • GenHillOne October 6, 2009 (5:49 pm)

    Something interesting to note if you live ON one of the streets marked as a border (we used to). Imagine that the line goes down the MIDDLE of the street. We were badly surprised many years ago to find out that the kids across the street were in one cluster, while we were in another. It even confused the registration staff and we were initially given the wrong information. Save yourself some grief and triple check if you live on one of those black or brown lines!

  • Susan October 6, 2009 (6:23 pm)

    Hi– can’t tell from the map. What is the northern street boundary for Schmitz Park? Looks like Stevens Way, but not sure! Does anyone know? I couldn’t figure it out.

  • WSB October 6, 2009 (6:25 pm)

    If you have an address near there – try the lookup tool we linked to. Probably your best bet.

  • Lisa K. October 6, 2009 (7:26 pm)

    Just checked out the “school finder” tool. When I entered our address, I find that we are now in Lafayette’s reference area. I know it is a great school, but REALLY? We’re in Delridge, by the library. How can that possibly be our “neighborhood” school? I guess my family living on a single teacher’s salary is part of the economic diversity SPS is trying to foster? My daughter has her heart set on going to her big brother’s school (Sanislo). Guess I know what I’ll be doing on the evenings of the 15th and 16th.

  • pam October 6, 2009 (8:08 pm)

    lisa k.-
    looks like your family is in the same boat as ours. please feel free to copy and paste the following into an email to the members of the school board… I’m starting a little petition encouraging this idea, maybe they will buy it.

    “Concerning a family who has a child or children who currently reside in and attend their CURRENT reference area school:

    If the new boundaries would move this child and his or her siblings to a different reference school and/or cluster, that child, and his or her siblings will be able to continue to attend the historic reference school and cluster; essentially the family would be “grandfathered” to the previous reference school.”

    I feel that it is very important to distinguish these families, like ours, who consciously and deliberately purchased a home within a certain reference area so that our children, and family, could actively participate in the neighborhood school community. We worked hard to find a home that would ensure us the greatest opportunity to attend our neighborhood reference school. It is dissappointing (to say the least) to think that our hard work to accomodate and honor the historic reference area boundaries may be overlooked with a blanket policy eliminating the grandfathering of siblings.

    I am sure that there are a limited number of families who are in the overlap areas where boundary lines may shift a few blocks. Please give us the opportunity to continue our lifestyle (home, school, and community) that we have worked hard to establish and grown to love and cherish. We are obviously not families who would require complicated transportation strategies. We just want our children to be able to continue to learn together at their neighborhood school.

  • SRC October 6, 2009 (8:57 pm)

    Lisa K. & Pam…
    Your argument is extremely valid considering SPS’s push to involve families in the learning community, (especially the “Flight School’s” program, both of which Sanislo and Denny MS are a part of).

  • Lisa K October 6, 2009 (9:05 pm)

    Pam: I am completely with you on your idea and will make sure our school board members know that our family is supportive of your suggestion. It makes sense.

    SRC: It appears that the Lafayette reference area was drawn in such a way as to pull students from an historically lower economically-advantaged neighborhood to integrate a more-advantaged one. I’m all behind diversity—that’s a big part of why I live in Delridge and I’m at Sanislo—but the current maps have families in our immediate neighborhood attending a school 3 miles from home, rather than the one a mile and a bit away. Why put families who, in theory, may already face struggles to be engaged in their school (transportation, poverty, work schedules, language barriers, cultural differences, etc.) further from a closer, neighborhood school?

    This draft map also implies that many of those families displaced from Cooper Elem. this year will face yet another possible change next year—the area gathered into Lafayette’s reference area is (if I read the map correctly) largely the area that used to attend Cooper and now attends Sanislo. Can’t SPS give those folks a break for once?

  • pam October 6, 2009 (9:30 pm)

    wow lisa those are excellent points!! I hope the board is listening to you. you are an awesome advocate for your neighborhood and our kids. thank you!
    src- thank you for your encouragement, this is difficult and it really means a great deal to know that our ideas are understood and supported.

  • SarahA October 6, 2009 (10:02 pm)

    Anyone notice that the Denny/Sealth boundaries don’t line up? Wasn’t the benifit of the colocation continuity? It doesn’t make sense to have kids walk to Denny/Sealth for middle school, then take a bus to WS for high school.

  • Lura Ercolano October 6, 2009 (10:13 pm)

    I am stunned that Denny Middle School isn’t feeding into Chief Sealth High School. When the district pushed the combined campus for Sealth and Denny, we heard so much about the wonderful advantages of having a continuous educational program between the two schools, with staff cooperating, and with the ability, as the years go on, to develop special programs such as Mariachi that would keep students connected as they advanced from middle school to high school.

    Of course there are pros and cons to the combined campus model, and many parents were upset about the process that occurred, but district staff and the school administrators were sure that the advantages outweighed the disadvantages. Well okay, THEN STICK TO THAT! Have Denny feed into Sealth, so that the educational pathway concept can be developed and applied, and have it actually mean something.

  • jsrekd October 7, 2009 (7:56 am)

    Lura! Hi, Ryan’s mom here – and I was stunned to find the same thing, we are one block north of the Sealth Boundary. Our youngest would be expected to attend Denny, get involved in the music program there, which cooperates with the Sealth music program, even to the extent that the teachers teach at both schools – only to be told they’re going to WSHS? What is the benefit of co-location if we can’t take advantage of it??

  • WSMOM October 7, 2009 (10:02 am)

    Would someone mind ranking the elementary schools, or putting them in categories relating to their quality? I’m looking at buying in the area and want to make sure I’m in a good elementary school zone. Someone told me that the farther north you go the better. Is that correct? Thanks!

  • jsrekd October 7, 2009 (10:25 am)

    I don’t agree that the further north the better — and as far as ranking them, they change out our principals so often, it’s hard to know what will happen from one year to the next. We’ve had three principals in 5 years…..just saying….

  • beachdrivegirl October 7, 2009 (10:35 am)

    I am with WSMom- it would be great to hear feedback on the elementary schools.

  • KH October 7, 2009 (10:58 am)

    I would also like to hear some feedback on the current quality of elementary schools. We are in the West Seattle Elementary zone with Pathfinder as our “option school.” We have a child starting kindergarten next year and having checked recent test scores for West Seattle (formerly High Point), we’re now looking to move or figure out a way to finance Lady of Guadalupe.

    All of that said, the latest data available is for 2008 and we are still very early in the process of researching schools.

  • WSB October 7, 2009 (11:04 am)

    You are all certainly welcome to discuss schools in general in this thread but I also invite you to the West Seattle Schools section of the WSB Forums, where such discussions have taken place before and at least one has just reopened.
    is the index page for that section of the forums.

  • JRJ October 7, 2009 (12:10 pm)

    I currently have a son at Sanislo, 2nd grade. It is currently North cluster (even though Sanislo is 2 miles from our house.) When our son was entering Kindergarten, we did the school tours and after a many sleepless nights, research and discussion, we chose Sanislo. NO regrets. We love the community and our son is flourishing. We love the diversity at Sanislo. He has a close community of friends and feels comfortable in the environment. He is always talking about the teachers he will get to have in future years and does so with excitement. He can’t wait to “show his little sister the ropes” at Sanislo. With the new boundaries set by SPS — WSE is our reference school. Now that we have to grapple with the idea of three choices given to us by the SPS regarding our 3 year old.
    1. Do we put her at WS Elemntary, dealing with two drop-offs and pick-ups and two PTAs.
    2. Do we pull our son out of Sanislo, a school he will have been attending for 4 years, and put him in a new school?
    3. Appeal the school assignment — which could end up being futile.

    How can the new rules help parents to be involved in the public schools their kids are attending? Especially when the new zoning will be taking some people (such as Lisa K) out of their neighborhoods….And, dividing siblings among different schools….

    My big question is how will the SPS deal with families who have the same situation regarding siblings? This is a huge deal for us and I am sure many different families in the same situation whose older siblings are going to non-reference schools.

  • add October 7, 2009 (12:27 pm)

    Does the grandfathering proposal not include siblings? I thought it did. It’s a little confusing. If that’s true, not guaranteeing that siblings can attend the same school is RIDICULOUS.

  • WSB October 7, 2009 (12:39 pm)

    Nope, siblings are not guaranteed the same school. That’s been just about the biggest discussion point in all this so far. I strongly urge everyone with concerns to use the several different means of feedback already communicated, in addition to showing up en masse at next week’s meetings. From the plan:


    Entering siblings of current students are not “grandfathered” but are eligible for the sibling tiebreaker, which is the first tiebreaker for available seats after assignment of attendance area students. The sibling tiebreaker is applicable for assignment to a school, but not for assignment to a specific program within a school.

    For option schools – schools without an attendance area population – all entry grade seats are open as at present. With the sibling tiebreaker, there will be no change from the current system for entry grade siblings applying to an option school.

    The issue of “grandfathering” incoming kindergarten siblings is not part of the Student Assignment Plan itself, but is an implementation issue. It is the Board’s desire to address “grandfathering” of incoming kindergarten students as part of the transition plan, provided that this is feasible without displacing incoming attendance area kindergarten students. The transition plan will address this issue.<<<

  • curlyq October 7, 2009 (12:42 pm)

    My understanding is it’s a matter of space–I totally get the reason why g-fathering sibs is logical, but what if there’s limited space at the school? Does that seat go to a sibling or to a kindergartner that lives near the school? Not an easy problem to solve when viewed this way. I don’t have a solution, but it’s helpful I think to understand the complexity of what is being attempted here.

  • WSB October 7, 2009 (12:49 pm)

    For anyone with a few minutes to leaf through it, the district has just sent the Power Point that was presented at the board session yesterday:
    The school board has its regular meeting tonight but this won’t be voted on till November, after what is bound to be voluminous feedback comes in.

  • steve October 7, 2009 (1:05 pm)

    JRJ and KH: I also have W Seattle Elem as the reference school for our 2 children. I have attempted to open up an old topic about WS Elementary in the Schools Forum and would love to talk about it. What happens to the families that have a low performing school as our reference school? I truly want to love our neighborhood school but need to hear from others about W Sea Elementary.

  • JRJ October 7, 2009 (2:33 pm)

    To he honest, I know very little about WSE, although last I knew, they did not have a PTA. That being said, I know that they have or did have the Spectrum program. I don’t know what to say about WSE being a low performing school, because the optimist in me thinks that every school has to start somewhere and there can always be improvement, especially with support from the parents and community. We didn’t choose Sanislo based on test scores, but rather the feeling we got from our K tour. It just seemed and has proven to be a good fit. I just feel like one of the perks of the SPS so far, has been the ability to choose a school — Now, I understand that the population is growing and space is decreasing, thereby creating an issue with kids not being to get into their reference school — So why then, does the SPS continue to close schools, thereby increasing the class size and worsening the already exsiting issue of availability for reference students? WS is growing and becoming an even more popular place for families — shouldn’t the SPS take this into account and find more space rather than continue to take it away? Just a thought and more a “vent.”

  • Roberta October 7, 2009 (4:12 pm)

    For those of you looking for good research and school rankings, check out The Frasier Institute (for WA state) school rankings report online. It has great information. For those of you considering moving to get in to a particular reference area, consider this: we relocated North within W. Seattle about 2 1/2 months ago to the Schmitz Park reference area to ensure that our daughter (and baby on the way) would be able to attend. As of yesterday, we are now 2 blocks South of the reference area for SP and will have to drive past SP next year to get to our assigned school. We have been assigned to a school 2 miles away when our “neighborhood” school is less than a mile away. Don’t see how this fits in the “Neighborhood Schools” plan.

  • elena October 7, 2009 (5:10 pm)

    Any good Private Middle school in West Seattle that anyone can recommend? With this map we’ve just been kicked out of the Seattle public schools.

  • steve October 7, 2009 (5:50 pm)

    Thanks for the info Roberta. Things don’t look too great for W Sea Elementary so far. JRJ: I’ve also heard about no PTA and that the Spectrum curriculum is basically a joke, but who knows, I’ve heard this from people who don’t even have kids attending there. I’m still hoping someone will chime in here or in the schools forum to talk about the school.

  • SpeakLoud October 7, 2009 (7:53 pm)

    Elena: Explorer West.
    Steve and other WSE refference families-the point of this new boundry is to CHANGE these outcomes. The more English speaking, functioning and involved families that they have in the school the better the outcomes will be for ALL the children that attend. The idea is to level the playing field. This is how all public schools should be set-up-you can’t look at last years scores because they didn’t have YOU there!!!

  • Concord Mom October 7, 2009 (9:23 pm)

    WSMOM- Your comment is troubling to me as a teacher and parent in West Seattle. We live and send our children to a school in the west seattle south cluster. The south end schools are great and have lots of wonderful things happening. We think there are great options for all west seattle families and hope you would refrain from making assumptions that are incorrect and not helpful for our west seattle community.

  • beachdrivegirl October 8, 2009 (8:06 am)

    what are peoples preferences between Schmitz & Alki Elementary? What about Pathfinder?

  • beachdrivegirl October 8, 2009 (9:25 am)

    The discussion has moved to the forums. Here is the link:


  • ZS October 8, 2009 (11:46 am)

    I like our assignment – no complaints. I hope they do not change based on feedback. You can never satisfy everyone.

    The only issue that seems a like a logical argument though is that they should keep siblings at the same school.


  • DHE October 8, 2009 (1:56 pm)

    1) Under the new plan, our kids (Delridge) would be bused nearly 3x farther away than their neighborhood school.
    2) A kid at 35th and Edmunds is designated Alki, which is farther away than 5-count em-5 other schools (according to googlemaps, Schmitz, LaFayette, Sanislo, Gatewood, and WS Element. are all closer).

    The fundamental problem with the “delridge to LaFayette busing problem”…they should have closed Alki, not because it had any problems, but because they have to go really far away to find enough kids. If you look at the map, and see how close together all the N End elementaries are, you realize that they’re keeping these schools intact at the price of sending Delridge kids far, far away.

    T-shirts talk.

  • Fiona October 8, 2009 (5:33 pm)

    If you have an entering kindergartener that is referenced to a different school than your older child, you should reference http://www.keepourkidstogether.org and sign the online petition, and there’s a survey by the cpps to vote on hot topics and that is the number one issue at http://cppsofseattle.uservoice.com/pages/30542-ideas-for-seattle-public-schools. Remember to tell your friends to check their address, I’ve had to alert many families!

  • Kris October 8, 2009 (8:20 pm)

    Did you notice, they are re-opening schools in North Seattle, of course, while our schools in WS are overloaded with portables.

    The district should line up Denny and Sealth. Email them, attend meetings and email them again.

    Neighborhood schools? Not our neighborhood, either!!

    In the Schmitz Park area (where we live 5 blocks from school and have sent 5 kids) they are hacking our area off and would send the little kids walking up and down and crossing steep, busy and dangerous Admiral way to Alki. Whoever made the boundaries doesn’t know West Seattle and didn’t seem to care about “neighborhoods”.

  • yumpears October 9, 2009 (8:57 am)

    I think they had to make the attendance area for Schmitz Park smaller because there are so many kids in the area – the school fills up fast. Last year we had Schmitz Park as our first choice; primarily because it was a decent school and the closest to our house (we are 6 houses south of Alaska which was the boundary for their walk zone last year). We were assigned to Alki and put on the waitlist for Schmitz Park – as this was our first child heading to school we were shocked by the assignment. We ended up going to a couple of the Summer Saturday play dates for families with incoming kindergartners and got to know some of the families before school started. When we got the call that we could get into Schmitz Park off the waitlist, we turned it down and decided to stay with Alki. We are very happy with our decision. Our child had a great year, a fabulous teacher, we have a wonderful sense of community at our school and this year we got an awesome new principal who has a real focus on reading and writing. There are many parents that volunteer and an active PTA.

    It was a great fit for us and I was really worried that the new student assignment plan would put my second child into a different school next year – I just could not see how they could include my house with Alki. But by a stroke a pure luck we have Alki as our neighborhood school. But seeing as we were #1 on the waitlist for Schmitz Park just below Alaska Street I have to think they drew the boundary around the school right about where they felt it would be full.

    (cross-posted in forum thread)

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