Back from School Board rep Steve Sundquist‘s Q/A session on the proposed school-attendance-area maps, arranged by the PTSAs of Schmitz Park, Lafayette and Alki Elementary Schools, and there was one big headline: Sundquist says the maps for West Seattle were WRONG out of the gate when announced last week – the Denny Middle School and Chief Sealth High School attendance areas ARE supposed to be, and will be redrawn to be, exactly the same, which in turn will affect some elementary boundaries. The divergence led to questions in comments on our coverage last week, from people puzzled by why Denny/Sealth would not have the same attendance area, since they will be sharing a campus soon. (Sundquist said Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson had announced this error – and one other, affecting part of North Seattle – at last week’s School Board meeting, the night after the proposed maps were made public, but we can’t find any mention of this online anywhere, and he acknowledged tonight that the error hadn’t been explained on the district website yet – in fact, the Sealth website still points to our original story with the two now-revealed-to-be-erroneous maps.) Nonetheless, Sundquist urged attendees – who peaked at more than 70 during tonight’s meeting in the Schmitz Park gym – to provide feedback to the district based on how the proposed maps appear now (firstname.lastname@example.org, and those 2 meetings coming up in West Seattle later this week). And there was plenty of feedback tonight on other components of the plan – (added 6:39 am) – read on:
Also from the meeting:
*Sundquist said “early feedback” was “what we expected,” particularly complaints that families are being “pushed into” neighborhood schools that they don’t think “are good enough.” (Several people who voiced questions/complaints at the meeting said they had purchased their homes in a specific neighborhood so they could be close to specific schools, and now they are finding themselves facing assignment to schools other than those in which they were interested.)
*It is a “dynamic process … the maps WILL change,” he insisted, even beyond the fixing of the aforementioned errors. Several attendees said they hoped the boundaries could better reflect natural neighborhood boundaries, which Sundquist acknowledged had not been much addressed in the process thus far.
*The issue of “sibling grandfathering” has yet to be worked out and will be among the “transition issues.” Several parents voiced concerns about not only siblings that already were in the school system, but also siblings that hadn’t entered school yet – could the district consider them too? All to be worked out, Sundquist reiterated, but he said the answers are not expected to be available until December or January.
*He reiterated what was said at the School Board work session a week ago where the maps were made public, that the Spectrum gifted program will be available at Madison starting this fall, and that they intend to have at least one elementary school offering Spectrum in each “middle school service area,” which means one of the schools feeding Denny will add it (Lafayette, a Madison feeder, is currently the only West Seattle elementary school where Spectrum is available; one parent asked if the north end might get another Spectrum program too, since Lafayette – which has more than 500 students this year – fills up fast).
*Only three high schools in the city are “option schools” with no geographic reference area – The Center School at Seattle Center, Cleveland, and NOVA.
*A few parents who say they’re now in the Denny/Sealth reference area expressed vocal displeasure with the impending co-location of the middle- and high-school campuses, saying 6th graders and 12th graders shouldn’t be on the same campus together. “We hashed that all out as a community a couple years ago,” Sundquist explained calmly. “Yes, but we weren’t GOING to those schools then!” one woman shouted in reply.
*Why wasn’t the Denny/Sealth map error fixed immediately and something new distributed since last week? someone asked. Not that easy, Sundquist indicated, adding that the district was afraid it would wind up with a “version control problem” if they printed something new, with suddenly multiple versions of the map in circulation. So isn’t West Seattle at a disadvantage, then, if the new maps won’t be seen till the work session where they are released on November 3rd? “I think there will be enough time to give feedback,” Sundquist insisted.
*Another concern was reminiscent of one voiced during the Denny-Sealth process, where you may recall community concerns – and district acknowledgment – that there hadn’t been a lot of public engagement before the shared-campus decision was made and moving forward. (See this WSB report from 2007.) At this meeting, there was frustration that “there seems to be no collaboration with parents BEFORE these decisions were made, like the start-time change.” Sundquist agreed the start-time-change process had been “a mess” and suggested this process, like that one, and like what was said about Denny-Sealth at the time, had come down to a time crunch. However, he said, here there’s still time for feedback, and for changes, with the assignment boundaries.
WHAT’S NEXT: Feedback in a multitude of ways (all listed here) including meetings. The “official” district meetings for feedback and Q/A on the plan are this Thursday (WSHS, 6:30 pm) and Friday (Denny IMS, 6:30 pm); plus, Steve Sundquist has two “neighborhood chats” coming up Oct. 21 (10 am @ Delridge Library) and 24th (10 am @ High Point Library). The revamped maps are to debut at a board work session Nov. 3 and be formally introduced during the board meeting Nov. 4; they also meet Oct. 21. And you can contact board members too – Sundquist encouraged participants last night to cc him on feedback – their info is all here. ADDED TUESDAY AFTERNOON: For those particularly concerned about the sibling issue, an online petition is circulating – find it here. ADDED TUESDAY EVENING: We asked Sundquist about plans to get word out about the map error:
As for communicating the map issue more widely, I did speak with district officials today. They plan to disseminate this information in a couple of different ways. One is that they plan to communicate a summary of the type of feedback Seattle Public Schools is receiving about the plan from across the city, and to specifically call out the West Seattle high school/middle school map issue in that document. They also plan to update their FAQ document with the information. I assume both of those will be published on the district website. I have also been told that they will disseminate specific information to West Seattle families, although I don’t yet know the timeline or form that communication will take.
We sent the same question to the district’s media liaisons, but have not yet received a reply.