Last-minute developments before school board’s map vote

Tomorrow night, the Seattle School Board‘s scheduled to vote on setting attendance-area maps for schools around the city, as part of the new Student Assignment Plan changing the district’s prevailing philosophy from “choose any school” to “attend your neighborhood school.” Anyone who wants to get the ear of West Seattle’s school-board rep hours before the vote is invited to Steve Sundquist‘s community chat tomorrow morning, 10-11:30 am, at Delridge Library; meantime, the online agenda for tomorrow night’s meeting includes one amendment that will be proposed to the West Seattle maps (current versions of which are linked here):

Make the boundary between the Alki and Lafayette attendance areas be a straight line on 47th Avenue Southwest from Southwest Admiral Way to Southwest Hanford Street, with both sides of 47th Avenue Southwest being in the Lafayette attendance area.

That would straighten out the “notch” in the current map, as shown below, changing the line instead to parallel where the blue and pink zones now are divided:

The three other amendments involve maps in other parts of the city. Other amendments are possible, but would have to be made by board members speaking at the meeting. This afternoon, we have some concrete suggestions proposed by three West Seattleites involved with local schools through the Chief Sealth International Baccalaureate Program and Gatewood Elementary – they’ve sent us an open letter with their suggestions for amendments to the boundaries – read on for the full text:

The IB program is the result of community activism and support. Before the district invested a dime in the program, West Seattle families, both those living North and South, donated over $20,000 to start the training and accreditation process. In fact, only 20% of the donors live in the new district-drawn Denny/Sealth area.

The vision was for peninsula-wide access to the program, and an ongoing commitment to support students with test fee scholarships, to make sure economics do not become a barrier to entrance.

Parents have been active in securing grants, providing PR support, and facilitating IB information sessions at the school over the past 4 years.

For this young program to survive and thrive, it will continue to need a high level of parent participation. The current plan removes Gatewood from the boundary area. They have an active PTA, and active parents who want to participate in the IB opportunity-which will weaken the program, as well as community support for Sealth/Denny.

Another concern is socio-economic diversity. With the new boundary, only Arbor Heights has over 50% students who do not receive free and reduced lunch. Sanislo has 49.5% FRL students-the rest of the schools in the new district have over 50% FRL. This impacts the ability of Denny/Sealth to raise funds – funds which extend opportunities to students throughout both schools-such as support for music programs, sports, and other extracurricular activities required by the IB as part of the Creativity/Service/Arts requirements.

And lastly, proximity. Many families living on Gatewood hill live very close to Sealth, but will be denied access. In fact students living on Thistle, 7 blocks from school-in what would normally be considered the walk zone, don’t have access to Sealth.

We recommend the following:

. Include Gatewood into the Denny/Sealth assignment area
. Expand the number of choice seats at Sealth to 20%
. Institute geographic proximity as a tie-breaker to allow students in the North End of West Seattle preferential access to Sealth.


Molly Seaverns -IB Steering Committee
Katie Hearn Zang -IB Steering Committee
Kay Yano — Gatewood PTA president

Tomorrow night’s school board meeting is at 6 pm, district HQ in SODO.

7 Replies to "Last-minute developments before school board's map vote"

  • Oliver November 17, 2009 (3:12 pm)

    Shouldn’t the letter’s reference to a geographic proximity tie-breaker refer to the South End of West Seattle (assuming not all of the South End is assigned to Sealth)? To read:

    “Institute geographic proximity as a tie-breaker to allow students in the SOUTH End of West Seattle preferential access to Sealth.”

  • Lisa K. November 17, 2009 (4:22 pm)

    I don’t think that is the kind of geographic tie-breaker they are proposing. I read it as possibly WS residency in general as a tie-breaker? The IB program draws students from a broad area of Seattle (over 100 from the Rainier Beach area alone, is my understanding). That means in a 10% set aside, some WS students still couldn’t make it into Sealth, unless their odds were improved with the geographic tie-breaker?

  • m.gonzales November 17, 2009 (8:51 pm)

    I do not see how the president of the Gatewood PTA can sign this letter knowing that half the Gatewood community is happy with the new maps leading them into Madison/West Seattle High! The north half of the Gatewood area is in such close proximity to West Seattle High and the south end in such close proximity to Sealth. It seems like a splitting of the Gatewood area is the solution. North half goes to West Seattle and the south half goes to Sealth.
    This letter does not speak for all of the Gatewood community!

  • Kris November 17, 2009 (9:41 pm)

    Molly and company are right on!! Many district promises were made (and are now being broken) to those of us who supported the creation of the IB and International (currently at Denny, middle school) programs, not least by sending our children there! Without a middle school feeder, without a distance tiebreaker, without sufficient options seats, we are betrayed and cut out. These are kids, not gamblers, their future shouldn’t depend on the chance of a lottery – especially twice, once for Middle School and again for High School.

  • western November 17, 2009 (10:04 pm)

    M. Gonzales- Check out the proposed amendment recently added this evening on the WS Blog. It proposes to do exactly what you are saying, and addresses many issues (including enrollment, diversity and walk zone proximity) for all of our secondary schools.

    Am I understanding the IB/Sealth proposal right? If Gatewood is assigned to Denny/Sealth also, then there would be 7 feeder schools to Denny and just 3 to Madison! How does that help give an equitable balance to ALL of our schools?

    (Steve Sundquist has already said that the numbers are not there to just trade Gatewood & West Seattle’s feeder positions, and that it would not be right to send those kids who are just blocks away from Denny/Sealth up north instead)

    Kris- Sealth does have a middle school feeder pattern (six of them currently, seven with the IB proposal), unlike all of the other high schools in Seattle. Previously, there was no feeder school alignment. It is an exception for only Sealth, but there has to be some adjustments to give equity to our other schools also. Please consider the schools which would have 35% enrollment cuts with the current district plan (and even MORE with the IB proposal)- how equitable is that?

  • S. Rhodes November 18, 2009 (10:30 am)

    It is clear that the current district map does not work for West Seattle. The schools at the north end will be underenrolled and underfunded. Those at the south end will be overenrolled. Diversity at all of the schools will suffer. People living very close to schools will in many cases be sent outside their neighborhoods to different schools. This discussion should not be pitting one family against another. This plan is broken. The adoption vote should be delayed until thr plan can be fixed.

  • 48andLander November 18, 2009 (11:37 pm)

    We are in the “notch” too but we are at 48th and Lander. It makes no sense to send us to Alki Elementary.

    Instead of a short, flat, 3-block walk or bike ride to Lafayette (or Schmitz Park in the other direction), if we want to walk our 5 year old to Kindergarten next year we will need to cross Admiral in the same spot where someone was KILLED last year, then walk a mile down Admiral hill to get to Alki. Not only is this entire walk along a busy arterial, but we are also going from nearly the highest point in the Admiral district to the lowest and vice versa to get home. Distance and Elevation wise, both Lafayette and Schmitz park are closer to us and far safer to walk or ride to.

    We live 3 and 5 blocks from Lafayette and Schmitz and our kids will never be able to walk or ride to school on a regular basis. We will need to drive them Every Day. The only way down the hill which is not a 15% grade slope or worse is Admiral Way which is far to dangerous to comfortably allow even a 5th grader to ride down and up everyday…

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