Seattle Public Schools’ transition plan: West Seattle toplines

“I wish we could have had a simpler transition,” Seattle School Board President Michael DeBell said, just before the board’s vote about half an hour ago on the transition plan assembled for the new Student Assignment Plan. (And as of this writing, the meeting – almost six hours long – isn’t over yet!) Read on for some of the major West Seattle (and elsewhere) effects – including program changes for several schools:

Among those disappointed, advocates for “sibling grandfathering” – the approved plan does not include a provision to guarantee younger siblings space at out-of-attendance-area schools their older sibs attend now. (As explained earlier, including at this meeting held last weekend by West Seattle’s school board rep Steve Sundquist, the younger siblings can apply to their older sibs’ schools, but if there isn’t room, they will both be guaranteed room at the attendance-area school.) A district analysis suggested there would just be too many overcrowded elementaries if grandfathering were granted the way advocates like Keep Our Kids Together wanted to see it done.

Among those who are pleased – advocates of expanding the Spectrum advanced-learning program to Arbor Heights Elementary and Madison Middle School; the plan approved tonight will start the program at both schools this fall. The small Spectrum program at West Seattle Elementary will be converted to an ALO (Advanced Learning Opportunity) program.

Other program placements (all detailed here) include self-contained autism program at Roxhill Elementary, ELL (bilingual) being phased out at Alki and Arbor Heights, with the existing AH program “linked” to Roxhill, and the existing Alki program to Gatewood.

Sundquist stressed before voting that he hopes to revisit the transition plan next year in terms of some of the amendments he wanted to introduce (but couldn’t, mostly because, he said, the district’s computer system couldn’t handle the changes), such as making the “central” West Seattle elementaries dual feeders on either a WSHS/Madison or Sealth/Denny track.

Also tonight: The board finalized the latest piece of the Fauntleroy Schoolhouse deal with Fauntleroy Community Services Agency – more of the site, including playground area, is being sold to FCSA for $1.1 million.

20 Replies to "Seattle Public Schools' transition plan: West Seattle toplines"

  • wsnorth January 21, 2010 (7:01 am)

    That is great about the additional Spectrum programs!!

    However, this plan is still a mess, and giving special privilege to three specific elementary schools doesn’t seem in any way equitable. Why give them the choice, but give no choice to students at the other elementaries? That’s kind of outrageous, actually! West Seattle Elementary should just be moved back to the North “area”, where it has been for 20 years (or the boundries re-drawn to make some sense).

  • Julie January 21, 2010 (7:50 am)

    I hope the District will consider a Language Immersion program at WS Elementary. Would also love to see APP @ Madison with a track to WSHS rich with AP courses to help with projected reduced enrollement and provide rigor similar to the IB program at Sealth.

  • v January 21, 2010 (8:19 am)

    Can you clarify this sentance? What is AH?

    “…with the existing AH program “linked” to Roxhill, and the existing Alki program to Gatewood.”

    • WSB January 21, 2010 (8:21 am)

      Arbor Heights.

  • Bill January 21, 2010 (9:05 am)

    “AH” is Arbor Heights

  • Jeff January 21, 2010 (10:17 am)

    Can’t believe they bothered to change the boundaries, and yet my kids will still pass within blocks of Schmitz Park Elementary on the way to Alki, instead of just going to the one nearest home.

  • shocked January 21, 2010 (10:38 am)

    I think it’s great that Arbor Heights is getting a Spectrum program. What is extremely distressing is that West Seattle Elementary does not know they were losing their Spectrum program for an ALO program! Wouldn’t it be prudent of SPS to notify schools of program changes before they learn about it accidently on the WS Blog? This just seems rather unprofessional on a lot of levels! I would expect the WS board to be careful about distributing information that may not be true.

    • WSB January 21, 2010 (11:17 am)

      Shocked – My understanding is that the document with the program changes didn’t come out too long before the meeting. I found the link from the always-admirable folks at, but I don’t know how long before the meeting they posted it – you’ll notice it was a Wednesday update to a Tuesday story, so no specific timestamp.

  • Lorelee January 21, 2010 (11:49 am)

    As a participative citizen, I contacted the Seattle SB about these crazy boundries and got no acknowledgement of receipt. Then, I contacted Steve Sundquist about his stance on neighborhood schools and also, no acknowledgement! So, lets SERIOUSLY rethink who we elect to the Seattle School Board – we need someone who represents constituents! FYI: Steve doesn’t agree with the basic principle of neighborhood schools or providing priority in the application process to those who are closest in proximity to the school. So just like “Jeff”, despite the fact that Schmitz is closer to him and Lafayette is 2 blocks from my house we WILL NOT be given priority when we attempt to get our kids into these schools rather than our oddly assigned new schools. No thanks to Steve Sundquist!

  • shocked January 21, 2010 (11:55 am)

    Just for the record the school(s?) has not been informed and it may be up for consideration, but until it has been announced by SPS program directors and schools notified, it should be noted to readers that the information is not official.

  • WSB January 21, 2010 (1:58 pm)

    Hi, Shocked. It WAS announced at last night’s School Board meeting – I didn’t get this from someone telling us personally, I got it from the school board meeting, and it is also in writing in this presentation, which was onscreen as the information was announced:

    Note under Program Placement
    “Replace Spectrum with ALO
    -North Beach
    -West Seattle Elementary
    I can’t speak to your points of concern regarding who was or was not told, nor how it is rolled out from here, but it was definitely announced. If the video from last night’s meeting is online, you can also go watch – I don’t have the exact time code, but it was after 9 pm.

  • knm January 21, 2010 (2:07 pm)

    You can’t please all the people all the time. There’s really not a way to draw a map boundary that doesn’t have someone relatively close to one school assigned to another.

    I just hope that “first dibs’ on open spots are given to those with older siblings over those out-of-area applicants that do not have older siblings already enrolled.

  • Charlie Mas January 21, 2010 (2:25 pm)

    The program placement documents were added to the Board meeting agenda on the day of the meeting.

    No one, so far as I know, was told of any of the decisions prior to the posting of these documents. The District may not have informed the schools. I know that they did not inform the people who proposed the changes.

    Of interest to West Seattle families, the program placement committee and the superintendent rejected a proposal to place a Montessori program at Roxhill. The Denny and Hamilton service areas are the only ones without an Option school. This is pretty clearly a failure to provide equitable access to programs.

  • Julie January 21, 2010 (3:05 pm)

    Isn’t Pathfinder an Option school for everyone (including all of the West Seattle area)?

  • wsnorth January 21, 2010 (3:54 pm)

    The maps are insanely drawn. Any third grader with a compass and a map could have done better. We live a safe, easy walk to TWO schools, but our address is assigned to another that is distant and dangerous. All the other directors stand up for their districts, but not Steve, it’s sad. The only ammendment he made was to put some folks up on Sunset back into Lafayette. Hmmm…. Anyone who knew this was coming should have never let schools be closed that are in the middle of populous neighborhoods.

  • Confused in HighPoint January 21, 2010 (6:19 pm)

    I was at the Open House at WS Elem. last night and they still believe that they are offering Spectrum. What a mess…

  • sealocks January 21, 2010 (8:06 pm)

    I’m curious what the criteria will be for open seats, if there are any. I agree with knm and hope that families with older sibs already enrolled will get priority. Was that discussed? And will location still be a factor?

  • tk January 21, 2010 (10:16 pm)

    One of the major goals of the new SAP was predictable assignments, with every child attending their neighborhood school. The maps failed at that, and parents were told to wait for the transition plan, when West Seattle issues would be addressed. Then we are told that the old VAX computers will crash is any new changes are adopted, thus we are all stuck with a half-baked plan that is NOT predictable and for some, not what anyone would consider neighborhood assignments.
    I diasgree with the sibling priority over all other tie breakers at the middle & high school levels. I understand that the distance tiebreaker is an unfair advantage for some families in Seattle’s NE and NW neighborhoods who are situated in between multiple schools, but in West Seattle that is not the case. I think proximiy to your neighborhood school, IF there is only one school nearby, should be the 1st tiebreaker as it is more equitable for ALL kids and not just those who happen to have an older sibling in the school you want to get into. Isn’t the idea that our kids should walk to their schools if at all possible?
    For example, the kids living in the Lincoln Park area, clearly within walking distance of both Denny & Sealth, are instead assigned to Madison/WSHS which requires sometimes more than one bus (on Metro). If a distance tiebreaker was in place, those kids would get seats at their neighborhood school (sibling or not). But with siblings added as a higher tiebreaker, only those with older sibs in those schools, (including those not within walking distance), could take up the few seats availble in those schools.
    How many siblings each year would get those neighborhood seats? How unpredictable!

  • Charlie Mas January 22, 2010 (12:38 pm)

    Please do not confuse predictability with a predictably good outcome. Families asked for predictability, but that’s not what they wanted. If you wanted predictability under the old plan, then all you had to do was choose the least popular schools. You would have been assured to get them.

    The new plan offers a new and better sort of predictability: predictable access to a near-by school. Not necessarily the nearest school, but a near-by one. The District could not guarantee everyone access to their nearest school because some schools have more children living close than can fit into the building.

    It’s still not a predictably good outcome for some. In the end, the only way to give everyone a predictably good outcome would be to make every school a good school. That will take a different sort of effort altogether.

    It’s time for us to spend less time talking about where children go to school and more time talking about what happens when they are there.

  • wsnorth January 22, 2010 (5:01 pm)

    Right on, tk!! Charlie, I suspect you do not live in West Seattle, based upon your comments. We in West Seattle have been accomplishing what you say…. until now.

    Both our High Schools have been full with wait lists recently. Both our middle schools have been steadily improving. Now, the Denny/Sealth set of schools will be overcrowded with no open seats and the Madison/WSH starved of feeder students and funding. Years of progress will be erased by the new plan.

    Our elementary schools have now been jerked around so much it will take years to make up for the diruption caused, if ever. 2 closed, 4 with new boundaries that deny access to large parts of their traditional neighborhoods, 2 more facing probable overcrowding already under the new plan, at least 4 already overcrowded and with portables, 1 each switch from “North” to “South” (with years of trailing sibling issues), 1 whose students had been “promised” an international school path, no longer in the plan, multiple last minute “program” switches….

    The score out here is something like Students ZERO chaos SIXTEEN. Chaos seems to be winning….predictably bad, by my count.

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