Following up on last night’s board meeting, with introduction of next year’s transition plan for the ongoing New Student Assignment Plan, Seattle Public Schools offered news media a chance to talk today with one of the district’s top managers, Dr. Tracy Libros. We participated by phone and asked, for starters, a followup question (here) posed in WSB comments on our school-board-preview story from last night (here).
Answer, according to Dr. Libros: No further West Seattle attendance-boundary changes are proposed at this point for next year. But tomorrow is the deadline for school board members to propose amendments – so if there’s anything coming in at the 11th hour, we’ll know by the start of next week; they would be considered when the plan comes up for a final vote on January 19th.
Among the other points of interest was a little more discussion of the fact that one West Seattle elementary school will be designated as an “international” school, to complete the “pathway” that currently goes from Concord International Elementary (in South Park but considered part of the West Seattle service area) to Denny International Middle School to Chief Sealth International High School. Which West Seattle elementary will it be? Dr. Libros says it hasn’t been designated yet. After the jump: What about the crowding at West Seattle’s northern elementaries?
Regarding the crowded campuses at schools including West Seattle’s northern elementary schools (Lafayette, Schmitz Park, Alki), Dr. Libros said, “We know we have made decisions that have led to capacity issues.” Chief among them, she says, was the grandfathering of current students at schools outside their “attendance area” plus the attempt to accommodate as many of their entering siblings as possible: “We undertook basically whatever steps we could to accommodate non-attendance-area kindergarteners.” Next school year, she indicated, fewer siblings will be able to go to their older siblings’ school if that school is not the one they’d automatically be assigned to.
For the new school year, those new-kindergartener siblings can still apply to their older sibling’s school if it’s outside their “attendance area” – the first tiebreaker would be siblinghood. But they’re not expecting to have as much success next school year clearing the waiting list the way she said they did this year – starting with 150, and getting it to 14.
For the bigger picture – how to deal long-term with bursting-at-the-seams schools like the ones in northern West Seattle – a “capacity review” is under way, as school-board rep Steve Sundquist had mentioned to us. After today’s Q/A session, we asked Dr. Libros via e-mail if there’s been talk of reopening either of West Seattle’s remaining mothballed elementary schools (Genesee Hill and Fairmount Park). Her reply: “There is nothing predetermined about what the capacity review will or will not address. The point of implementing a formal capacity management process is to compile the relevant data and then use the data to guide the discussions.”
(For a citywide perspective on today’s media Q/A, here’s what Melissa Westbrook wrote at saveseattleschools.blogspot.com, which focuses year-round, 100 percent, on district issues. She was at district HQ to participate in the Q/A.)