(WSB photo from MCHS High Point’s 2014 graduation ceremony at The Hall @ Fauntleroy)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
With just a few weeks to go in the school year, Seattle Public Schools has abruptly announced that one of its high schools in West Seattle won’t reopen next year.
In a letter dated May 18th, the district told families that it’s closing alternative Middle College High School‘s High Point campus, also known as the School for Social Justice and Community Engagement, after almost 20 years, citing declining enrollment. (If you’re not familiar with the overall MCHS program, it’s explained here.)
A statement on MCHS’s staff-maintained website suggests they’re not going without a fight:
The faculty and staff at Middle College High Point are very disappointed with this decision and are working with our community supporters, parents and students to prepare an organized response to this decision and to challenge the justification for closure.
It’s only been three years since MCHS’s West Seattle program went through a major transition:
It was booted from the South Seattle College (WSB sponsor) campus after 15 years – also a situation that came to light late in the school year (spring 2012). Finding a new home for the program that year turned out to be a bumpy process; at one point, it was to be moved to portables at the Boren Building, but that was an unpopular proposal on many fronts and the district ultimately moved the program to Neighborhood House’s High Point Center, which we visited in fall 2012:
Longtime MCHS teacher Alonzo Ybarra – himself a graduate of the Middle College program – reached out to us then and also shared first word of the closure announcement, which has to date not been the subject of a district news release, nor is it reflected on the district’s website as of this writing. We asked district administration several questions on Friday but were told we wouldn’t be able to get answers until Tuesday. We also have asked West Seattle’s school-board rep Marty McLaren for comment.
The letter from the superintendent offers the current students options including moving to another MCHS campus (all are in North Seattle – Northgate, University of Washington, Seattle University) or to their neighborhood high school:
Ybarra offers this statement in counterpoint:
The letter from the Superintendent asserts that the district is closing Middle College High Point due to low enrollment and future projections. This explanation is problematic for the following reasons.
First, Middle College High Point has existed for 19 years in West Seattle and has historically maintained the highest enrollment of any Middle College site. Our current enrollment, although down from past years, remains on par with Middle College at the Northgate Mall except for the fact that they have 30 additional DCHS students who are online students that do not attend school daily.
Second, the faculty and staff at Middle College High Point were prevented from continuing to develop our school wide interdisciplinary curriculum based on critical thinking, social justice and service learning. Our principal, openly stating that she did not support our efforts, forcefully imposed an arbitrary schedule that severely diminished our abilities to deliver exciting and creative curriculum and instruction. Preventing MCHS HP teachers from building on the momentum of successful curriculum and instruction at our school had a negative impact on student morale, attendance and enrollment numbers.
Third, our principal moved a staff member, without discussion or warning, directly undermining our efforts to recruit underserved African immigrant students who reside within the High Point community. Undermining efforts to work with the community to enroll new students clearly contributed to diminished student numbers. Throughout the 2014-2015 school year we’ve seen an approximate 30% decline in enrollment although it should be noted that we’ve been prohibited from enrolling new students by order of Michael Tolley since April 7th. We’d normally add 10-15 new students during second semester in preparation for the following school year.
Ybarra also shared this video created by a recent graduate:
We expect to have a followup on this once we get answers from the district after the holiday weekend, and we will be following up on the staff’s aforementioned plans for a “challenge.”