By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
In the wake of this week’s announcement of teacher-staffing changes at local schools – with Chief Sealth International High School told to cut the equivalent of three full-time positions – some plan to be there to speak out.
When we first reported the changes on Monday, the only attendance projections for next year that were publicly available were estimates made in February and included in the district’s “budget book.”
Today, the district made its newest projections public – the ones, we’re told, on which the staffing changes were based. You can see them here. The local schools with double-digit changes from the February projections are:
Arbor Heights Elementary – 23 more than previously projected
Chief Sealth IHS – 73 fewer than previously projected
Denny IMS – 13 fewer than previously projected
Louisa Boren STEM K-8 – 20 more than previously projected
Lafayette Elementary – 19 more than previously projected
Madison MS – 29 more than previously projected
Schmitz Park Elementary – 13 more than previously projected
West Seattle HS – 79 more than previously projected
West Seattle Elementary – 21 fewer than previously projected
Shortly after seeing those numbers today, we spoke with the district’s enrollment manager, Ashley Davies, about the trends and what they are watching for another potential round of changes in fall.
Davies told us that the projection changes for Sealth and WSHS are because of “fewer 9th grade residents” in the Sealth attendance area and more in the WSHS area “than we anticipated.” She added, “We have seen more students in the Chief Sealth area who have opted into option schools like Cleveland, NOVA, Center School, schools that only get students through the open-enrollment choice process across the district.”
Also, she said, “there were more students from the Sealth attendance area who applied to WSHS than the other way around … The district does have a neighborhood model, but we do value choice for our families, so they can choose another school.”
The school-choice process closes May 31st, Davies said, and that is why these projections arrived with less than a week left in the school year.
Regarding choice, we asked her about the contention/suspicion some commenters voiced that prospective students might have been directed away from Sealth. Davies said, “To my knowledge, there was no instance in which families had been directed away from Sealth … (but) it does come to a point where a school is limited in its capacity and we might not be able to offer as many seats. … Initially, though, we had seen, based on Sealth and WSHS enrollment from last year, we did anticipate more students at Sealth than at WSHS and they do have similar capacities …” But as of now, she said “both have (room) so it’s not an instance where we need to ensure that one school doesn’t get full.”
The trend could continue, she acknowledged, because the north West Seattle increases/south West Seattle decreases are also playing out at elementary schools. She said the district is “trying to find ways to closely monitor what’s going on in the individual attendance areas – some of the things are happening at a pace that we can’t necessarily predict.” One way in which she said they hope to do that is to “partner with school leaders around finding out ways in which neighborhoods are changing and how that will impact their individual schools.”
How this week’s teacher-staffing-change orders will affect schools, we don’t yet know; administrators were told to come up with their plan by week’s end. Meantime, Thursday’s public hearing on school budgets is set for 4:30 pm at district HQ in SODO (3rd and Lander) – if you’re interested in speaking, the agenda says, just show up.