CHARTER SCHOOL: Work about to start at Arbor Heights site of Summit Atlas


Almost exactly two years after we broke the news of West Seattle’s first charter school planned in an ex-church/ex-supermarket in Arbor Heights, site work is about to start. The middle/high school to be called Summit Atlas is planning to open with sixth- and ninth-grade classes in fall of 2017, one year later than originally planned, after charters lost and then regained state funding. James Heugas of Washington Charter School Development, which purchased the site in 2015 for $4.75 million, tells WSB that they expect to start work by mid-January on the first phase, interior remodeling for the first phase. They also have “submitted drawings” in the land-use-permit process for the second phase, which will involve a two-story addition – that’s why the new notification signs (including the one in our photo) are up. A formal city notice will likely be out soon, opening a comment period for that application. (See the “preliminary site plan” here.)

We asked what neighbors will see on the sprawling site once the remodeling work begins; Heugas says it depends on whether they will be able to keep the building’s existing roof, which they are currently discussing with the contractor. Because there’s so much room on the site, he expects that the crews and materials will be largely kept within its confines, minimizing disruption to neighbors. (For more on what’s planned at the Arbor Heights site, see our August report.)

62 Replies to "CHARTER SCHOOL: Work about to start at Arbor Heights site of Summit Atlas"

  • Doree Fazio-Young December 29, 2016 (9:32 pm)

    Oh not good that will take students away from Denny International Middle School not too happy about that

  • PSPS December 29, 2016 (10:36 pm)

    Our tax dollars at work — lining the pockets of “investors” interested only in maximizing the “profit.”

    Like most profitization schemes, these become off-the-shelf money laundering operations.  A portion of the “profits” are dutifully laundered back to sympathetic lawmakers as “campaign contributions.”

  • JanS December 30, 2016 (1:11 am)

    I suppose we should get used to it. The woman picked by the current president- elect to head Education in this country has no experience with public schools at all, and is a strong supporter of charter schools. 

  • Drew December 30, 2016 (7:38 am)

    If the local public west Seattle schools were not sub par, then there would be no demand for this…

    • Chris December 30, 2016 (9:04 am)

      What data do you have to back up your opinion about public schools in West Seattle? Has there been a decline in test scores compared with other areas in Seattle? Are fewer students graduating high school?

      • Drew December 30, 2016 (12:49 pm)

        Take a look at the school reviews on the Zillow website…

        • JanS December 30, 2016 (1:44 pm)

          you use Zillow to form an opinion about education ? Seriously?

        • Jon Wright December 30, 2016 (3:00 pm)

          You certainly have a rigorous vetting process!

        • charlie December 30, 2016 (4:20 pm)

          People who get their information about schools from Zillow  are woefully under-informed!

        • WSMom December 30, 2016 (10:54 pm)

          Drew, you win the internet tonight for the stupidest comment ever.  You use Zillow reviews??  Really?  

          • Jess December 30, 2016 (11:47 pm)

            Zillow just shows data, which I won’t defend, but is one of the most common resources used to evaluate schools. 

    • JanS December 30, 2016 (1:43 pm)

      if the powers that be would invest in public school education the way it’s supposed to ( think the state legislature that doesn’t meet the criteria mandated by law), instead of giving money to charter schools, maybe  you wouldn’t say that.  I know very dedicated teachers who produce wonderful results, with no thanks to the state. Sub par? Please post links to your so-called facts, so we can educate ourselves. Don’t have any links to back up what you say? Then it’s only an opinion.

  • Gene December 30, 2016 (7:39 am)

    Our tax dollars at work- my thoughts exactly- regarding the inept SPS system.  

  • Scott December 30, 2016 (7:47 am)

    Welcome Summit Atlas!   I wish you as much success as Summit Sierra has seen in the ID.  I personally look forward to seeing the revitalization of that corner vs. the blighted parking lot and storefront of the god mart.

    • Joe Szilagyi December 30, 2016 (8:24 am)

      That corner would be a hell of a lot better with a bunch of to-the-curb commercial and more residential, given our housing crisis. A lot that size could fit a TON of needed businesses and add a TON of needed housing. What a complete waste of land.

      • Scott December 30, 2016 (11:26 am)

        I think “complete waste of land” is a pretty gross mischaracterization of a new public school that provides options in educational approaches.    I’m guessing there wasn’t a long line of developers chomping at the bit to build and lease to a TON of businesses on that lot or maybe they would have purchased the lot and done that (assuming zoning allows)?  

        There’s plenty of dense “to the curb” mixed use residential in other areas of West Seattle if you go for that kinda thing…

        • JanS December 30, 2016 (1:45 pm)

          it’s not a public school

          • Scott December 31, 2016 (11:50 am)

            From the Washington State Board of Education  (

            1.  What is a public charter school?

            Chapter 241, Laws of 2016 (E2SSB 6194) defines a “charter school” or “charter public school” as “a public school that is established in accordance with this chapter, governed by a charter school board, and operated according to the terms of a charter school contract executed under this chapter” A charter contract is “a fixed-term, renewable contract between a charter school and an authorizer that specifies the roles, powers, responsibilities, and performance expectations for each party to the contract. “The charter contract sets forth the academic and operational performance measures by which the charter school will be judged and the administrative relationship between the authorizer and the school. More generically, the National Association of Public Charter Schools defines a charter schools as “unique public schools that are allowed the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement. Because they are public schools, they are:

            • Open to all children;
            • Do not charge tuition; and
            • Do not have special entrance requirements.”
  • Alex December 30, 2016 (7:54 am)

    Our public schools may be imperfect, but you better believe they are about to get even worse once all the families that are the most involved in their kids education move their kids to the charter. 

    We should work to improve public schools for all (even the kids with uninvolved parents), not offer the option to leave them behind. 

    • Scott December 30, 2016 (11:43 am)

      We should work to improve ALL public schools for ALL kids

  • Joe Szilagyi December 30, 2016 (8:24 am)

    Where’s the funding coming from here? The state still hasn’t authorized tax money for charters, I thought?

  • WSMom December 30, 2016 (8:36 am)

    Keep in mind that they will be pulling from all schools.  Not only SPS.  Highline also.  I agree, our schools are not perfect but parents who are ‘too scared’ to send their kids to our public schools are only going to make the matter worse.  

  • JRR December 30, 2016 (8:37 am)

    Pretty excited to completely ignore this school and devote our family’s resources into our public schools, such as the amazing Roxhill!

  • Gene December 30, 2016 (8:48 am)

    Pretty excited to give all my attention  &  family resources to this new Charter School – welcome!

  • Paul December 30, 2016 (9:08 am)

    I can’t believe the negativity on here toward a school! I think it’s great that they’re moving into our neighborhood and fully welcome the students and staff.  Glad to see that students have more options today.  All schools and students deserve our respect. 

  • anonyme December 30, 2016 (9:10 am)

    A perfect example of taxation without representation, and it’s only about to get worse.  Make no mistake about it, the goal is to destroy public schools.  And yes, that corner could have been put to good and much needed use with some commercial options for the south end. 

    • WSB December 30, 2016 (9:17 am)

      Datapoint regarding “commercial use” at that intersection: There are currently open spaces in both small commercial centers on the north side of 35th and Roxbury – the former medical-marijuana dispensaries. And as reported here in October, the small commercial building that currently houses Nepenthe, and what’s behind it, are slated for replacement with a mixed-use project including 20 apartments and 1,200 feet of ground-floor commercial. – TR

  • Marty December 30, 2016 (9:19 am)

    I live in Henderson, Nevada. My granddaughter graduated from a charter school last June and EVERY graduating senior was accepted by a college or university. Give charter schools a chance, they are blowing away public schools in this city.

    • AMD December 30, 2016 (6:58 pm)

      I don’t take issue with good outcomes.

      I take issue with a selection process that weeds out students from socioeconomic backgrounds that tend to have lower graduation and parent participation rates.  It’s easy to have a full class graduate and move on to great things when you can cherry-pick students you know are going to graduate and move on to better things.

      I also take issue with my tax dollars being spent on organizations with no public oversight.  Especially when there IS another organization doing the exact same thing already that DOES have public oversight.  Especially when that organization is already underfunded and struggling to serve our students.  ALL of our students.  Including the ones the charter schools don’t want.

  • clark5080 December 30, 2016 (10:30 am)

    Competition should make the public schools better

    • Lisa Smith December 30, 2016 (9:17 pm)

      How can the public schools get better when they are stripped of resources? Comparing a charter school that can be selective in their admissions with public schools that must accept all applicants is unfair. (Despite laws that say they must take all applicants, many charters have found ways to either exclude students who don’t meet certain unwritten criteria. Many charters are also known for “encouraging” lower performing students to leave by denying them services–special education or English Language Learners–or imposing oppressive disciplinary action on the students.) 

      • WSMom December 30, 2016 (10:29 pm)

        Exactly Lisa Smith.  Can just anybody apply to the charter school?  Anybody with a 2.0 gpa or lower?  Anybody who has ‘issues’?  Anybody with an IEP?  I know that Vashon can ask anybody to leave that is not from Vashon if they don’t have a 3.0 or higher GPA.  What is the criteria??

        • WSB December 30, 2016 (10:39 pm)

          Re: Summit – from

          What is the application process?

          All you need to do is submit an online application. You can complete one for our schools in California here or for our schools in Washington here. There are no prerequisites or requirements for applying to a Summit school as we are a public charter school.

          Each school has a preference for its lottery, which you can find in its application packet after you apply. At each lottery, students will be randomly chosen from the applications submitted to that school.

          If you are accepted in the lottery, congratulations! You will have the option to enroll your student at that Summit school.

          If you are not accepted in the lottery, then you will be placed on a waitlist. As openings become available, students will be given acceptances in the order in which their name was drawn in the original lottery.

          (The need for a lottery assumes they have more applicants than spaces.)

          • WSMom December 30, 2016 (10:55 pm)

            I’m still assuming they will turn down those they don’t want.

  • Sheryl December 30, 2016 (10:33 am)

    I say put Safeway back into that building the one on Roxbury is a joke to go to anytime of the day the hood needs another store to compensate for all the people living in the area!


    • WSB December 30, 2016 (10:50 am)

      If you’ve missed this in previous reports, there is a covenant that went with the sale of the building more than a decade ago – it cannot be a supermarket of any kind for as long as there’s a Safeway within a certain distance. As for Roxbury Safeway … guess it’s as subjective as other things. While we prefer to patronize locally owned grocery stores, this is the one corporate grocery store we do visit fairly frequently too, since it’s on our side of town. If you haven’t already, you might let Safeway know what you find lacking about it. With the Westwood QFC and Target grocery stores relatively close by, I don’t think this area is likely to get another grocery store in the foreseeable future – TR

      • Paul December 30, 2016 (9:14 pm)

        I haven’t looked for awhile, but I recall that a pharmacy or a gas station can’t go on the property either.

  • Sheryl December 30, 2016 (11:24 am)

    I think one of the reasons so many people patronize this Safeway is because it’s on the County side of Seattle and you still get plastic bags and also it is more affordable for so many people, not like the QFC in WWV and also the QFC in WWV is so dang small!

    And I have let Safeway know “what’s lacking” and also what disgusts me at that store. :(  

  • Wseattleite December 30, 2016 (11:37 am)

     When a Charter school moved into my home town in Alaska, it did nothing but do good things for students.  An option was available for those not happy with the public schools, and the public schools had to step up as a result.  A win win for the students, and graduates all around started to excel in moving ahead in life and further education.  Not so much for the school unions, but where should the priorities be anyway?  This idea that all kids should be run through the same factory is ridiculous. 

    • newnative December 30, 2016 (12:18 pm)

      All states are different in how they handle charter schools.  In California, I have seen charter schools represented by for-profit and religious orgs, targeting a racist demographic that don’t want to “mix”.  In Arizona, the charter schools were started and represented by parents and teachers who couldn’t deal with the dismal leadership in the local school districts.  They were a good option for special and other needs (vocational training and specializing).  I don’t see a need for charter schools here in Washington. 

  • j December 30, 2016 (11:41 am)

    White Center Safeway and Roxbury/35th Safeway were closed at the time safeway took over the location they are in now.

    Our city officials brilliantly allowed this Vermont corporation to attach the stipulations to the 35th/Roxbury ensuring that it will never be a grocery store, gas station or pharmacy again while they moved their store just outside city limits. I’m guessing they put the same stipulations on the WC store.

    Thus causing more people from both neighborhoods to get in their cars to go shopping. 3 stores turned into 1. Brilliant on Safeways part. 

    The main question is…Why would a city official allow a corporation to dictate such policies??? How much tax revenue have we lost due to this idiotic decision that disrupted the dynamic of our neighborhood????

    I no longer give Safeway my business. 


    Re; charter schools…100% taxation without representation. End around on hard working union teachers. 

    • Steve January 1, 2017 (8:40 am)

      It is called private property rights.  Property owners can place covenants on their property prior to selling them that restrict how they are to be used in the future.  Safeway and many other businesses do this and occasionally, private property owners will do this.  The City has no ability to restrict this action.  Ease up on your criticism of the City

  • heylady December 30, 2016 (1:04 pm)

    I live in the neighborhood and have an 8 year old child. I am thrilled to have another option. Education is not ‘one size fits all’ for students or teachers. Options are good for everyone. Welcome, Summit Atlas – whoever you are!

  • Abyk December 30, 2016 (1:32 pm)

    I wonder if it will be like the other Summit schools and start two weeks earlier in August and let out two weeks earlier in June. Also it looks like there will just be a 6th grade and a 9th grade class next fall. Wonder what plans are to add on a grade each year?

  • WSB December 30, 2016 (1:46 pm)

    The story above mentions that they are starting with 6th and 9th grades, and we have reported that since the start. The most-recent plan was to add one middle- and one high-school grade per year until they are all the way up to 6th through 12th (2 middle and 3 HS grades to add, so that’s an uneven rollup one way or another) – they’ve done the phase-in with other schools, as noted in our interview a year and a half ago with their regional executive.

  • New Thinking Needed December 30, 2016 (2:03 pm)

    A free society thrives on competition and new ideas. Glad to see this school option moving forward.  

    My understanding is the various states have their own ‘rules’ regarding charter schools, some allow for-profit and some allow only non-profit.  Seattle Public Schools is now screaming about a $74 million short fall…..

  • anonyme December 30, 2016 (2:24 pm)

    Not sure how Seattle Public Schools suffering a multi-million dollar shortfall is an argument for taking away even more money and giving it to charter schools….?  Same for the argument that public schools will improve with “competition”.  How the heck does that work, exactly?  How does taking even more money from public education contribute to improvement?  Sounds like a pretty rigged game to me.

    Nor is the question one of choice, at least NOT when it comes to taxpayer funded education.   Yes, education needs to be reformed and individualized when possible.  The expectation that taxpayers need to pay for specialized educational menus, often with a religious bent, is unreasonable and unconstitutional.

  • AJP December 30, 2016 (3:05 pm)

    No tax money to private schools. The public schools need a lot of help, yes. They’ve been underfunded, against our state Constitution, for decades. Give them the funding they need first. 

    Let me put it this way: you have a large building, like a retirement home, that houses many people. It doesn’t have enough money, it’s crumbling, and some of the people are neglected. Someone comes in and says, give me a portion of your budget, and I’ll build something nicer out back. They build a new, shiny, and smaller building out back. Some of the residents get to go there. Most don’t. They are left in the crumbling building, now with even fewer resources. That makes no sense. Fully fund the public schools first, then you can work on shiny new schools run by corporations. 

    Our society values children so very little, unless a profit can be made off of them.

  • Mark32 December 30, 2016 (4:35 pm)

     The amount of money we spend on Seattle Public Schools is ridicules. 

    I believe charter schools can be one of the tools we need to break up this monopoly. The citizens of Seattle love to say we need to spend more money on problems rather then look at how the money we already spend is being spent. Look at the districts own numbers, $15500 per student! A year at the UW is $10500. That extra $5000 x 50,000 students is $250 million extra dollars! Or $15500 x 25 students, $387,000 per classroom. Come on!



    • Alan December 30, 2016 (5:43 pm)

      I’m hoping that someone with stronger financial skills will reply to you, but you are confusing tuition with the cost per student. Resident tuition is subsidized by the state, which is why out of state students pay a higher rate. The out of state rate (currently about $35,000) is probably a better gauge of the actual expense. So, SPS is providing education for less than half what it costs at the UW. A full time (15 credit) student is spending 15 hours a week in the classroom at the UW, compared to the 30+ hours an SPS student spends. 

      Keep in mind that it is not just four walls and a teacher that is being paid for. There are the building costs, books, support staff, bus rides and other services. UW students are generally more self-reliant, so there is less need for support staff. 

      The truth is that the schools are illegally underfunded and that your angst should be at the state legislature and their failure to act.


  • Smitty December 30, 2016 (5:03 pm)

    Competition breeds success.  Bring it on.  Why should only rich, white kids get private education?  Y’all sound racist.

  • Dale December 30, 2016 (5:09 pm)

    Safeway on Roxbury is a better store, in many ways, than Thriftway on Morgan.  We shopped at Thriftway for several decades, before  the fire and after the re-build.  (We live 5 blocks up the hill). Thriftway prices are now ridiculous, and they are not responsive to customer concerns.  The checkout speed is better at Thriftway, but that’s about it any more.


    Charter schools are the future.  Seattle schools have failed our kids, at an astounding cost per student.

  • JC December 30, 2016 (6:23 pm)

    So I thought the schools and pot shops can’t be too close to each other??  There’s a  pot shop (MJ) right across the street from this proposed Charter School.

    • WSB December 30, 2016 (6:37 pm)

      No, there is not. There were two medical dispensaries nearby, the one with the big MMJ sign on the NW corner, and NWPRC on the NE corner; as I noted in an earlier comment, both are closed (medical dispensaries that did not get recreational licenses were required to shutter last July). The only marijuana stores in West Seattle are Origins (WSB sponsor) in The Junction and Canna between Alaska and Morgan Junctions. – TR

      • JC January 5, 2017 (11:10 am)

        Thanks!   I did not know they closed as I am always smelling pot in that area when I drive by and it looks like they are open and have seen people coming in and out of that place.   I will check again when I drive by.

  • Mark December 30, 2016 (10:53 pm)

    Per Mark32 $15,500 per student by SPS.  Say a class of 20 kids over $300K per class.  Seems like enough money is being spent, the question is is it being spent properly?  How much is being spent on bureaucracy versus in the classroom.  

    What is the factor for successful students versus less successful ones?  I suspect students with involved parents typically are more successful, thus parents also need to be held accountable.

    Charter schools provide options that may serve some students better and deserve a chance to succeed.


    • AMD December 31, 2016 (6:25 am)

      If someone has a better idea of how to serve students why aren’t we asking SPS to try the better idea instead of diverting money towards for-profit companies with no public oversight?  Every student deserves a chance to succeed, not just the ones with parents who speak enough English and have enough time to research and sign them up for alternative schools.
      There’s no holding parents “accountable” for not being fully fluent in English or holding 2+ jobs to pay the rent so the kids aren’t homeless.  Those things happen and, unfortunately, they affect student outcomes.

      I remain skeptical of how random their lottery is due to the manipulation seen in other districts.  There is still inherent selection bias that drives students with higher chances of succeeding towards these schools, leaving a higher proportion of poor and ELL students in the public schools we’re taking money away from so this handful of lucky kids can succeed.  It’s a really messed up way to handle public education.

  • K8 December 31, 2016 (8:05 am)

    Anything that is “for profit” doesn’t have the public interest at heart. They have profits. They might care about the population they serve. But not as much at their own profits; They are legally bound to produce income for their shareholders. We need to fully fund public education.

  • Community Member December 31, 2016 (12:42 pm)

    Summit is a 501(c)(3).  

    They are a branch of a California charter system.  The schools are accountable to a board in California, and the school calendar will align with the California schedule. 

    I believe that school choices should be available, but I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be held accountable to all the same OSPI rules as the regular public schools.

  • Argonautter January 1, 2017 (12:56 am)

    Beware individualized curriculum that is students-parked-at-a-computer-screen. Teachers become proctor’s not educators. 

  • Hillary Shaw January 5, 2017 (12:32 pm)

    Hope to add more when I’m not mobile, but I recommend anyone reading this thread familiarize themselves with the history if charters in Washington state:

    Inextricably linked, unconstitutional underfunding of our public schools (McCleary):

    Next year, Seattle Public Schools anticipates a $74 million shortfall due to 30 years of underfunding public education:

    Please consider volunteering at your local public school. Teachers, principals, counselors, paras, support staff, and parents go above and beyond to support all students in our community every day, and are nothing short of miracle workers, spinning gold from straw. The vibrant, diverse, innovative programs in West Seattle public schools are a testament to the commitment of it’s citizenry to educating all children; Imagine what’s possible when schools are properly funded.

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