Inside the new building that West Seattle charter school Summit Atlas is about to open

(WSB photos)

West Seattle’s first and to date only charter school, Summit Atlas, plans a ribboncutting event tomorrow for the new building they’ve added to their Arbor Heights site (which had its first ribboncutting a year ago). We toured it and talked with Summit Atlas’s high-school principal Katie Bubalo as she prepares for the new school year, which starts August 20th for new students, August 21st for returning students.

Summit Atlas opened a year ago with 6th and 9th grades and this year will continue ramping up toward being a full 6th-12th-grade campus by adding 7th and 10th grades. Bubalo says the 7th grade has a waiting list but there’s room in other grades. Asked about last year’s enrollment, she said it fluctuated but ended the year around 105 students in 6th grade, 65 in 9th grade, and while she couldn’t cite numbers, she said the “overwhelming majority” are returning this year.

The new building – adjacent to the former supermarket/church that Summit remodeled before opening last year – has two stories and will mostly be used for the high-school grades, though elective classes for all students (including drama, art, yoga) will be held there. It includes room for special-education classes and a new program called Joy Academy for special-education students whose disabilities might lead them to seek alternatives to traditional college – job training, life skills, etc.

The emphasis in Summit buildings is on flexible open space. Each floor in the new building has a common area; on the ground floor, that space will be used as a lunch area for the high-school students, among other things. (It is a closed campus; Bubalo says they might have a conversation with parents in future years about whether to change that for the older high-school students.)

Upstairs classrooms include spaces for English classes that will also include the school library.

This year, Summit Atlas’s staff will double in size, about 30, according to Bubalo. They will all be on hand at tomorrow’s 12 pm ribboncutting event, as will students and families. We asked about other stats from the first year. Their assessment results will eventually be released by the state, Bubalo said. She describes their demographics as “no (ethnic group) over 35 percent” and evenly split between students eligible for free/reduced-price lunch and those who are not.

Charter schools, approved by Washington voters in 2012, receive state funds for operations; purchase of and construction at the 9601 35th SW site was funded by Washington Charter School Development, from which Summit leases it. Both WCSD and Summit are part of California-based organizations.

28 Replies to "Inside the new building that West Seattle charter school Summit Atlas is about to open"

  • A neighbor August 3, 2018 (4:48 pm)

    Please have the busses not block city streets & ask the parents to observe laws( not cross over double yellow line).

    • WSB August 3, 2018 (9:40 pm)

      Crossing double yellow lines is *not* illegal.

      • TherealBigpoppa August 4, 2018 (10:18 am)

        When the law change 

        • WSB August 4, 2018 (7:19 pm)

          It’s been the law as long as I’ve been aware. The belief that it’s illegal to *turn* across (a single set of) double yellow lines is widely held but erroneous. Crossing them to pass *is* illegal.

      • Michael August 4, 2018 (11:39 am)

        I looked it up and it appears you are right but *only* to turn into an alley, driveway or private road.I took driver training in a different state and was always under the impression that my tires should never touch a solid line (white or yellow).  This rule would serve traffic well around West Seattle but apparently the state of Washington saw fit to enter an exception in what seem like the most dangerous situations.

  • Zark00 August 3, 2018 (8:16 pm)

    For profit public school – brilliant idea – charters are not welcome here and should be abolished. If you send your kid to a charter you are supporting the destruction of public education in Seattle. Performance of charters is, at BEST, on par with your neighborhood public school. Nationwide, charter schools fail students more often than not. Don’t drink the right wing Kool aide, don’t support charters.

    • Jerry Kaufman August 3, 2018 (8:49 pm)

      I completely agree. What we need is to get rid of billionaire betsy devos who not only advocates for charter schools but has a business for it. 

    • SWinWS August 3, 2018 (10:10 pm)

      Unfortunately, our current culture is to pit one student’s success against the other; its my kid deserves more than yours, attitude.  Yes, Charter schools are a sneaky profit scheme used against our public assets, and they should be see called out, as such.   And, people have bought into their hokey corporate sales pitch–which proves our education system is failing!  If you seek alternatives for your childrens’ education then you should encourage/engage our public schools to offer more options.

  • 1994 August 3, 2018 (9:39 pm)

    Please educate yourselves about Charter schools in WA State by reading the The Washington State Board of Education frequently asked questions about Charter schools in WA – here is a link to the site or if the link doesn’t work try to copy & paste it. Betsy DeVos is working for Trump, not for WA State .

  • trying to see both sides August 3, 2018 (10:25 pm)

    There are times and places and specific needs for Charter schools. The more I learned about Charter schools in WA the more I understood about them. There’s less than 20 charter schools in WA. Majority in very very rural areas. Several tweens/teens I personally know attend WS Summit, it’s meeting those students specific needs which are unique and these kids are seeing success in education thus changing their view or attitude about school.  It’s hard to admit the understanding that I gain from this discovery, although it doesn’t change my personal opinion of the influence of privatization of public schools. 

  • TJ August 3, 2018 (11:44 pm)

    Charter schools are another option for students. SPS does a pretty lousy job if you look at statictics. Bellevue spends about the same per student in public education and has far better results, so it’s not about funding. The rally cry against charters seems to be nothing more than an attempt to put those dollars back into traditional public schools. And sorry to say, but SPS seems to be operating like a for profit business with the bloated bearucracy and money we give in levies

    • Lynn August 12, 2018 (5:27 pm)

      What are you measuring to determine  that Bellevue’s schools have far better results than Seattle’s? What challenges do each district’s students face? Students who  qualify for free or reduced price meals: Seattle 34% vs Bellevue 18%Students who qualify for special education services: Seattle 15% Bellevue 9%

  • WSMom August 3, 2018 (11:53 pm)

    No thanks.  Not interested in charters.  Agree with anybody who sends their children to charter schools is supporting Trump/DeVos and the destruction of public education.

    • Michael August 4, 2018 (11:48 am)

      But we voted on charter schools back in 2012 under a different president.  Bringing the current administration in to this and attributing unfounded beliefs to people who should be your neighbors just divides our community further.  If you read this post and think I am a trump supporter then you need to take a breath and a long look in the mirror.  You are hurting our country and local community by projecting this hatred.

  • anonyme August 4, 2018 (6:42 am)

    I’d like to see some real data on how much money is being drained from SPS to fund charters.  This only increases the deficit in public school funding, leading to higher and higher taxes.  But let’s not ask Ms. Bubalo; she’s a little fuzzy on numbers, which is typical with charter school leaders.

  • SMH August 4, 2018 (7:36 am)

    Well for the Parents who have students enrolled into the Seattle School district need these alternative choices if we expect our kids to make it in life.Cause I can speak from personal experience that being on a strapped income without the ability to pay for a private education that when the district failed my two older children the only alternative I had was programs like YEP and Southwest Bureau to get them back on track just meeting the states bare minimum to achieve diplomacy and at a extremely delayed rate.Neither one were able to walk with their class having to attend school on extra 2-4 years.And people like these commenters want to insist we are Trump supporters for choosing the only other option left for our kids.Your sick and self centered and need a rude Awakening cause not everything is about politics it’s about having to survive with what little options and hope that remains which let me tell you as a single disabled mother of two beautiful mixed kids and one white kid isn’t much at all.If it weren’t for Summit I would have to send my youngest off to Denny next year which would be setting her up for failure.And exposing her to everything we try our hardest to steer our kids from marijuana alcohol gangs racial profiling.It was at Denny middle school where I was introduced to these things along with my siblings cousins friends and family before next dating back to 70’s and thats a fact. This is why our taxes go more towards detention centers and public defense because our schools fail at preparing our youth for dealing with life’s curve balls.To clean up our community we need to start at the core of it all begin with the roots and  our kids are just that.Our future Prevention is key .

    • Team August 5, 2018 (5:46 pm)

      So it was the school and district ‘s fault that your children failed? School is all about the parent, teacher/s, and students working together to help a child to be successful.  You seem to be fully blaming the district and teachers for failing your children. Were you responsible in any way? What about your children? -poorexcuse 

      • Seaviewmom August 7, 2018 (8:53 am)

        I guess your kid is perfect then, huh? You are very ignorant about what some people are forced to go through with their kids. Take a stadium sized seat.

  • The Real big poppa August 4, 2018 (10:26 am)

    The top private school are for those that have the right mind and heart not cash our education system is not failing your characters are failing maybe we should have more private educated people running things your lives would be better to have those in the Right pay grade make the call.this excludes catholic private school that are on par with a charter or public school edu. Private schools r not for the rich and elite they are for the brightest minds our world has to offer now we use material possessions like our cars houses and clothes to position our status image if we used our education in this way we might have less problems and more fun problem is everyone thinks they know private school edu but less than 1% of the populations truly does now go digest them apples and get yourself some game 

  • TJ August 4, 2018 (11:18 am)

    Charter schools have been around in this country for a while so get off the Trump or Devos conspiracy on these schools. Every time someone makes these knee-jerk claims the divide grows. These schools give options to parents who see value in something other than SPS. With the per student funding SPS has the performance should be much higher but it doesn’t compare to neighboring districts thst spend roughly the same

  • John August 4, 2018 (11:35 am)

    SMH,Politics aside, while reasonable people can sympathize with some of your concerns and experiences, you fail to mention that the  most important  element in our children’s education is us.  As parents we bear the greatest responsibility.  Myself, my siblings and many friends attended Denny and Sealth when they were truly bad (1960s), yet we  became successful students going on to graduate from exclusive universities.  Universally our parents were the ones engaged,  involved and volunteering in support of our schools.

    • IMHO August 4, 2018 (12:08 pm)


  • anonyme August 4, 2018 (11:57 am)

    Ms. Bubalo was specific about one number: “She describes their demographics as “no (ethnic group) over 35 percent””.  How is that possible unless the school is actively discriminating for or against certain races?  Isn’t that illegal, especially for a so-called “public” school?  We need to stop denigrating the public school system, especially when it is so woefully underfunded – a situation made worse by the drain of charters on the budget.  Many expect public schools to play the roles of parent, psychologist, educator, nutritionist, babysitter – and corrections officer.  It’s simply not realistic, just as it isn’t realistic to believe that charters will solve all those problems.

    • WSB August 4, 2018 (12:00 pm)

      The demographics represent who showed up.

  • MJ August 4, 2018 (1:48 pm)

    Charter schools provide options, and if in so doing make the Public Schools more accountable all the better.  Student success starts at home with parents!  

    • Zark00 August 6, 2018 (8:47 am)

      Charter schools do not somehow magically drive regular public schools to do better. On the contrary, charter schools siphon away much needed funding from traditional public schools, ensuring they fail while the charter school profits. Ask yourself this – does a company designed to generate profit for its shareholders support my child’s best interests or their bottom line?

  • Lynn August 12, 2018 (5:36 pm)

    Summit Atlas started the 2018-19 school year with 99 6th grade students and ended this year with  94. This is a 5% decrease while Denny Middle School’s 6th grade class actually increased by 3%.The number of enrolled 9th grade students dropped from 81 to 62. This shocking loss of 23% is much higher than Chief Sealth’s 8% loss.

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