School closures? Staff cuts? Amid budget woes for Seattle Public Schools, here’s your next chance to talk with local board member

A nine-digit budget gap is staring down Seattle Public Schools, and the district is talking about major cuts including possible “school consolidation” (closures) as soon as the 2024-2025 school year. No specific local schools have been mentioned yet, but SPS is now getting to the “community engagement” phase, so plans and proposals might emerge soon. Here’s the district FAQ on where things stand, noting a $131 million “structural deficit” in the budget, with enrollment decreasing yet staff increasing.

Some background, if you’re new to the area, West Seattle has been through school closures before: Fairmount Park Elementary was closed in 2007, then expanded and reopened in 2014. The former Genesee Hill Elementary had hosted Pathfinder K-8, which was moved to the Pigeon Point site of what had been Cooper Elementary until the district closed Cooper’s “program” in 2009; the old GHES was torn down in 2014 and replaced by a bigger new school into which the former Schmitz Park Elementary was moved. Currently the former Schmitz Park campus is used as an interim site for schools during construction projects – West Seattle Elementary is in its second year there right now, and Alki Elementary is scheduled to move there during its rebuild, starting this fall. (Despite the talk of cuts and closures, there’s been no talk so far of cancelling projects like Alki, which will expand that school’s capacity.)

The School Board is required to pass a balanced budget by early July. They held a work session on the budget situation this past Tuesday; you can see the background information here, and watch the meeting video here:

The district promises a “community budget information session” March 20th. But before then, you have a chance this Saturday to talk with and hear from our area’s representative on the School Board, Leslie Harris – regarding the budget and/or any other SPS issues of interest. She’ll be at Delridge Library (5423 Delridge Way SW) starting at 2 pm Saturday (March 4th).

51 Replies to "School closures? Staff cuts? Amid budget woes for Seattle Public Schools, here's your next chance to talk with local board member"

  • Kyle March 2, 2023 (1:34 pm)

    From the video, “We’re seeing a significant dorp in West Seattle kindergarten enrollment specifically.” Hopefully the do an analysis on why. 

  • Alf March 2, 2023 (1:35 pm)

    Anyone know if enrollment is down at private and faith based schools as well 

    • Mike March 2, 2023 (5:31 pm)

      Nope, they’re rejecting applications they have so many 

    • private March 2, 2023 (5:41 pm)

      Way, way up. The areas that are seeing a drop in enrollment are mostly all super good schools, too. Overall, many in the north east and north west part of the district such as much as a 25% reduction in numbers from 2019 to 2021. 

    • skeeter March 2, 2023 (6:02 pm)

      Enrollment at private schools in Seattle is generally increasing.  That’s part of the challenge SPS is facing.  SPS didn’t anticipate the sudden drop in enrollment due to more parents sending children to private schools.

    • parent March 3, 2023 (9:15 am)

      It’s tough to say definitively. On the one hand there are anecdotal accounts of waitlists at some private schools. On the other hand, Seattle Lutheran High School near the Junction recently shut its doors after 44 years, as covered by WSB

  • Frog March 2, 2023 (2:42 pm)

    The only way to rationalize over-building Alki ES at this moment of declining enrollment would be that they plan to close Lafayette (old building, formerly discussed for a rebuild), and shift 150+ Lafayette students to Alki, and convert Pathfinder and/or Boren STEM to a neighborhood elementary to absorb the rest of the Lafayette students.  Several members of the school board are vocal opponents of option schools due to both transportation costs and “equity.”  Or maybe they would close Pathfinder, and move the students back to neighborhood schools with boundaries redrawn to move some Lafayette students to Alki.  Some sort of conspiracy theory is needed to explain an Alki building that holds 500 vs. under 300 current enrollment.

    • AlkiOption March 2, 2023 (3:46 pm)

      Honestly, I think that converting Alki to an option school would make more sense and could explain why it will grow in size.That way Pathfinder could just be a normal school for the growing neighborhood of Pidgeon Point and Delridge without having to bus as many kids over to Lafayette 

      • Frog March 2, 2023 (6:14 pm)

        Knives are out for option schools, and if they move, it’s most likely to be off the map and into old timers’ memory.  One knock against them is transportation cost.  From that perspective, Alki seems relatively unsuited to host an option school — too much of an edge location.  The only cheap way to fill it would be to extend the boundary east toward California to poach Lafayette students.  (No point to take on Genesee Hill students, since that school is also new and under-enrolled.)

    • Dyn99 March 2, 2023 (5:56 pm)

      Genesee Hill enrollment is down 30% since 2017.  It has plenty of room for the Layfayette kids.  That Layfayette site would fetch big $$ for multi family housing if sold.

      The bigger issue is families leaving the city.  I wonder why that would possibly be happening?

    • George March 8, 2023 (11:30 pm)

      SPS only rebuilds schools to house larger number of students. Sadly what makes Alki a wonderful school, its small size is going away because of the rebuild. Also, the district will redraw neighborhood school boundaries when the new school reopens. There will be school closures in WS. And great some are able to bike, but the lack of parking is going to be tough. Teachers at Alki aren’t excited about it. It’s gotten worse over the last ten plus years with all the new apartments/condos. The city will need to turn some of the streets into one-ways to help with traffic. 

  • Lucy March 2, 2023 (4:49 pm)

    Too bad the money doesn’t follow the student.  That way parents would have a choice where they put their kiddos.  Including private, faith based schools.  

    • Dyn99 March 2, 2023 (5:59 pm)

      There are a very small number of spots at private schools in WS.  Most of those that exist are even more woke than SPS.  Vax mandates for preschoolers are common, even amongst kids who already had Covid twice.

      School choice is amazing and the chances of it happening in WA are negative zero.

      • shotinthefoot March 3, 2023 (10:43 am)

        @Dyn99, you negate every point you’re trying desperately to make by using the term “woke” – just so you know. 

      • Teacher March 3, 2023 (11:19 am)

        I’m awake when I teach. Is that a bad thing?

    • Peter March 2, 2023 (7:07 pm)

      Taxpayer funding of faith based schools is very clearly unconstitutional, so no, the money absolutely should not follow the student. Tax funded public schools are open to everyone at no cost. Parents who willingly _choose_ not to use them should get zero taxpayer support for their choice, no vouchers, no tax deductions, nothing. 

      • Jim March 2, 2023 (8:23 pm)

        It is NOT unconstitutional. You have the right to an education and if the schools are going to provide a poor quality of education then you should get a voucher for the exact same amount as a public school would spend on that student It doesn’t have to fully cover the cost of the tuition but this whole thing of endless spending on public schools that underperform is just ridiculous especially when they have record amounts of revenue from property taxes

        • Jason March 3, 2023 (7:22 am)

          Jim when you say underperforming what measure are you using?  State tests that private schools don’t take? If a private school has a student who can’t or won’t perform they just ask them to leave.  You are making a false comparison.

        • Big Amway Fan March 3, 2023 (7:47 am)

          There it is: choice of education for the rich families who can afford to pay more than their voucher would cover, and to hell with the rest who get to fight for the scraps of leftover funding. Nevermind the admission and hiring discrimination faith-based school either! 

          • Jim March 3, 2023 (5:12 pm)

            Friend of mine has their daughter at Seattle private school and the tuition cost less than what Seattle public schools spend per student by several thousand dollars

        • George March 8, 2023 (11:38 pm)

          Teachers have no choice in who they get to teach. They get the students that parents raise. Hard to teach kids who don’t get enough sleep because they are playing video games all night. Hard to make a student learn when they tell you no or they aren’t asked to be responsible for anything at home. Maybe teachers would be able to do a better job if students were taught to respect adults, weren’t catered to and knew how important education is. 

      • Mike March 3, 2023 (9:49 am)

        Tax funded public schools are open to everyone at no cost.”.You’re partially correct.  SPS has decided to go with equity and base decisions on race, gender and financial status on who goes where and who is accepted into certain programs.  People can differ on morality and ideology, but the fact is that SPS has specific programs that do not allow all students based on those three things.

  • snowskier March 2, 2023 (4:51 pm)

    SPS lists a key reason for the deficit as enrolling having decreased since 2013-14 while staffing has increased.  Hopefully they can look at the increase in Central Admin staff during that time to see where to cut first to bring staffing ratios inline with enrollment.  In building, direct contact staff should be the last place to look when facing a budget trouble but I fear this isn’t the approach that will be taken by SPS. 

    • N March 2, 2023 (5:12 pm)

      They already announced significant job cuts at the central office. The private school we send one kid to has record enrollment.  Wish we could afford to send both kids there, this from a family who never thought about private in the past.  Unfortunately the gap between SPS and private has become huge since Covid.  you hear it from teachers that all the kids are behind.  

      • Beedee March 2, 2023 (9:21 pm)

        Why would you send one to “special school” and not the other? Childhood trauma is real.

        • parent March 3, 2023 (9:18 am)

          Different kids have different needs is also real. I trust N understands their own kids’ needs better than you.

  • Molly March 2, 2023 (5:47 pm)

    From what I’ve been hearing from a lot of parents who moved their kids to private schools- the idea of lowering the standards for students (in order to make it more equitable) is having the effect that parents are not satisfied with the rigor of education their kids are getting, especially with the removal of the HCC and AL programs. It’s great that we want to be more equitable by looking at education through the most marginalized; but there are a lot of kids who are somewhere in the middle/upper middle/lower top of their class that are just floating on with no guidance, no struggles, no corrections of work, etc. Education should lift everyone up; not just lower the bar so that everyone can walk over it. 

    • opinion March 2, 2023 (10:10 pm)

      Molly, Rigor exists in SPS schools. Rigor looks and sounds different at every school. Mandated one size fits all curriculum promoted as “use with fidelity and all students will succeed” is the bigger problem. SPS needs to clean house at the Admin leave at the district office. Then that money can go towards schools.

      • snowskier March 3, 2023 (9:06 am)

        Couldn’t agree more about cleaning house at the district office and then bringing back fewer people than were there before.  Pulling the advanced programs is exactly what led our family to not consider SPS.  The district basically said that they were against trying to meet the needs of all the students so they chose to put a cap on the top level of instruction.  This in a city that is drawing in tons of high level engineering and programming talent that generally produces smart, academically driven offspring.  It’s not rocket science to see why private/parochial enrollment is up while SPS is down.

      • Teacher March 3, 2023 (11:23 am)

        The word “rigor” is commonly used in place of “exclusive” because it sounds better. Parents who miss an exclusively advanced class within a public school are moving to private schools.          

        • Kyle March 3, 2023 (1:53 pm)

          Talked with a principal at a local elementary school and she basically said trying to teach differentiated math in the same classroom will be a disaster. It might be possible with reading/writing as you can self direct the more advanced kids in those subjects more easily. However, without additional resources advanced math in the same classroom will be a joke.

          • Ian March 3, 2023 (4:04 pm)

            Kyle what school were you talking to the principal at.  This is a concern that I have as well

  • Don Brubeck March 2, 2023 (6:04 pm)

    Absurd that Alki Elementary is planned for expansion to 540 students while enrollment at Alki continues to go down.  Currently at 309.  Smaller apartments and condos are replacing single family homes in Alki’s attendence area, so number of school-age children continues decline. And, more parents are choosing private, parochial and home schooling.  It is not too late for the School Board to change course to right-size Alki School and avoid this expensive folly.

  • Mr J March 2, 2023 (6:36 pm)

    Let’s take some of the excess police budget and put it towards schools. 

    • Marc mauger March 2, 2023 (8:06 pm)

      Mr J gets it!

      • Flivver March 3, 2023 (6:44 am)

        What “excess” police budget????

    • Not the Mr T March 2, 2023 (10:11 pm)

      Why would we want more money to schools when enrollment is declining with an increasing numbers of teachers and staff?  SPS needs to do the right thing, make the tough decision now to make plans for school consolidation/closure and appropriate teacher numbers based on the student enrollment.  Rebuilding/expansion makes no sense.

      Studies have shown that Seattle is the number 1 city for single people (MyNorthwest) and that the Seattle metro area ranked in the bottom 15 or a new list of analyzing metro areas in the US based on average family sizes (SeattlePI). Don Brubeck says it poignantly ” Smaller apartments and condos are replacing single family homes in Alki’s attendance area, so number of school-age children continues to decline.”

      Ironically, it seems that it is the City’s own policies which will make this situation worse with the years to come.

  • John March 2, 2023 (8:20 pm)

    57% of my property taxes or throughout all of King county 3.7 billion dollars are supposed to be going to the schools. Property taxes went up significantly every year for the last several years. Enough is enough it’s time for an audit

    • Canton March 2, 2023 (10:15 pm)

      For sure. How can we get a independent audit? I’ve looked through 125 pages of employee titles out of 776, and have seen very few financial positions. A independent group of auditors/accountants could figure it out.

    • parent March 3, 2023 (9:26 am)

      I wondered about this also. Seems the elephant in the room- they knew they would be facing a budget deficit at the time they signed the new contract, yet the communications from the district never mention this as one of the causes of the deficit.  I support the teachers and it is a testimony to their union power that they were able to negotiate such raises. At a time when schools are closing, you’d think there would be a surplus of teachers and downward pressure on their wages.

  • arix March 2, 2023 (10:21 pm)

    I believe the state Lotto was put into process for the schools. That is how Lotto originally  began. Where has all that money gone?

  • CommonCents March 2, 2023 (11:58 pm)

    Families are being forced out of Seattle with the bicycle and bus focused infrastructure. Anyone with kids (those of us left) know that Seattle has been at war with cars and parking and if you have two kids to drive around Seattle has made life onerous. SDOT will continue the march towards a car free city at the peril of public schools. Ironically the poor will get hit the hardest while those who can afford $2,000+ bikes win more and more lanes. EVs are the future, not bikes and buses, Seattle is making long term mistakes with each car lane and parking space removed when it comes to families being able to raise a kid in the city. This is just the beginning of SPS problems. Things will get worse not better and I fear Seattle is just not going to be a place with many schools or teachers in the future, but cyclists will be rewarded. 

    • Big Amway Fan March 3, 2023 (12:29 pm)

      Bikes are expensive at 2-3k a pop but everyone needs to buy a 25-30k EV to save our public schools and protect the poor is next level War on Cars™️ brain and I am delighted to witness this comment. 

    • Another One March 3, 2023 (1:08 pm)

      You’re so right. We should get more people into cars and fewer people on bikes and buses. All those additional cars on the road will be awesome! Whenever I’m driving in my car and I see a bus full of people, or someone on a bike, I think “I wish all of you were in cars in front of me.” 

  • Watertowerjim March 3, 2023 (5:39 am)

    Covid overreactions will impact public schools for decades. Nice work folks.

  • Teacher March 3, 2023 (7:03 am)

    Nearly 22% of school-aged children in Seattle
    attend private schools. That’s the 3rd highest percentage in the US  and
    it’s rapidly increasing. Many other Seattle children commute to neighboring
    districts or are homeschooled. More and more families are deciding that public
    school in Seattle doesn’t work for them. Anyone who has had any interaction
    with Seattle Public Schools knows the root of this mass exodus- it’s a
    dysfunctional district that doesn’t prioritize students, constantly disrespects
    and undermines teachers, and operates from a place of reactivity vs. creating
    positive, proactive policies. Yes, public education is underfunded in
    Washington State. However, SPS constantly mismanages funds, doesn’t prioritize
    students’ needs or wellness, and spends too much time and money on PR and
    catchphrases passing the blame. They gamble with our tax dollars- hoping parents
    won’t sue them for their egregious behavior.

    Our children deserve better.

    When things seem to be going well at your local SPS  public school, it’s
    because of the teachers and support staff. They are constantly smoothing over
    bad district policies to protect students and families. They are showing up to
    support their coworkers when a sub doesn’t show up (because the district
    doesn’t treat subs well and we have an insane sub shortage.) They are buying
    food and clothes and supplies for students with money from their own pockets.
    They are speaking up to admin reminding them we are in it for the kids and
    EVERYTHING we do should put that first. Some are working under supportive
    principals who understand the daily challenges and will push back on the
    district to do what is right for their school community, but many work under
    principals who promote and push district ideals without reason, while plotting
    their next career ladder climb to a position at JSCEE.

    Many SPS staffers were told this week that they will have to do more with less
    next year. Larger class sizes, cut Special Ed positions, cut office staff, cut
    art classes, cut school nurses, less supply money, and on and on. Some were
    told they won’t have a position in their current building. We now continue through
    the second half of the year with this all looming over our heads.

    Quality public schools benefit the entire community both socially and
    economically. Everybody should be paying attention to what is going on, because
    ultimately the decisions made and the health of our public school system will
    have long-term consequences for us all. 

    • WW Resident March 3, 2023 (11:38 am)

      And maybe parents also want the focus to be on some actual fundamentals like reading, writing, arithmetic. The ratings for a lot of Seattle’s public schools aren’t very good

      • WW Resident March 3, 2023 (11:48 am)

        Just to admit, I was wrong about the rank 

    • JJ March 3, 2023 (6:11 pm)

      Yes, Teacher! Well said. Good public schools DO exist in Seattle because of dedicated teachers and (some) principals doing the work despite unsupportive district leadership. 

Sorry, comment time is over.