Wits end with Seattle Schools placement/transport

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    3 years ago we moved to Alki directly across the street from the Elem school from Burien. It was midyear my kids were attached to their schools in Burien so we all got up super early and I drove them to Burien and paid for before and after school care to enure they got safely to and from their schools.

    I enrolled my 2 boys the first day of open enrollment for the next school year.

    My eldest was accepted to Madison our first choice and closest middle school. We live 1.7 miles from the school so he does not qualify for a yellow bus. But that 1.7 mile includes the Admiral Hill. District did not care. So I drove him in the mornings and he took metro home which we paid for untill this year when a magical voucher appeared in the mail. I don’t know why the change but hey we will take it. Not so bad …we make it work.

    My youngest on the other hand ….placement has been a red tape nightmare. Despite living across the street from Alki Elem and listing it as our first choice, somehow my son ended up placed at West Seattle Elem which was number 5 on our choice list. We accepted this, put him on the wait list for Alki and started our first year waiting for the bus. And waiting and waiting and waiting. His pick up time has always been listed as 7:35. For 2 years we have arrived at the stop by 7:25 and have had actual arrival as late as 8:30. Thank God I have a flexible employer. Several times its just not shown up. Calling transport office is a joke you sit on hold longer then it takes for the bus to show or you just get cut off…I think there might be an automatic timer that cuts you at 40 mins hold time.

    West Seattle Elem is a failing school. Last year we were given the option to be placed at a school meeting its test scores and I took the option by mail. So I was suprised when my sons school assignment for this year was still West Seattle Elem. I called the district sat on hold over 30 mins each time to have the first service person tell me only a 2nd level rep could help me so back on hold for second level rep, another long wait. They would then tell me that no there was a special person who could help me only and let me transfer you to their direct line. Could I have that number in case I need to contact them again? No. I can only be transferred. Well this special placement person doesn’t answer their phone and believe me it rings forever and wow! they don’t have voicemail. So after a few daily rounds of that battle I insisted the 2nd level rep stay on the line with me during the transfer. This led me to being tranferred to another person and leaving them a voicemail for a few days in a row and finally a call back that they were not the right person but try this other direct line. I left yet another voicemail that was never returned but I did recieve physical mail asking me to choose which school meeting thier tests score with room I would like to send my son to. One is in Queen Anne, the only other option Columbia City. Seriously. My goal was to get my son into the school across the street from our home. Is this not what the district keeps saying is their long term goal as well to have all children attending thier closest school?

    Then came the completly confusing press release of some children losing transportation because their schools are too far away.I followed links, made calls, tried to understand that damn map they released and in the end was told wait for your letter. Once again our family had hope that our youngest would be placed across the street.

    Got our letter today and nope! We are still placed at West Seattle Elem and on top of that now my son has to catch the bus at …you got it Alki Elem…lets rub it in his face just a little more that he cant go there. We are still on the wait list they even claim he is number 1 on the wait list for Alki but I don’t see it happening.

    Oh, AND Madison starts early this year…youngest pick up is later which means school district thinks I can be in two places at once…driving my eldest and supervising my youngest while waiting for the bus.



    Sounds about right for Seattle Public Schools. I have to take my youngest to be to school at 8am, then magically make it to my sons daycare center by 8:12am so he can catch his bus, then I have to make it to Chief Sealth to drop of my daughter so she can be in class by 8:25. Somehow I don’t think that’s going to work to well. I thought it used to be priority to make sure children made it to school. Now its all about money and how much can they really take away from our kids education.



    Okay, that is seriously F-d up. It would be one thing if you lived across the street from WS Elementary but you don’t, you live across the street from Alki. I wouldn’t use the phone, I’d get my butt down to John Stanford and raise some hell. I thought that with the new student assignment they were supposed to let kids in the school who were in the neighborhood.


    I Wonder

    Something is amiss here becasue, supposedly, with the new placement program online, students are placed at their reference school first based on their address. It would seem Alki would be your reference school. Why is it not?

    BTW, distance is not really a deciding factor per se, as we have seen some students in the Genesee/Admiral/Belvedere area that do not go to their “closest school”.



    What #4 said. You are supposed to be guaranteed a seat in your neighborhood school, per everything I have ever heard while covering all this the past few years. And checking Alki’s boundaries, they are NOT adjacent to the school, so no matter where you are “across the street” you should be in its zone:


    (that link will take you to the Alki map on the district website)

    Roxhill FWIW *does* have a boundary that is literally in the middle of the street outside the school.



    So, say your next door neighbor sells their house next week and a new family with children moves in next door in October. Wouldn’t their kids automatically go to Alki? If SPS is truly going to have a neighborhood/boundary driven enrollment model then the answer should be yes. That would be the way I’ve seen it work in the three other districts I have worked for that have neighborhood designated schools.

    My kids don’t enter until next fall, so I know nothing of what this would involve but it makes me wonder if your problems could be solved by withdrawing your child and then re-enrolling; a reset of sorts? If the system is going to work you, sometimes you have to work the system…..

    Sorry for all your stress. Please update any progress you make or resolution you come to. Your experience can be valuable to others.



    The school system nowadays isn’t designed around having 2 people working in a household. Its designed around the model 30 years ago that one parent stays home. It used to be when I was in school (not long ago) that I could leave my house in Boston and walk to school and sit in my classroom before school. I was also in school longer hours. My parents didn’t need to pay for this option either. Now if you work you need to pay for before school care.

    The school system has turned into a joke nowadays and its all about protecting jobs and less about the welfare of the kids and how much they learn. The kids coming out of high school are not prepared to enter the world and compete on a global scale.



    You are guaranteed a spot at Alki as per the current assignment plan. Period.

    Go to the John Stanford building in person and go to Alki Elementary. It is likely that office staff and definitely principals are back at work at this point.

    It will take persistence and a lot of “in your face” but I wouldn’t be surprised if you could get this sorted by next Wednesday.

    P.S. You could also try pestering Steve Sundquist…

    Good luck!



    Thanks for the replys…sorry to those also in a struggle to meet the families needs and education needs.

    @ Rudy…I’ve considered unenrolling and reenrolling to try to get placement but was scared he would end up further away.

    @ WSB and Stringcheese…you would think that yes but the answer I get everytime I ask whats going on is that we are grandfathered into the old system…which protects those not wanting to lose their choice school… But backfires on our family as West Seattle was not our choice school by any means.

    I work the same hour the enrollment office is open which is why I have not gone down in person.

    Tomorrow I will be able to sit on hold again for some extended hours while multitasking at work so I will be calling back.

    I am going to pose the what would happen if I unenroll…reenroll question to whoever I end up transferred to this time.



    I don’t know your work situation but it might be worth taking a half day off to go down there and raise a fuss. They are clearly making a mistake and it’s obvious that phone calls aren’t getting it rectified.


    I Wonder

    The minute you establish residency at an address, you are enrolled into your reference school. Verify this on the address checker @ Seaatle School District. This should confirm your reference school. Schools do need to be ready to accept “new enrolees” when a family moves into that schools reference area.

    Have you considered meeting with the principal @WS Elem.? Perhaps she can stream line this for you. Bring a print out of the address checker.

    The only other mixup I can imagine is that they have mistaken your “preference choice” which is putting you on the wait list (if you decline your reference school, accept enrollment at a different school, then try to get back into your reference school, you get put on a wait list during that enrollment year. Not sure what happens the next year.)



    So I ended up with time to call today afterall.

    After hold and tranfer to a specialist…my son is still attending West Seattle Elem.

    We are grandfathered into the system.

    If I unenroll my child and reenroll my child during the same school year he will be reassigned to his previous school.

    There is nothing they will do to help us.

    If he had lost his bus then he would go to Alki.

    If we were new to the district then he would go to Alki.

    Every school which would make him lose his bus thus forcing him into Alki has no space available.

    I just want to cry I’m so tired and frustrated and he is going to be crushed AGAIN when I get home.



    So…isn’t Westside a failing school? Can’t you demand he change? Personally, I’d think about getting a lawyer. This is ridiculous.



    Oops, I meant to say West Seattle. Not Westside. Slip of the fingers.



    Bonnie- Yes West Seattle is a “failing school” I sent in paperwork saying I wanted him out during this last open enrollment. He was still placed at West Seattle. When I finally got to the rep for no child left behind enrollments after many holds, mistranfers, hang up ect were talking over several days of calling she claimed they never got his paperwork and I had to talk to someone else. Left that person a voicemail, never got a call back but did recieve a physical mail stating that the 2 schools in the district meeting their test score with room were 1 in Queen Anne and 2 in Columbia City. So I did not choose those.

    Apparently no child left behind only require a child be placed in a school meeting scores WITH SPACE not the closest school meeting scores.

    I am seriously considering a lawyer. So if anyone reading this is in law I would love your advice and recomends. I think there could be a case of discrimination here given that if my neighbor moves here and enrolls their child gets placement yet mine does not. So they will make room for no bus kids, new kids, but not my kid.



    go to the Lutheren or Catholic schools… they get better test scores. have music. art, and foreign language in the curriculum. Tell the school district of your plans…. they don’t want to lose the state funds.. ya gotta haggle like buying a new car… you never get the best deal until you are willing to walk out of the showroom. SPS needs every dollar it can get….



    Hi mom2boys – this is all pretty unbelievable and your frustration is so justified! I have no experience with this new “neighborhood placement” situation but I will tell you that back in the day when you just wanted your kids to be at a certain school there were a couple different ways that worked. You didn’t mention the exact age of your child (or maybe I missed it) so it may not be something you want to try with his age or particular personality. However – you can think of the whole experience as modeling how to “fight City Hall” if you will. Anyway – we just went to school on the first day and basically lied. I said that they had told us we were in, and that it may not have reached the school yet, but we lived 4 houses down and showed them my phone and power bills. They welcomed my kids and we just went for it. In the upcoming weeks the rosters changed with all the classes several times and everything eventually seemed to settle out. I made a point to be at school, met teachers, schmoozed administrators, the whole nine. I knew that if it came down to it they would fight for me cuz they already liked us!! Now, I want to be clear that this was before the assignment by address stuff and maybe it’s different now – and also, it would have been pretty devastating to my kids if it hadn’t worked out – as well as the fact that I did lie. Confessing this now is even a little hard but I wanted to tell you because I feel the anger, frustration and desperation in your posts and my kids are in high school now and we are out of SPS. One other friend went down to the Enrollment Office EVERY SINGLE DAY until she got in, as she knew there was room and that it was simply administrative red tape that was keeping her out.

    I really hope that these examples give you some hope at least, and that you know that we are all in the fight with you and that you are so right in thinking it’s so completely unfair. Best of luck and please keep us posted!



    I still think you’re not going to get anywhere by just trying to reach them via the phone. You have to go down and get in someone’s grill, unfortunately. And if you’re willing to call a lawyer you want to be able to show that you attempted to resolve things in person.

    The suggestion to call a school board member is also a good one.



    totally agree with maplesyrup. The only way to deal with this is IN PERSON. I have been down there too often to remember.



    It is very very very hard for me to take time off of work given my position that is why I have not been down there in person.

    As far as private school. There is not one in our neighborhood…thats the whole point my son wants to make friends with the kids he goes to school with in his neighborhood.

    Sept 2nd update-

    Yesterday after the last phone call with the specialist where she basically said we are screwed due to the grandfathering enrollment policy I sent an email to my sons school counselor at West Seattle Elem, the school board member suggested here and kiro, king, and komo news. In the last 4 emails I mentioned I will be seeking legal council.

    No one returned my email except the school counselor who said she would try to get ahold of the superintendant.

    What do you know today I got a call stating that my sons turn had come up on waitlist and did I want him in Alki. Of corse I accepted!

    But I find it very strange we sat number 1 on wait list last year ALL year AND I was told not to expect an opening and if one did open it would not be untill at least 8 days into the school year when they take anyone who hasn’t shown up off the roster.

    I believe the school counselor is still going to pursue this horrible loop hole which is keeping some families who want their neighborhood school but are grandfathered into their 3 year old placement from being placed in the neighborhood school.

    Thank You all for the ideas.

    I have a VERY excited little about to be 5th grader to get ready for school now.



    So glad you finally got in!



    Does WS School Board member Steve Sundquist read the WSB — esp. the “people’s chatter,” i.e., the Forum? If not, he should. This is where the real stuff comes out.

    If anyone here knows Steve personally, could you forward this link to him to ensure that he knows about this? I find it horrifyingly unfair and nonsensical and I wish that a school board member would weigh in. Voluntarily. Because that would reassure me that administrators are attune to “everyman” media like this invaluable local Forum. But in this case I’ll settle for someone purposely contacting Steve to suggest he comment on this.



    It’s a shame the school board member representing West Seattle doesn’t scour the WSBlog for anything having to do with schools. Being so out of touch with the people who actually use the schools is one reason why he won’t be re-elected. IT’s one thing to have and control little coffee chats, something else altogether to go find the people where they are, on their own terms.


    Rod Clark

    Marty McLaren is running for school board here in West Seattle and could use your help. She was the mom of three Seattle Public Schools students, a middle school PTSA president, and taught at Denny Middle and other schools for many years.


    If you have an earful for our next school board member, you might consider inviting her to a PTSA event at your school to explain your concerns.

    Or just keep an eye out for her when she’s doorbelling in your neighborhood.



    Per the suggestion here I did send an email to steve4schools. After a brief overview of what our family has tried so far to get my sons placement at Alki I did say very clearly that there was a thread in the WSB forums about the issue.So in my mind yes he has been notified. And to date no I have no recieved a reply.

    Although this has been “resolved” for our family I still would like to have this ridiculous “grandfathered placement” policy demolished. Why are we open to discrimination just because our kids enrolled before the new placement plan was put in place.

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