The most recent message from the district is that the school closure plan is focused on creating better schools. If this is true, then it is time to consider all the possible options. That means considering closing schools that weren’t included in the CAC’s preliminary recommendations, considering changing the configuration of some K-5 schools to K-8, and, in general, expanding the pool of possible solutions by moving outside of the narrowly focused parameters placed on the CAC's work.
For example, in West Seattle, two schools (High Point and Fairmount Park) were slated for closure. When they chose to merge, that reduced the number of schools being closed in the Southwest cluster. With the earlier recommendation of moving Pathfinder to High Point no longer possible, instead of considering another school to close, the CAC came up with the bizarre recommendation of putting Pathfinder in the Boren building. If the CAC had considered all options, I have no doubt they could have come up with a better solution.
And in the Northwest quadrant, the CAC could have suggested changing Viewlands to a K-8, as has been discussed in the past. But because the closure process did not include looking at middle school capacity and issues as part of the discussion, the city could lose a successful elementary program in a unique location, tearing apart an Aspergers/Autism inclusion program as children are placed in various schools around the quadrant.
At last week’s Board work session, one School Board member commented that community members are coming up with more creative solutions than the Board or district staff. I completely understand the need to follow through respectfully on a process that has already taken months of hard work by community volunteers and district staff. And I can empathize with the feelings of some Board members that expanding the number of options just makes decision-making harder. But we should not rush to conclude the closure process, sticking with proposed solutions just to make it easier.
In his preliminary recommendations, the Superintendent called for “renewed clarity in our educational vision and the bold leadership necessary to make change.” This is a moment for both the Superintendent and the School Board to live up to these words, considering all options before making final school closure recommendations, measuring the choices always by the yardstick of academic excellence for all.