Congratuations to Seattle Public Schools, and the Board in particular, for addressing Student Assignment. The District is making a clear and rational effort to match the use of facilities with the demand for facilities. This is a truly wonderful thing and the Board and the District staff are to be congratulated and thanked for making this effort.
The work that Tracy Libros has been doing has been both very important and very good. She has genuinely invited the public to participate in the conversation, and the public input is clearly reflected in the framework document. The data that she and her colleagues have generated is meaningful to the process and she has been very open about sharing it.
The right-sizing of the elementary school reference areas is long overdue and very welcome. It has been goofy to tell 550 students that a 300 student building is their neighborhood reference school. We must all be very pleased that these mismatches will be fixed. People should have confidence that they can enroll their child at the school that they are told is their reference area school. Otherwise, the family is left without a reference school for all practical purposes.
I must say that I like the idea of elementary school reference area clusters matching up with middle school reference areas. I like the idea that the majority of a fifth grade class will proceed as a cohort to the same middle school.
These ideas have a strong appeal to me.
The District will run up against some physical constraints. They say that they have enough seats in the north end high schools for all of the north end high school students, but I'm not sure about that. Even if they do, it will be a tight fit.
I recommend that the District relocate Summit K-12 to the Lincoln building and site a comprehensive high school there as well. This will bring a number of benefits. It will give Summit K-12, an all-city draw alternative school the central location it needs. It will also allow the Summit high school students access to a broader variety of classes than their small program could offer - if they choose to share classes with the new high school. It will also add about 800 new high school seats in the north end to accomodate all of the students who will return to the public school system once Queen Anne and Magnolia have a predictable nearby high school assignment. Although Lincoln will be lost as an interim site, the District will be able to use Jane Addams or Wilson Pacific as their northend interim site.
I think that the Southeast Initiative is a good and necessary idea, but I would extend it to Mercer and Cleveland and not include the AAA. The AAA is an alternative school. No one gets a mandatory assignment there, so it doesn't belong in the Southeast Initiative. I'm not saying that the AAA shouldn't get some kind of District intervention - just not this one. The Southeast Initiative should be about assuring that students assigned to schools have equitable access to advanced programs at their manadatory assignment.
There will be some capacity issues in the middle and high schools in the southeast, so the District may need press the Rainier View property back into service. It is a big plot and they could build a middle school or maybe even a 6-12 (ala Denny/Sealth) on that land.
This is great work, work that needed to be tackled, and the Board and the District staff appear to be following a good process and getting good results.