It's interesting, the difference a few years makes, but the stories of district overcapacity (meaning too many schools, too few students), which led to school closure, are changing. While still true across Seattle Public Schools as a whole, pockets of district undercapacity (meaning too few seats in certain geographic areas) are causing the district to look at things a little differently. Parents and community members should be aware of this situation, which CPPS has been following for a few months.
On the one hand, press for more classroom space in NE Seattle by elementary parents whose choices and educational experiences are limited by overcrowding in all non-alternative NE cluster elementaries has brought a new angle on capacity to public light. And it isn't strictly a NE problem. All elementaries and most middle schools north of the ship canal, as well as in Queen Anne and Magnolia are or will soon be facing space and accessibility issues. On the other hand, such crowding, limited access, and community support for neighborhood schools isn't the problem in the south, outside of a few neighborhoods.
So what's a district to do?
CPPS hopes that solutions can be found that will acknowledge the window of opportunity presented by strong community desire and support for local public schools in the north end. At the same time, the resources, strategic commitments, and of the whole district must be considered. Such solutions require the level of creative thinking and community engagement that many of us have long called for. Let's keep the pressure on by voicing the full range of our ideas in the forums provided:
To start, the district has scheduled two community meetings that will focus primarily on options to classroom shortages for the 2009/10 school year:
. Monday, September 15, 6:30 - 8:30pm - Catherine Blaine K-8 cafeteria, 2550 34th Avenue W; Seattle 98199
. Tuesday, September 16, 6:30 - 8:30pm - Roosevelt High School Commons, 1410 NE 66th St, Seattle, 98115
A SPS School Board work session is scheduled on the capacity issue:
. October 1, 4 - 5:30pm - John Stanford Center, 2445 3rd Avenue South, Seattle 98134
The district is also researching long-term solutions for the population increase it expects to continue in north end clusters through 2012. As the larger elementary cohorts move through the grades, middle and high school enrollment will grow and generate classroom shortages in the higher grade schools, some of which are already capacity-challenged. Certainly, the population increase will impact the district's new student assignment plan currently in development.
SPS will continue to update information on its website pertaining to the capacity issue and the new student assignment plan. For more info, you may want to review the following links: