A request was made for a thread about high schools and parents' experiences with them. I did a quick check and it appears most high schools are having at least one daytime tour and one evening tour (Roosevelt and Hale seem to be the only ones with a single tour.) Again, while the tours aren't always the most fun, it is a very good way to get a feel for a building, see what gets emphasized, and, if it is during the day, to see the energy at the school.
My students attended Hale and Roosevelt. I think they both received a good education and were prepared for college. Each was a good fit for each son. (This is one reason I really feel unhappy about the lack of 10% set-aside seats under the NSAP. High school IS a big deal and you want your student to feel good about the school he/she attends. They need to feel a part of that tribe. That said, I know people who easily switched high schools so it can be done.)
One observation I have about high school is the ownership the teachers feel for their building. Maybe it's because it is a bigger staff with department heads but they truly feel invested in their school and its organization. This can have good and bad aspects but I believe it makes for a stronger school when you have teams of teachers working together.
Before I start with my experience, one caveat. This is one family's experience but my experience is that school culture doesn't change that much. However, a principal can really make a difference so ask other parents about the principal. Ask some students what they think.
Hale has a new building which is quite nice. They have their own full-sized sports field (they are one of the few high schools to have one).
When my son was there, it had quite a solid teaching corps and counseling office.
I was not at the school with the current principal (Hale has had quite a few principals over the last 8 years). I note that the district was recently found guilty of unfair labor practices around actions the current principal took against an employee. The principal changed a staff member's evaluation several times to reflect badly on the employee. This is troubling. But I know little about her abilities as a principal so maybe a Hale parent could weigh in.
Hale has an inclusion model for both classes and sports. This means that they have few separate classes for honors or AP. This is model they had been working towards for years and many parents like it. They did want to do away with separate AP classes altogether (except for foreign language and math) but I believe they ended up with something in the middle. You have to decide for yourself if a separate AP class matters. I think it does matter in terms of getting through all the material at the same pace.
My experience with inclusion in sports wasn't great. While it is true that no one gets cut, it is also true that they don't play everyone. When my son was on the Ultimate Frisbee team, he never got to play in a single game and was told he never would as they were competitive and he wasn't a good player. You can imagine how hurtful that was (especially as he is a special needs student). I doubt this happens in all sports but I would imagine that for students who are not especially athletically gifted, it would be a hard thing to be on a team and know you won't be competing at all. This could have changed by now.
Hale has started up musical theater in the last couple of years and I hear the shows have been great. They have the only FM radio station in the district and it is a real point of pride. It's the mighty C89.5 and they have a beautiful new studio (and I note that parents raised the funds for the equipment).
They also have a Horticulture program and share a new greenhouse with Jane Addams.
Hale has a reputation for having an inclusive student body. It is less cliqueish than some other schools. Hale has a reputation for some students using pot. (This is in contrast to Roosevelt's reputation for alcohol use among some students.)
Hale has a steady and fairly strong parent base.
In recent years, I know of two people who transferred their children out of Hale because of a perception of less rigor but I know of one person who transferred in (from Roosevelt) because of Hale's student culture.
One of the oldest of Seattle's high school, Roosevelt has a long and storied history (I helped organize the archives and it is fascinating. They also maintain a library of every single yearbook.)
Roosevelt also had a rebuild and it maintained the original facade so the school has that "grand old lady" look. My one beef with the building is that the numbering system is wacky and you tend to wander a lot (and so do the freshmen).
Roosevelt also has a solid teaching corps. I was a little less impressed with the counseling (and you hear this from other parents as well). I will say, though, that most counselors at ANY high school are generally dealing with about 350-400 students EACH and that's a lot for any human being. It can be difficult to get the class schedule you want (just as it is at Garfield and Ballard).
Roosevelt's principal has been there five years and I found him a good person to work with and the kids generally like him. I give him a lot of credit because in his first years at Roosevelt he exited two poor quality teachers. He knew what had to be done and did the work to get it done.
Roosevelt is a fairly rigorous school. In 10th grade all sophomores are required to take a year-long AP Human Geography class. (Dorothy Neville has weighed in on this a couple of times. It gets mixed reviews.) Roosevelt is the only high school to offer Latin and regularly attended Latin competitions. It has one of the highest numbers of AP and honors classes in the district. There is one oddity in the LA department where they refuse to offer AP classes. They have a strong computer science department with a full lab. They also offer a UW in the Schools class.
Roosevelt is, of course, known for its powerhouse music and drama departments. The drama department offers theater classes as well as producing plays and a musical each year.
Roosevelt also has a strong sports program (along with club sports like Ultimate Frisbee and Lacrosse).
My observation about Roosevelt and its student body is that (1) they have a lot of kids who are involved in the life of their school in one way or another and (2) it can be cliqueish. You tend to have some fairly strong groups come out of Eckstein and I think for kids who didn't go there, it can be a hard thing to break into. That said, I do see plenty of interaction between groups.
One note about Roosevelt is that it has a very strong parent base but that it splinters depending on what activity your child is in. Roosevelt's PTSA has a No-Bake bake sale for fundraising, meaning, they ask you to write a check. No buying anything, no auctions, just whatever you can afford. Meanwhile the various music, drama and sports groups raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to support those activities. So parents have their own tribes just as the kids do. I think Hale's example of more school-wide fundraising might offer more opportunities for all parents to be together. Just an observation.