I am also learning that there are parents gathering information about growth boundaries, possibly to challenge the district legally.
I am not surprised at any of this given the gravity of the situation, both district-wide and for specific regions.
October 5, 2016
Seattle School District ATTN: Board of Directors MS 11-010
PO Box 34165
Seattle, WA 98124-1165
RE: Proposed Cedar Park Growth Boundaries
The North District Council, with representatives from 14 community groups across far northeast Seattle, wishes to express its strong concerns about the proposed Growth Boundaries Plan for 2017-18, which would impact at least five of the elementary schools in our part of the City and have ripple effects on Jane Addams Middle School and Nathan Hale High School.
We believe the plan is insensitive to the needs of the high-poverty communities it would affect north of and within the Lake City Urban Village, which include some of the poorest census tracts in Seattle. A thoughtful solution may require that Cedar Park Elementary be treated as an option school. This would lead to minimal boundary revisions for the other schools in the area and would also take full advantage of the new Olympic Hills Elementary School building that will open next year with a design specifically intended to serve a high-poverty student body.
Three issues are of particular concern to us:
- The recommended boundaries for Cedar Park Elementary would create a very high-poverty school (69% Free and Reduced Lunch), with a high concentration of English Language Learners (43.8%) and a high percentage of historically-underserved students (76.2%). Given the concentration of poverty in the area near Cedar Park, ANY attendance area boundaries for it would automatically make it the highest Free and Reduced Lunch school in North Seattle. This would create enormous challenges for any new school, but particularly so for a building with no library, eight unplumbed portables and insufficient space for programming especially important for a high-poverty student population (e.g., before and after-school care, Head Start preschool, etc.). The landmarked site also lacks flexibility to expand, while its attendance area has hundreds of multi-family units in the permitting pipeline.
- The recommended boundaries would divert a large high-poverty population away from Olympic Hills Elementary School, which is uniquely well-prepared to support it. Olympic Hills, which earlier this year was named one of the Most Distinguished Schools in Washington State for being in the top 5% of all schools for raising academic achievement over the last five years, has historically had over 70% of its student body qualify for Free and Reduced Lunches. The new Olympic Hills building was specifically designed to serve the school’s low-income students and English language learners. The building design includes small group work areas for English language, reading, and math instruction, a Health Center, and spaces specifically set aside for before and after school care, preschool, and special education. Olympic Hills now has four kindergarten classes and would naturally grow into its new facility, which is designed to house four classrooms per grade.
- The recommended boundaries would dramatically reduce diversity at other North District elementary schools. John Rogers, Sacajawea and Olympic View elementary schools would all see their racial and socioeconomic diversity drop significantly, while the new growth boundaries would concentrate poverty at Cedar Park and Olympic Hills. From a societal standpoint— considering the inherent educational value of a diverse student body and the extra challenges for both staff and students of concentrating high-poverty populations in certain schools—this makes no sense when there are alternatives.
- Please take these concerns into account and revise plans for Cedar Park Elementary as well as the overall growth boundaries for far northeast Seattle schools in your final Growth Boundaries Plan.
Mark Mendez and John Lombard Co-Chairs
Growth Boundaries Program, Seattle Public Schools
Honorable Debora Juarez, Seattle City Councilmember, District Five