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Monday, November 24, 2008

Ripples From Closures Already Starting

From the district website:

"A School Board vote on the final recommendation for capacity management and building closure is planned for January 29. The enrollment calendar for this year has been adjusted to ensure that families have time to consider options and to prepare registration and application materials prior to the rescheduled Open Enrollment period. Seattle Public Schools welcomes new and returning families for 2009/10. Please call on us to answer any questions you may have about the enrollment process or timeline. Key dates are: • Open Enrollment for 2009-10 has been rescheduled. Originally in February, Open Enrollment is now March 2 -31, 2009

The School Fair has been cancelled. Originally scheduled for January 10

Information on School Tours and Open Houses will be posted at www.seattleschools.org by December 5.

Assignment letters will go out by the end of May."

I knew that the assignments would be late but I thought early/mid May. End of May is very late. As well, I think I can understand why they canceled the School Fair but now parents have to do the tours if they want information. The district is being fairly cold about the closure process anyway so why not have the Fair without the schools on the closure list (the final list is to be released Jan. 7th).

20 comments:

SolvayGirl said...

Late May is going to lose the District a lot of students. For anyone who is considering an independent school as a fall-back if they don't get into their school of choice, the revised schedule will be more than a problem.

Most independent schools expect parents to commit by late March – early April with a sometimes hefty deposit. And many more require the first tuition payment to be made in early May. Some schools hold you to the contract for full tuition if you cancel after June 1 (though most are June 30).

I expect some families who are at risk of not getting into any of their desired schools will just bite the bullet and sign on with the independent school for the year. I know the District needs to save money, but their timing could not be worse.

I agree with Melissa's other post about the "other places to cut costs." Perhaps they should have started there first, then saved the closures for the 2010 school year. They could have dovetailed nicely with the new assignment plan.

Unknown said...

in these economic times and with the current capacity of seattle's private schools (i.e., not unlimited), it seems unlikely the district will lose "a lot" of students.

if they can get some clarity on the new assignment plan, it might actually entice some families to stay and/or come back.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Evan, I said sort of the same thing previously (but that I thought maybe some private school parents would be rethinking private school because of the economy) but many people seemed to think that people will put education at the top of their budget list.

We'll see but much later rather than sooner.

Megan Mc said...

I work for a private school (6-12 college prep) and we had over 1000 people at each of our Open Houses in Oct and Nov. There were many parents of public school students who are looking at private schools for the first time. Parents know a budget crunch is coming which means bigger classes and less resources for their kids.

I also think many families who bought houses in the Central and South end are looking at the difference in price they paid for their house vs one in Montlake, Wedgewood, or Queen Anne and are putting that money toward private school where they are guaranteed stability, safety, high standards and accountability. Because the economy is bad, private schools will be more accommodating to ensure their enrollment stays full.

anonymous said...

It wouldn't surprise me to see private schools adjust their deadlines to accomodate the situation. They don't want to lose any potential families due to an inflexible deadline.

SolvayGirl said...

Private schools are more than happy to have SPS notify parents so much later than they do. At Holy Names for Example, they get 500 applications for approximately 180 slots. The later enrollment dates for SPS are to the private school's advantage. If anything, the District needs to move enrollment up much earlier. The privates don't have as much leeway since their enrollment process is much more complex and time consuming (applications, essays, transcripts, teacher recommendations, financial aid applications). The advanced enrollment dates will definitely NOT help SPS.

momster said...

sv91972, back to your assertion that late May is going to lose the district a lot of students - as you note, there are "180 slots" at holy names (one example of a private school) - are there going to be any more slots because there may possibly be more applicants fleeing public schools, or will there just be greater competition for them?

people always say that things the district is doing will drive people to private schools - closures included. what i see in my world is people going to private school for middle school because the publics are too big or the ones they want are not accessible to them. otherwise, they've been going to private (mostly parochial) schools all along and do even with great public schools nearby. you're not likely to draw those families to public ever.

Charlie Mas said...

That's a good point. If Holy Names - and the other private schools - can only accept a fixed and finite number of students regardless of the events at Seattle Public Schools, and if they already have more applicants than space, then turmoil in the public schools may create more applicants for private school, but it wouldn't create any more losses to the private schools.

It could, of course, create more losses to suburban schools.

Of course, if there are some private schools that don't fill every seat every year, and those seats get filled, that would be a net loss from Seattle Public Schools to the private schools. The public schools would also lose students if, due to the perennial turmoil in our public schools, private schools expand their facilities and accept more students or new private schools are founded. Finally, let's not discount the growth of online public schools.

Even if Holy Names is already full, SPS can lose more students through the uncertainty they create around assignment and quality.

TechyMom said...

I realize I'm only one example, but the combinination of lack of capacity at good schools in my area, unacceptable prorgrams at the schools with room, and looming uncertainty about assignment is EXACTLY what is driving me to look at private schools, even though I have a pretty strong political preference for public. Threre is a very real chance that My daughter won't get a K assignment to an acceptable school. I can't risk that. A guarenteed spot in March will be very tempting.

It's true that the most popular private schools have limited space, but there are many lesser-known private schools that do have space, and new ones opening.

Jet City mom said...

Agree with Solvaygirls original comment.My oldest attended private from K-12, although for 5 non- consecutive years we attempted to get her into a Seattle public school of our choice.

However- as indicated, deposits were due in March- enough of a deposit that you don't want to give it up. While she was on generous aid- it was not 100% and it didn't include deposit.
The district however, did not notify families until August, and if you ended up on a waitlist, it didn't move till November.
If we had been able to be notified earlier, and so would have been able to prepare for the transition, we would have been happy to use SPS.

Unfortunately we were not notified until after school started that a space opened up, & even though we struggled to come up with our piece of tuition through several different strikes and lay-offs, wasn't enough to warrant switching school systems.

Many schools have begun with increased need, and I can see expansion of the K-2 schools or even new schools starting up if demand warrants.

anonymous said...

So, aside from this year, which is an atypical year with indecision and closure, why can't the district go through the assignment process much earlier? Why can't they let parents know of their children's assignment in Jan/Feb?

In other districts, like Shoreline, you can just walk into the school, do the paperwork, and walk out with an enrolled child. I know that with a choice system this isn't possible, but there must be a more efficient way than the way SPS does it now. I think the uncertainty, stress, and fear does drive families either into private or to their doctors for Valium.

If the new assignment plan allows guaranteed assignment to your reference school why couldn't families that live within the reference area be able to just walk into their school and register during a certain enrollment period? And walk out with an assignment to that school? Thus eliminating a 3 month long, stressful, process. For the families that do not choose to enroll their child at his/her reference school, the old vax enrollment system might be much quicker as there would be less kids to assign? Maybe they could even get assignment letters out much earlier, say Feb or Mar. I mean we are trying to move toward predictability and all.

Just some thoughts.....

SolvayGirl said...

Good ideas ad hoc...

Mary--normally you'd be spot on on this. I was one of the "switch to private for MS and return to public for HS" parents. However, this year things may change. I'll find out today if our 1st public choice (The Center School) ends up on the chopping block. Even if it's still viable, it's a lottery school and my child may not be assigned there. Not knowing her assignment until late May will definitely impact our final decision. There's a good chance she would not be assigned to any of our desired schools. It would be very hard to opt for a "who knows?" school rather than the bird in hand (private).

The District's system should definitely be streamlined to allow for early notification. I honestly believe it would boost enrollment.

And Melissa is also right in thinking that for those of use with less than optimal school choices education is high on our budgets. You'd be surprised how much money you can find when you don't have things like cable TV, fancy cell phones, etc. Having only one child makes a huge difference as well. Generous grandparents help a lot too.

Charlie Mas said...

I think it is very much a goal of the new assignment plan for families to be assured of assignment to their neighborhood reference school if that is what they want. This would remove the uncertainty that draws some people away from our public schools.

It is also very much the superintendent's goal to make EVERY school an acceptable option. That would remove the legitimate concerns that draws some people away from our public schools. It also raises the stakes on the uncertainty of assignment.

If you weren't sure of the specific school assignment, but you were sure that - whatever the assignment - the school would be good, then maybe you could tolerate the uncertainty of assignment. But with the lurking possibility - however small - of a mandatory assignment to an unacceptable program (for whatever reason), the risks feel to large to leave to chance.

This School Board is already a year late with the new assignment plan and they have deferred it for another two years. They just aren't getting the job done and it is costing the District.

ParentofThree said...

SolvayGirl1972, the Center School is not a lottery school.

I urge you to call the principal and talk to her now about enrolling at Center for
2009. I think you will be quite surprised to hear the stats of who gets in (everybody who applies ontime) and where they live. As far north at 110th and as south as Genesee Park. Only kids waitlisted for 2008 were 10th graders trying to transfer.

Momma Snark said...

Interest in private schools may be increasing, but in large part, capacity at the most desirable private schools will be locked at the same number over the next few years.

The real issue here is that SPS chooses to stick with a schedule that causes so much agony and confusion. I can't understand this choice, to be honest. Is SPS's refusal to streamline the assignment process simply an admission that they can't compete academically with private schools (because kids whose parents demand a higher level of academic rigor will end up going private anyhow)? Is it just a lack of imagination?

The current economic crisis has reminded me of the vital importance of educating our children to be critical thinkers who can deal creatively and effectively with new issues and challenges. "Going with the flow" or handling things the way they have always been handled - or, worse yet, simply following someone else's instructions - isn't going to get this country out of the mess it is in now.

We need schools that educate our children to become leaders and independent thinkers - and we need school districts to MODEL creative problem solving, demonstrating the ability to respond effectively to the needs of students and parents.

Is that too much to ask?

SE Mom said...

My understanding from attending a community meeting for the new assignment plan is that when the plan is implemented, families will receive their assignment for a neighbhorhood/attendance area school. If your family wants that assignment, you do nothing. Only if you want to apply for a different school do you need to complete and submit enrollment paperwork.

It will be interesting to see how many families accept their assigned school and how many apply for another. Seems though that the enrollment process will be simplified because there will be many fewer enrollment applications for the district to process.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Momma, maybe Obama will lead by example but innovation in this district? Not so much. There are always so many fires to put out in this district that not much gets done. Couple that with sometimes weak and/or timid(albeit passionate) Board members and superintendents who sometimes seem more interested in their bottom line than the districts and well, that's where we are.

I did learn one thing from my experience on Closures and that is to NOT give up on your beliefs. I can say now that a couple of times I went along with solutions I did not necessarily agree with nor process that I felt was in the public's best interest. I am sad that I did not stand up and just be the cheese who stands alone. I just thought that I would defeat a process and make things worse. Standing up for the public to have information is NEVER the wrong idea.

Somehow Board members all seem to get the same training (or drink the same Koolaid) and we see a deference to staff that is not necessarily warranted and a decided lack of outside-the-box thinking (or at least we don't see it publicly). Mary Bass has been a cheese who stands alone (and give her credit for that - it hasn't been easy) but she doesn't put forth her own plans and actions and thus is ineffective.

SolvayGirl said...

The Center School has dropped its Distance Tiebreaker, making it in effect a lottery school unless there is a sibling. I've already been in contact with the school and have its open house on my calendar--though the school recently said the open house may be cancelled; I hope not as I attended last year and was very impressed!

dan dempsey said...

Melissa said:
"Somehow Board members all seem to get the same training (or drink the same Koolaid) and we see a deference to staff that is not necessarily warranted and a decided lack of outside-the-box thinking (or at least we don't see it publicly). Mary Bass has been a cheese who stands alone (and give her credit for that - it hasn't been easy) but she doesn't put forth her own plans and actions and thus is ineffective.


This again confirms Charlie's statement that the SPS board is superfluous. This is an unfortunate situation. There are elections coming in about a year. Looking at the winners in last year's elections and what they have done hardly gives a lot of hope for the future. ( Unless of course you like no waves and no improvement. )

This board does not even care to follow their own policies and continually fails to engage the public in any meaningful way. Really can it get much worse than that? Why does anyone think this board is in anyway adequate?

.... blunder on

terrysim said...

Conjecture is nice, but here are some facts from the SPS Board Finance committee report on the 2006-2007 closings (nOV 14,2007--http://www.seattleschools.org/area/capacity/schoolboardfinancecommreport120407.pdf):

=================
Enrollment Conclusion:
Overall there were 743 students in the closed buildings who were eligible to move into their
receiving school. Our enrollment projections anticipated that approximately 80% of the students
in the closed building would enroll in their expected receiving school. This number was based in
part on the average annual retention in these schools and on telephone calls that were made to
each family in the closed buildings during the open enrollment process. The purpose of the
telephone calls was to alert families to the fact that, should they wish to attend their expected
receiving school they did not have to act and to inquire whether families were planning on
attending their expected receiving school.

In the end, only 377 (50.7%) of eligible students actually were enrolled in the expected receiving
school on October 1. Of the 366 students who are not attending their expected receiving school,
154 chose to leave Seattle Public Schools. While we do not have student-specific information
about why those families chose to leave the district, 41 (26.6%) were not residents of Seattle and
may have taken this opportunity to return to their home districts.
===============
So, if history repeats itself, 21% of students eligible to transfer to another school will withdraw from SPS. And only 51% will attend the school predicted.