Whittier Fighting Back on Kindergarten Expansion

The Whittier Elementary PTA has put forth a petition to the Board to ask them to not add an additional kindergarten class next year (which would take away their long-time child-care program.

From PhinneyWood.com

Members of Whittier Elementary School’s PTA plan to attend Wednesday night’s Seattle School Board meeting to oppose a proposal to add a fourth kindergarten class next year. Whittier, which is at 13th Avenue NW and NW 75th Street in Ballard, currently has three kindergarten classes of 23 students each.

The letter from PTA Co-Presidents Lisa Melenyzer and April Brown states that 80 percent of this year’s kindergarteners live within the school’s attendance area, and that there was no waitlist for kindergarten at Whittier this year. The two say that there is room within the current three classes to add any anticipated population growth in the next few years.

In the letter from the PTA:

Please note that we are not suggesting that kids in the attendance area who are entitled to come to Whittier should be turned away. We also want the siblings of Whittier families to be served, and for Whittier to be a welcoming place to the community. We simply don’t want Whittier to be appointed a fourth kindergarten – with this lack of planning and foresight – merely to help serve a capacity problem in the rest of our service area.

From the petition:
As of the October 1, 2011 enrollment count, Whittier had 69 kindergarteners enrolled, accommodating 55 children in our attendance area, plus 14 children whose addresses are outside the attendance area. This translates to 20% of current year K students come from outside the school’s attendance area, demonstrating that there is healthy access for students within the attendance area as well as for siblings. Even with any anticipated growth in our attendance area population of six-year olds, three kindergartens seems sufficient to handle that population. 

I find this all very interesting.  Whittier is a good school and yet it doesn't fill from its own attendance area (at least in K).  And, they have kindergarten classes of 23 kids; that's pretty good.  

They also have a good point in saying that adding another K class doesn't answer where all those students would go would all go. 

They seem to feel there is no middle-to-long term vision for what is being proposed. 


Anonymous said…
I think 2007 was the first year that Whittier had 3 K-classes. I've heard that the school usually had 2 (large) K-classes that expanded into 3 first grade classes once Spectrum students enrolled.

Whittier currently has 3 K-classes of 23, 24, 24 (new students enrolled after the winter break.

Last year there were 3 K-classes of 25.
That has turned into 3 1st grade classes of 28, 28, 29.
I believe that the 2nd grade classrooms are also large.

The school community would like the district to confirm that our attendance area has the population to need an additional K-class before asking the pre-school to move.

A group of parents have asked Sherry Carr & Tracy Libros for the supporting data but have not heard back.
There was a FACMAC member at Sherry's community meeting that indicated that Whittier is at full enrollment and shows flat-slow growth.


Whittier Wildcat
Anonymous said…
Most of the out of attendance area K-kids are siblings who were drawn out of the Whittier reference area under NSAP -or- are siblings of older students who have enrolled at Whittier for the spectrum program.

Whittier Wildcat
anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said…
Looking at the Enrollment data newly available for the 2011-12 year, we determined that there are 80 SPS-enrolled kindergartners in the Whittier attendance area this year. 54 of these chose to enroll at Whittier, the rest chose to enroll somewhere else (option schools or other attendance area schools). Looking at this information, even if *every* SPS-enrolled kindergartner living in the Whittier attendance area had enrolled at Whittier this year, we could have accommodated all of them with three classes. Of course that would be a highly unlikely scenario - but it shows the kinds of numbers we are talking about.

Obviously Whittier needs to be able to accommodate all the kindergartners in our attendance area, and we want to have room for kids living outside the attendance area as well (including younger siblings of current students). However, adding a fourth classroom will put a significant strain on the school that will have ramifications for years, so we would like to see that this action is really warranted by the numbers.

We are also sensitive to the fact that other schools have been required to overenroll and are paying a painful price. SPS has shown a lack of foresight in overenrolling some schools, and the plan that calls for a fourth kindergarten at Whittier is another such "one year plan." It feels incumbent upon those of us who can foresee the problems that this "one year plan" will cause in the next two-three years to demand that they double check their numbers and demonstrate that there is a real need for their actions.

Lisa @ Whittier
Jon said…
Whittier parents are clearly correct that there is no long-term capacity plan. As far as I can tell, the plan is to is to every year add more portables at any school that is overcapacity.
Anonymous said…
As I appreciate what Whittier parents are doing, I'd like it to be looked at beyond Whittier. What about at View Ridge Elementary where they drew boundaries too large (while cutting out Hawthorne Hills which is walking distance to VRE). We had no input and we now have 5 K classes and lost the preschool. There is no PE for our K kids (though I give the school credit for coming up for a creative alternative). The school has had to make constant changes to deal with the growth. I've heard rumors that the district is hoping through attrition to move to 4 LARGE classrooms for 1st grade. This needs to be addressed district wide.
Anonymous said…
Agree that this is a district-wide problem. There seems to be no thought whatsoever to how adding an additional K class will be handled in future years. Other schools have the same problem -- the district packs in kids from outside the boundaries to reach the capacity numbers that the district raised earlier with no change in facilities. It's shortsighted madness.
It will be interesting to see the district's response, but I doubt it will be in the Whittier PTA's favor. There are too many other schools that would then protest as well.
Po3 said…
Good for Whittier. The NSAP promised predicability and that is the last thing we have received. Instead we have plop a portable here, add a K class there and then leave the schools to deal with overcrowding.

I hope they win this battle!
wsnorth said…
More power to you! They ruined our little local Elementary here in West Seattle by overloading it. The school is now 100% over original capacity and they are still adding portables. RESIST. RESIST.
Anonymous said…
But why is the district "assigning Kindergartens" in the first place? The district should assign students, and allocate funding (or staff headcount). But, it should not determine how many of which class or which teachers, or for which purpose should happen at any school. The school should use its funding and staffing how it sees best. If it chooses to have more reduced size K classes, and fewer larger classes for older students - that should be a choice they could make.

Whittier parent said…
Whittier can't have portables, the footprint is not big enough. So, there is no room for adding extra classes each year if a 4th K is added.
Whittier parent
LHFive said…
Good luck Whittier PTA, but central admin. could care less about keeping a preschool at your school. Loyal Heights was in the exact same situation you are currently in a few years back. A much loved pre K program was housed in one of the portables. Most of the kids in this program went on to K at Loyal Heights. The pre K program, called Jumpstart, was kicked out of the portable to allow LH to enroll 3 K classes rather than the 2.5 K classes they had been enrolling in recent years. Currently two 2nd grade classes are taught in portables. Next year or the following year, a third class will be taught in a portable. Is it fair that LH kids are being taught in portables while Whittier kids are not? Is it fair that LH no longer has their pre K program that was just as loved and respected as Whittier's? I don't have the answers to this questions but LH could definitely benefit from having Whittier take some of our attendance area into their zone. I believe there is 0% chance that anyone at Whittier can persuade the district to change their mind. My advice to Whittier, start looking now for a new location for the preschool and start figuring out how your building is going to accommodate another K class because it will happen whether Whittier thinks they can handle it or not. LH didn't think they could handle it but were forced to. Good luck.
LHFive said…
Also, doesn't Whittier have a designated art room as well as a music room? If so, those rooms will definitely be turned into classrooms to accommodate the new K class as they move up. Once there are no rooms available in the building portables will be added regardless of Whittier's footprint size. This exact scenario has played out many times at other SPS elementary schools.
Anonymous said…
Whittier's footprint is much smaller than most of you know. Although, all that brush in front of the building could be leveled and used. That ought to happen anyway.

former wildcat
Anonymous said…
Actually, I recall the contention over the childcare issue: they have a larger space than most buildings provide. That would make a great K room with outside recess courtyard. The childcare could go to a portable.

I doubt people will like this idea!

former wildcat
Anonymous said…
Sorry for thinking in fragments here: two Ks could use the childcare space and childcare could go into one of the K rooms. Team teach at K. Why not?

former wildcat
Downer Cat said…
Just following up to say that in the end, the preschool moved and we did in fact get the 4 kindergardens! What is the plan for next year and beyond?? Who knows?

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