Communities Starting to Rise Up on Growth Boundaries

Below is a letter from the North District council (" representing the North Seattle neighborhoods of Meadowbrook, Pinehurst, Maple Leaf, Cedar Park, Olympic Hills, Jackson Park, North Matthews Beach, Lake City, Victory Heights and Northgate") to the Board and cc'd to Superintendent Nyland and City Council member, Debora Juarez expressing concern over Cedar Park's opening and its possible ripple effects for the region.

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

 Dear Directors: 

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 standpointconsidering 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 schoolsthis 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.
  • Sincerely,
    Mark Mendez  and John Lombard Co-Chairs 

    cc: LarryNyland,Superintendent,SeattlePublicSchools
    Growth Boundaries Program, Seattle Public Schools
    Honorable Debora Juarez, Seattle City Councilmember, District Five


Anonymous said…
This is a sad case of the District holding meetings, but not taking time or energy to understand the needs and interests of this community. The District has been blatantly condescending to these families.

Start Over

Anonymous said…
I am not familiar with the conversations that have taken place at various community meetings, but I wonder why they would leave seats open at the new Olympic Hills building and force these families into the Cedar Park site.???...!!!??? What has been the explanation from the district? Future growth? The NE is in need of an option school, so why not?

Don't understand
Anonymous said…
The explanation given at a recent community meeting at Olympic Hills was that they needed the seats opened at Olympic Hills by the split to Cedar Park to solve capacity issues in NW Seattle.

-North-end Mom
kellie said…
Kudos to the North District Council for a student focused voice.

The current plan to geosplit over 800 kids represents 3.5% of total elementary school enrollment, with almost all of those geosplits happening in that one area.

It is an incredible amount of disruption for no measurable improvement in the over-crowding at the most crowded elementary school.

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