Thursday, June 10, 2021

Seattle Schools and 2021-2022 Enrollment

 Earlier this week, I put up the link and info about Enrollment/Budget per the Work Session this week on that topic. Here’s the link and what I had seen in the documentation at that time. I listened into the Enrollment portion of the Work Session yesterday. (I will say that the budget looks pretty bad and they are going to use ESSER money to mitigate.)

( Just to note, I try very hard to get information right. However, for whatever reason, I couldn’t sign onto Teams so I called in. Some of the connections to Board members were not good plus some of them need to remember to ALWAYS be speaking directly into the phone and to speak more slowly. I’m looking at you Directors Harris, Rankin and Rivera Smith.) 

In the PowerPoint, at the end of the Enrollment portion, there are enrollment stats for all schools in the district. It is eye-opening. Some stats:

- The schools with the largest waitlists? Option schools. Salmon Bay K-8 leads the way with 178 on its list. For high schools, Cleveland has 160 on its list. For Option elementary, it’s McDonald with 126.

- For regular schools, the elementary with the largest waitlist is Beacon Hill with 60 followed by 42 at Greenwood. (Historically, Greenwood has not had this kind of waitlist so I find that interesting.) 

- Nearly all the high schools have a waitlist. The regular high school with the most is Roosevelt with 99 students on its waitlist. 

- You can see the numbers dropping or remaining static in several elementaries like Daniel Bagley (which has a new building), Coe, Dunlap, Decatur, Sand Point and Stevens. As was pointed out by staff, the district is now operating a couple of schools under 200 students. While that is not good, I find the dropping enrollments at traditionally solid elementaries to be troubling.

One example came up in the discussion and that was Queen Anne Elementary. That school got created and had a terrific principal who had led the work to its creation. After just a few years, he left (and unhappily so, I had heard). And apparently, QAE never got its numbers back up. That is the power of a great principal to get parents in the door of a school. 

All the Board members were present at the Work Session and Enrollment head Ashley Davies was lead on explaining the PowerPoint. Davies first said that the enrollment for school year 2020-2021 was down “significantly.” She went through the PowerPoint and then asked for questions.

Director Lisa Rivera Smith asked about the district’s projections and where the data came from. Davies cited several sources and then said something curiously blunt (and Davies is a very straightforward person). She said there were more people moving into the city plus the birthrate had gone up. She then said that when these babies grow to five-year olds, “some of them don’t show up” in SPS.

Well, there’s a rather large problem, COVID or no COVID. Why are new parents not enrolling in SPS?

Director Leslie Harris asked if the district had asked other regional districts about their enrollment and it seems many of them have the same drop for the school year. 

Harris also asked - as did Rivera Smith and Director Liza Rankin later - about why there are waitlists at schools that clearly have room. Davies mumbled something but I’m with these directors - it’s pretty weird.

Director Chandra Hampson asked about using the John Marshall building to try to alleviate the overcrowding at Green Lake Elementary and B.F. Day Elementary. The Facilities person said that building was THE interim building for schools being renovated and that it was a size to accommodate a middle school popular and it’s in the near middle of the city. 

Hampson also asked about moving an Option School somewhere else to get to buildings where nearby schools are overflowing. Staff didn’t seem to care for that idea. 

Davies also mentioned that there was this large bulge of middle school students now going into high school and most high schools will remain quite crowded.

She also stated that, with the HCC changes, it could mean changes everywhere as far as enrollment and boundaries.

She said engagement on the HCC changes would start this fall and that they have two years until the changes are fully rolled out but “earlier decisions make for easier implementations.”  The Board thinks that HCC is the reason for all the ills in the district so I’d bet the engagement will be slight and rushed.

Harris mentioned something about some schools are protected from some of the Weighted Student Staffing formula. I don’t know a lot about this issue.


Sad said...

I know of one family that left Queen Anne E for the eastside and another that is on the fence, but leaning on leaving.

I can’t imagine that our tech and increasingly biotech/Heath centric city won’t have families demanding advanced science and math opportunities for their kids.

Good time to to be in the charter school and private school business.

Anonymous said...

This is what we call a feedback loop: terrible policy decision/culture/behavior goes in, bad consequence comes out. I don't expect the District to be particularly responsive other than to scale staff for budget, but as teaching jobs go away, I would hope unions take note and get a clue. Seattle is only getting richer. Poorer families will leave for lower rents in other towns, and affluent families will go to private school or find other options. Couldn't hurt to, oh, you know, offer a better educational service to better serve everyone.

Garbage In

Anonymous said...

Schools are funded and allocated resources by the district far differently in SPS depending upon demographics. They have different 4 different tiers. The district prioritizes some high minority schools keeping far lower class sizes. They pack them in overcrowded no matter what at many other schools. Likely even with additional funding from feds explicit for pandemic mitigation. LWSD has been skyrocking in enrollment past 5 years, I was blown away by the statistics. Compare their enrollment to SPS same period.

no surprise

juicygoofy said...

Regarding the babies born in Seattle not enrolling in SPS, I sort of have to laugh. When is SPS going to stop focusing only on birthrates to predict enrollment?

Yes, Seattle is growing, but houses are expensive, and 3 bedrooms apartments are rare. Once a family has 2 babies, they tend to look for a larger home, and usually end up in the suburbs. I have seen this play out multiple times on my block over the past few years.

On the flip side, back in 2009, SPS was wrongly expecting slowing enrollment due to lower birthrates and was closing schools. In the meanwhile, families with children were moving TO Seattle. About half of my daughter's first grade class in 2010 were not born in Seattle. (She had a teacher who made a game of excusing kids to recess in order of where they were born.)

Anonymous said...

I am surprised, and not surprised, teachers are being cut at our overenrolled, severely overcrowded high school. But I am flabbergasted this is happening especially during a time when classrooms should not be overcrowded, and they are receiving huge amounts money for that purpose. Where does all this money go exactly?


Anonymous said...

"Director Chandra Hampson asked about using the John Marshall building to try to alleviate the overcrowding at Green Lake Elementary and B.F. Day Elementary."

Seriously? Has she heard of BEX V?

- So done

Anonymous said...

Welcome back, Melissa.

Neighborhood schools can't turn away students who live within their boundaries. The only way a neighborhood school develops a waitlist is if there are students from outside of the school's attendance area who wish to enroll.

Does Beacon Hill still have language immersion? If so, that might be why they have a large waitlist.

For Greenwood to have a waitlist, with no special programming that I'm aware of, is more perplexing. One possible reason is that both Northgate and Viewlands are scheduled for construction to begin this summer. Viewlands is using the John Marshall building as an interim site. I believe Northgate students are going to be housed in their current building while the new building is built on the adjacent field (construction in place). I'm sure there are families who wish to avoid those scenarios, and who are trying to get their kids into another school, even though they would not qualify for yellow bus transportation. This situation is compounded by Licton Springs' move from the Eaglestaff (former Wilson Pacific) site to the Webster Building, in Ballard...leaving few options for parents in the north central region of North Seattle.

North End Mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

So Done, yes, the issue of BEX V was explained to her but she seemed disappointed that there was no other interim site.

North End Mom, oh yes, I understand there should not be a waitlist for a neighborhood school and yet there are the numbers the staff presented in black and white. As I said in the post, the head of Enrollment had a vague answer to directors about this issue.

Yes, the move for Licton Springs will have continuing consequences. I think the plan is to close it down in the next couple of years and then reopen Webster as a neighborhood school.