Housing market + light rail + economic downturn point to Capitol Hill middle schooler boom

Following up on the CHS post about the potential reopening of Meany Middle School, we have gathered more details about the Building Excellence IV plan and why Seattle Public Schools is proposing a $23 million investment to rebuild the 20th at E Rublican campus into a full-fledged middle school.

The short answer: There will soon be even more young teens in need of education in Central Seattle.


According to spokesperson Teresa Wippel, the SPS proposal for reopening Meany Middle School is largely based on demographic studies conducted by Seattle Schools and a hired demographic expert. From the studies, SPS forecast a steady increase in middle school student enrollment for the Central Region over the next 10 years.

(Source: Seattle Public Schools)

For the Central Region, SPS is planning to take a more conservative approach, and use the mid-range projection shown above.  As you can see, the mid-range projection envisions an increase of almost 600 students enrolling in middle schools over the next decade.  

SPS cited a few interesting reasons why its foresees a growth in middle school enrollment in the coming years:

  1. With the drop in housing values, people are staying put and not moving out to the suburbs, where the schools are supposedly better
  2. The improving transportation infrastructure (light rail, street cars) makes living in the city a more attractive option
  3. Given the tough economic conditions, parents are less able to send their children to private schools, and as a result there will be more students attending public schools. 

According to Tom Redman, SPS capital communications manager, some have proposed that SPS could save money and simply build more portables at existing schools to deal with the burgeoning enrollment.  However, he said this option is fraught with problems.  In addition to the fact that portables are not the ideal learning environment (if you’ve ever attended classes in a portable, you will likely agree), building more portables and increasing the size of existing schools places added stress on the schools’ infrastructures, most notably the need for more lunch periods, basic facilities such as restrooms, and additional custodial staff. 

The new school would be slated to open by the 2017/2018 school year. The $23 million price tag appears to be a relative bargain. A from-the-ground-up plan for a new middle school elsewhere in the city would cost more than $82 million according to SPS.

The NOVA alternative high school and the Secondary Bilingual Education Program have called the Meany campus home since moving there in 2009.

Schools officials say they are still considering public feedback (both pro and con), as well as having ongoing internal discussions about the plan.

We asked Kay Smith-Blum, school board member for the area covering Capitol Hill, for comment but have not yet heard back.

The discussion about Meany will continue until when Seattle School Board votes in November, and CHS will keep you informed as new developments surface. If you would like to submit feedback on the potential reopening of Meany Middle School, SPS encourages you to send your thoughts to Capacity@seattleschools.org

4 thoughts on “Housing market + light rail + economic downturn point to Capitol Hill middle schooler boom

  1. Nova does not lease the Meany building. Nova is a Seattle Public School and was moved to the west wing of the Meany building in the fall of 2009, the same time SPS moved the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center to the east wing of the school. FWIW, neither school wanted to move from their former home- and both advocated to keep Meany open.

  2. Pingback: Hill’s school board rep Smith-Blum more schools in our area, standardized test — and whether she’ll run again | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle