It’s the end of the first week of school for Capitol Hill kids in Seattle public schools. Now that the students have found their lockers, settled into their homerooms and memorized class schedules we can start to look ahead at what the rest of the year holds for students in the central area (Capitol Hill and the Central District) of the district. Kay Smith-Blum, the district five representative on the school board, took some time to speak with CHS about what area students and parents can expect.
This fall, area high schools are no longer application based, meaning students will now attend the high school in their neighborhood by default rather than applying to go to the high school of their choice. At a hyperlocal level, this mean every eighth grader at Washington and Hamilton Middle Schools will be guaranteed seats at Garfield High School for their ninth grade year. CHS covered the changes to the assignment system for Seattle Public Schools last fall.
“The preference has now shifted back to the neighborhood rather than resident,” Smith-Blum said.
However, this means that more than 100 extra students will be attending Garfield this year and there are challenges to hosting them, more crowded classrooms, longer lines at lunch, but the change in policy could also mean greater academic equality in area schools.
Previously, Garfield was the only high school in the area where a full selection of advanced placement classes were offered but, according to Smith-Blum, the majority of these classes will be offered in every school.
By the way, the Alliance For Education awarded Garfield principal Ted Howard a $50,000 grant for outstanding leadership in March, which he can spend how he sees fit within the school.
For the big kids at Capitol Hill area colleges and universities, it’s still summer break — for a few more days. Seattle U kids hit the books again soon with the first day of fall classes slated for September 22. Broadway’s Seattle Central starts its fall quarter on September 27.
At the primary school level, there are no major changes but some elementary schools like Lowell and Montlake are operating just under capacity this year and Seattle schools says it does not anticipate a major influx of new elementary school students to enter the system for another three years. Stevens Elementary, in the meantime, has a new interim principal.
If there is a major influx of kindergartners in 2013 and more space is needed for students, there is a clause in the district’s contract with the Hamlin Robinson school currently occupying the T.T. Minor building that would allow Seattle Public Schools to take the facility back in the third year.
But Smith-Blum says population trends will be difficult to predict with any conviction until new census data is released next year.
“When you haven’t had a census in ten years and you’re working at the tail end of really old census information, it becomes almost impossible to make predictions,” Smith-Blum said. “We think we won’t need T.T. Minor for three to five years but it could be we need it sooner. The good news is that we have a couple schools that are not to capacity.”
Other goals in the near future for the area include putting a wellness clinic on the Meany School campus that is home to the NOVA High School program and the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center and the district is exploring possibilities to create more opportunities for students to have proficiency in a foreign language at a young age.
Smith-Blum will be at 23rd Ave’s Douglass-Truth Library September 25th at 10 AM to talk with area parents about the year in Seattle schools.