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Parents ‘strongly oppose’ boundaries that would separate Capitol Hill school from Central District kids

Stevens parents are afraid proposed growth boundaries would mean a significant loss of diversity for the school.

Stevens parents are afraid proposed growth boundaries would mean a significant loss of diversity for the school.

The nature of Seattle’s new system of “neighborhood schools” has guaranteed one thing — nearly perpetual change in the “growth boundaries” that define where students must live to attend the city’s public schools. But the latest revisions to Seattle Public Schools’ new set of border proposals has a group of neighborhood parents who have been working on the updates for months rankled at what they see as a potential loss of diversity from closing off the Stevens Elementary attendance area to families living south of Madison.

In a letter sent to school families, members of the Stevens attendance committee say they “strongly oppose the proposed expansion of our boundaries to the north and east.” “These expansions would displace the south-of-Madison group of families and siblings that are already integral to our community and who bring Stevens much of its diversity, only to replace them with other families,” the message reads. “Our community does not welcome this solution, which does not appear to solve our capacity issue while negatively affecting diversity at Stevens.”

The latest process to adjust Seattle Public Schools’ borders kicked into high gear over summer and continues this with meetings and a formal SPS survey to finalize feedback on the next adjustments — CHS documented the preliminary boundary proposals here: Proposed Capitol Hill elementary school ‘border’ shifts address more kids, new middle school in 2017.

On Friday, SPS released a series of revisions including pulling back the southern Stevens boundary from Cherry to Madison while expanding north to Boyer and east to Lake Washington Blvd and Madison. The Stevens parents also object to the potential move of the English Language Learners program from the school and a plan that could have Stevens kids ready for middle school busing to South Seattle while the district prepares to rebuild the Meany campus.

SPS is collecting feedback to hear what parents have to say:

Seattle Public Schools seeks feedback on newest growth boundary recommendations

Seattle Public Schools is updating attendance area boundaries to accommodate enrollment growth and new construction. An initial draft of boundary changes was provided in September, offering families, staff and the community time to weigh in and give feedback.

After hosting five community meetings and receiving thousands of emails and suggestions, new recommended boundary changes are being proposed. These can be found at: http://bit.ly/GrowthBoundaries. For more information, including supporting documents, see the following:

We are asking for new feedback on the recommendations via a survey at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/7BKFRS3. Please take this survey by Oct. 21. Input through the survey will be included in the review.

Next steps:

  • District seeks public input via a survey from Oct. 14-21.
  • School Board Work Session on the boundary proposal from 4:30-6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 17 at the John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence.  (The public is invited to attend, but public testimony will not be taken.)
  • Revised recommendations will be sent to the Board for the Nov. 6 meeting
  • A School Board vote is scheduled for Nov. 20.
  • If approved by the School Board, implementation of some of the new elementary and middle school boundaries will begin for the 2014-15 school year, although many boundary changes cannot go into effect until Building Excellence IV (BEX IV) capital levy construction projects are completed.

For more information on the growth boundary project, please visit http://bit.ly/GrowthBoundaries.

Screen Shot 2013-10-14 at 4.46.34 PMMeanwhile, parents in the north of the Central District are pushing Schools to reconsider the future for the TT Minor campus at 18th and Union.

371 students attended Stevens in the 2011-2012 school year. Of those, 46% were identified as white in the district’s demographics survey — right at the district average, according to Seattle Public Schools.

Below is a sample letter the Stevens group is asking parents to send the school board. The board next meets this Wednesday. Parent representatives from around the city are expected to attend to also push for better boundaries for their neighborhood schools.

Sample Letter (to edit as you wish)—please send as soon as possible to the following email addresses:

To: [email protected]

cc: [email protected][email protected][email protected],  [email protected][email protected],
[email protected],  [email protected][email protected],  [email protected],  [email protected][email protected]

Dear Ms. Smith-Blum and Seattle School Board,

I am the parent of a Stevens Elementary School student.  I am writing to express my concern about the proposed Stevens boundary and program changes and the Meany middle school transition plan.

The 10/11 recommendations would eliminate our ELL link program and remove from our boundary the families between Madison and Cherry who are integral to our community.  We understand that there may be a need to reduce enrollment at Stevens, but we cannot support a plan that removes these families while replacing them with other families by expanding our boundaries to the north and east. These changes would largely eliminate the rich diversity that makes Stevens a unique school in the district.  Changing three of the four boundaries also unnecessarily disrupts many families without accomplishing the goal of addressing the current capacity issues facing Stevens.

The Stevens community has worked in the past six months to identify our top three goals for capacity management: (1) preserve our existing programs; (2) preserve the diversity of our student body, and (3) manage capacity so as to preserve outdoor play space and avoid the installation of portable classrooms.  We hope that you will take these priorities into account in your decision-making process.

With regard to the Meany middle school transition, I strongly oppose bussing students to Van Asselt.  This decision would have negative outcomes in the short term for students spending two hours a day on the bus, and in the long term for the Meany community after many families move their kids to option or private schools to avoid three years of such bussing.  I hope the district will choose a solution that places our middle school students at Washington or Meany until the Meany refurbishment is complete.

Sincerely,

Don’t forget the Sincerely part!

In the meantime, Lowell, Capitol Hill’s other public elementary school continues its amazing mission to educate children from the western side of the Hill all the way to downtown…. and beyond.

The original Lowell boundary proposal is below — unlike the Stevens set, the October revisions for Lowell don’t appear to be significant. If you’re a Lowell parent and beg to differ, let us know in comments.

Full disclosure: Jseattle jr. attends Stevens Elementary.

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Andrew.F.Taylor
9 years ago

“This too shall pass”. The players are different, but the stories are the same. This is all very reminiscent of arguments that were raging while my kids were wending their way through Seattle Public Schools. Despite it all, Seattle schools continue to educate kids and to turn out wonderful. talented, young adults. My kids and their public school peers are: grad students, doctors, dentists, physicists, computer scientists, etc.
Th school system will also survive seemingly awful life decisions by figures of authority in the schools: my kids tell me that the school principal who ran off with a cheerleader from his school is still enjoying a happy life with her.

Chris
Chris
9 years ago

I agree with you in general Andrew. My older kids have already finished school as well. All this boundary/growth etc is the *same arguments* we’ve had over the last 2 decades.

Yes the community wants their schools and boundaries preserved. Yes the schools are overcrowded again. You can’t have it both ways. I wish we could leave behind the notion that racial demographics trump making logical boundaries, it’s a red herring.

What S. of Madison needs is their school (TT Minor) back and they need to be fully funded and respected as much as Stevens, McGilvra, Montlake have been. Same goes for Meany. If SPS wants to see a logical boundary work, then they need to work to end school disparity. Make TT Minor the gem of the Central District (think Stanford) and the rest will follow. It frustrates me that the most obvious solutions aren’t employed.

ERF
ERF
9 years ago

“members of the Stevens attendance committee”
Diversity? Really? There are only caucasian people in the new area?
How about a return to teaching the three R’s!

dave
dave
9 years ago

I have kids at Stevens and while the boundary change won’t affect us in terms of where our kids go to school, I totally agree with the concerns about losing diversity at the school. Also, just look at that map, particularly the boundary for McGilvra. It’s ridiculous. The area south of Madison and west of 23rd is a crazy distance from McGilvra — there’s no way any of those folks would walk or bike to school. In contrast, I know many folks from that neighborhood who happily walk/bike from that area to Stevens — it’s flat and there are multiple quiet, safe streets to bike on.

Also, the plan to bus Meany kids 10 miles south to a temporary school site during construction is a bad bad bad idea. That’s like an hour bus ride. Kids who are entering 6th grade next year would spend all three of their middle school years busing way down there. They gotta figure out a better plan.

joanna
9 years ago

TT Minor is in a neighborhood that is constantly being disrupted and will always need transportation until the school is reopened. The children living in the walk zone for TT Minor now number 478 and are projected as follows: projected 2017 to be 581, projected 2022 to be 583. We were projected to grow and have been doing so for many years. 478 is a whole school of students.These are not just nearby students, they are in the walk zone. They are a neighborhood of families and neighbors who support each other and desire further cohesiveness. In terms of transportation costs, reopening TT Minor as a neighborhood school make practical sense.
Just within the two recent boundary growth proposals students here have been sliced and diced with proposals of where they would attend school involving 4 or more schools. Each proposal has represented a new plan to divide up a neighborhood of students.
The Squire Park Community Council voted unanimously to support reopening TT Minor as an elementary school ASAP for the good of the children and the neighborhood.
This will profoundly change the proposed student growth boundaries and should done as soon as possible in order for it to be rolled into the assignment plan now when disruption is unavoidable. Do it now in order to bring stability and predictability to the entire area now. Do it for the health and well being of the current students and future students and for the health and well-being of the community in which they live. And, do not change any boundary for area 42 and 43 until TT Minor is ready as a neighborhood school.
You have a chance to correct a former board action closing the school while keeping schools open where fewer students lived and where even fewer students could walk to school. Those with less diversity in more well-off neighborhoods remained open. If you believe in your own guiding principle that the greatest number of students possible should be served by walking to neighborhood schools, please extend that to TT Minor and its diverse population. Reopen TT Minor as a neighborhood school.
Create a more stable and sustainable neighborhood plan that would need little readjusting. It is important now to create something that can be easily managed by occasionally adding or removing a portable and does disrupt neighborhoods and families. This is an important mission for neighborhood school plans.

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[…] out Seattle Schools was listening when parents at Capitol Hill public school Stevens Elementary “strongly opposed” proposed attendance boundaries — the latest draft of the new attendance boundaries looks a lot like the old boundaries. You […]

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[…] October, a group of Stevens parents voiced strong opposition to initial border changes, arguing the reconfiguration would decrease diversity in the school by slicing out families who lived in the southern reaches of the boundary between Madison and […]