More than 100 parents and community members packed the commons area of Nathan Hale High School Tuesday evening to share concerns about the Seattle school district’s proposal to change school boundaries.
Seattle’s schools north of the Ship Canal are among the most overcrowded in the city — which is why the district has focused much of its proposed new construction and related boundary changes there.
The district will add two new middle schools to the three existing ones in the north to relieve already crowded classrooms and make room for projected enrollment increases.
The district’s plan to divide gifted children in the Accelerated Progress Program (APP) between the two new middle schools was one of the main causes for worry expressed at the meeting — one of five scheduled before the School Board votes on a final plan Nov. 20. The plan would be phased in over several years.
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Creating a school-boundaries plan that attempts to balance many competing interests is a complicated undertaking.
“It’s not like there’s one perfect answer out there,” said Tracy Libros, the district’s enrollment manager. “With all the moving parts, there’s probably an infinite number of combinations and permutations of how you can put this together.”
One of the biggest moving parts is APP.
High-academic achievers in the program move together as a group from first through eighth grade before going to either Garfield High School or the International Baccalaureate program at Ingraham High School.
Now there are two pathways for the groups to move together through each grade: one for the southern half of the district, one for the north.
Under the new plan, the pathway for elementary- and middle-school students in the north would be replaced by two new pathways east and west of Interstate 5.
The new pathways would steer APP away from already-overcrowded Hamilton Middle School by taking advantage of the two additional middle schools.
The northwest pathway would start at the new Wilson-Pacific Elementary, then move next door to the new Wilson-Pacific Middle School.
Students following the northeast pathway would begin at Olympic Hills Elementary and then attend a renovated Jane Addams Middle School.
The district plans to use the former John Marshall High School near Green Lake as a middle school while the new Wilson-Pacific Middle School is built.
Julie Bradley, who has two sons in APP, voiced a concern heard often Tuesday night, that when neighborhood schools become overcrowded, the APP kids have to find a new home.
“These kids have already been split and moved multiple times, and now under the proposal, they’re going to move into an interim site, which I don’t think anyone would argue that that would be what’s best for the kids,” Bradley said.
The administration has proposed two options for the transition. It could divert the entire incoming sixth-grade APP class, some 200 students, from Hamilton Middle School to John Marshall next fall for two years until Jane Addams Middle School is ready in 2016.
Or it could split up the APP sixth-grade group next year, sending the students assigned to the Jane Addams pathway to Jane Addams immediately.
Either way, parents worry that isolating the sixth-graders at John Marshall might deprive them of a full middle-school experience.
“Many people said it,” Bradley said. “With a roll-up of just sixth-graders, there’s a big concern whether they can offer the electives and the extracurricular things that a comprehensive middle school would provide.”
Sending some of the APP sixth-graders to Jane Addams next fall would mean adding additional portables until the K-8 school there now moves to its new site, the current home of Pinehurst K-8 in Northgate.
The Pinehurst K-8 building will be demolished at the end of this school year to make room for the new Jane Addams K-8. Superintendent José Banda recommended this week that the Pinehurst program be closed at the end of the school year, citing low enrollment and high costs.
The board also will vote on the fate of Pinehurst at the Nov. 20 meeting.
John Higgins: 206-464-3145 or firstname.lastname@example.org