After weeks of going back and forth about whether to open a new middle school in Northeast Seattle next fall, the School Board, in a 4-3 vote, Thursday decided to wait until fall 2014.
The board held a special meeting after delaying its vote last week in order to see the latest enrollment data. Unlike last week, when district staff recommended waiting, this week staff favored opening the new school in 2013 to ease overcrowding at Eckstein and Hamilton middle schools.
The three board members who opposed waiting, Michael DeBell, Harium Martin-Morris and Sherry Carr, said the district missed an opportunity to take necessary, decisive action.
But the majority of the board supported an amendment by Sharon Peaslee, who argued it was better to spend more time planning the new middle school, scheduled to open at the Jane Addams building where it would share space for a year or two with the Jane Addams K-8 environmental-science school.
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She argued that the district could cut overcrowding at Eckstein and Hamilton by working to attract more students to Jane Addams K-8 and other K-8 schools in North Seattle.
“This gives time to plan a quality, equitable middle school that these students deserve,” she said.
Board members faced a hard choice. Opening the new middle school this fall would mean a number of families would be assigned to the new school after months of being told their fifth-graders would go to Eckstein. But waiting means there may not be any significant relief for Eckstein or Hamilton next year.
Peaslee was the only School Board member representing North Seattle who favored waiting.
Harium Martin-Morris, whose district includes much of Northeast Seattle, criticized the decision as a “strategy based on hope” that more families will choose Jane Addams K-8 for middle-schoolers.
The board’s decisions won’t solvelong-term space needs. That’s the goal of the proposed $695 million construction levy on the Feb. 12 ballot.
The board also voted to assign students from Laurelhurst Elementary to Eckstein rather than Hamilton next fall, and approved plans to increase classroom space at a number of schools by converting rooms now used for other purposes, and placing an additional 24 to 30 portable classrooms on playgrounds.
Linda Shaw: 206-464-2359 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @LShawST.