Seattle Schools Superintendent Raj Manhas brings to 10 the total number of schools slated for closure and, just as crucial, a newfound sense...
Seattle Schools Superintendent Raj Manhas brings to 10 the total number of schools slated for closure and, just as crucial, a newfound sense of purpose and determination.
This second round of closures is more streamlined and impacts fewer schools. The superintendent proposes shuttering Alternative School No. 1 in Northeast Seattle and in West Seattle, the Pathfinder program at Genesee Hill and Roxhill Elementary.
An absence of frantic lobbying and public rancor marked the days before Manhas’ announcement. The schools chief kept his cards close to the vest, even canceling a series of public meetings until after his decision. It is a purposeful strategy that won’t exclude the public, but ensures citizens are armed with facts rather than the rumors and innuendos that characterized last spring’s debate.
The public will have ample time to respond in a series of public hearings beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday.
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Downsizing is expected to save the district $3.4 million a year starting in 2008-09. Equally as important, the closings will bring a district of 100 schools in line with a population half the size it once was. Call it rightsizing.
Supporters of the identified schools have begun to rally around the flagpole with an assortment of reasons why their school should remain open. A fear of overcrowding in the remaining schools is a real concern. Portables are planned to accommodate a sudden influx, but student populations fluctuate wildly.
For example, Alternative School No. 1’s population dropped from 273 students last year to 210 this year. In neighborhoods where the school-age population may grow significantly just as schools are closing, the district has held onto a number of schools on large sites in case of expansion.
Children are resilient. They adjust to new teachers and friends, new neighborhoods and, yes, new schools. Such changes end up a footnote in a happy childhood.
But children do look to parents for guidance on what can be weathered and what is untenable. If parents react as though school closures were akin to the war in Iraq, children will absorb the anxieties. That would not be the best recipe for a successful school year.