Seattle Public Schools administrators on Wednesday made official a plan they've been considering for dealing with overcrowded schools: Reopen an elementary school in West Seattle, install about 30 portable classrooms and make minor school boundary adjustments next year.
After three months of community meetings, Seattle Public Schools administrators made it official Wednesday: The district needs to reopen an elementary school in West Seattle, install about 30 portable classrooms and make minor school-boundary adjustments next school year.
The $6.2 million plan, unveiled at a morning news conference and introduced at an evening School Board meeting, is necessary because of serious school overcrowding in some parts of the city because of an unexpected enrollment spike.
The funding would come from a reserve account that otherwise would have been used on building maintenance and construction.
The plan calls for reopening the old Boren building in West Seattle as an elementary school that would include a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program. That program would include exploratory methods of teaching science, said Pegi McEvoy, the district’s assistant superintendent for operations.
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It would be an option school, meaning all students in the city could apply and have an equal chance of getting in. Reopening the school, which last housed Chief Sealth High School when it was being remodeled two years ago, would cost about $3 million.
The portables would be placed at sites across the city. Officials said they would not significantly alter students’ academic experiences because modern portables are better than old ones.
The district is recommending renting portables rather than buying them, said Bob Boesche, interim assistant superintendent for business and finance. That would reduce costs up front, but put pressure on the district to find a more permanent solution sometime soon.
Finally, the district is proposing reducing the size of the zone for attending John Stanford International School, a popular and high-performing school. Some parents there are upset because the change would shift some incoming students from being guaranteed to get in to not being able to go.
“Some people will be unhappy,” district-enrollment manager Tracy Libros acknowledged during the news conference.
Those “unhappy” people may include School Board members, several of whom expressed displeasure with the proposal at the meeting.
“I don’t understand the reason for this recommendation, and I seriously question it,” said Vice President Kay Smith-Blum, who said she supported not opening Boren and making different boundary changes.
District administrators pledged to continue to look at options, but said there is not much time until a plan must be approved.
The plan is only the first step in the district’s plan to deal with overcrowding. Its demographers are projecting that enrollment will continue to rise for the next decade, meaning more reopened schools and boundary adjustments will be necessary.
When the overcrowding issue was initially discovered, community members asked the administration to consider a plan that called for fewer portables. But when a community committee convened to discuss the possibilities, it decided to move ahead with a plan very similar to one the district advanced initially. Officials said there were few options because there are not many unused buildings.
The district is starting to plan for next capital levy, to provide millions for construction projects and major building maintenance. But that work wouldn’t be completed until at least 2016.
Brian M. Rosenthal: 206-464-3195 or email@example.com