Seattle parents, students and teachers rally against a proposed Seattle School District plan that would shutter five schools, move eight others to new sites and discontinue five programs. The School Board is to vote on the plan at 6 p.m. Thursday at the John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence.

Share story

Undaunted by Sunday’s chill, a few hundred parents, teachers and students marched through Seattle’s Central District, protesting the possible closure of their beloved schools.

Speakers at a rally afterward inside a warm Garfield Community Center gymnasium urged the crowd to draw a line in the sand and marshal any resources available, including the courts, to defeat Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson’s plan.

To help deal with an expected $24 million budget shortfall, Goodloe-Johnson wants the Seattle School Board to close five schools the school district says are underused. She also recommends moving eight other schools to new sites and discontinuing five programs. In all, she says, that would save $16.2 million over the next five years.

The School Board is to vote during a meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at the John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence.

Under the plan, about 1,775 students would be sent to new schools. That would include T.T. Minor Elementary fifth-grader AshaAung Helmstetter, an unacceptable outcome for her mother, Hla Yin Yin Waing, who marched Sunday.

“We all have the same goal. We want the best education possible for our children,” Waing said.

What upsets her is that most of the schools on the chopping block serve neighborhoods that are home to many of the city’s minorities. Losing those schools also means losing anchors that unite disparate cultures and, in turn, communities, she said.

District leaders say closing schools is among a number of difficult cuts they must make. They’d rather spend money on teachers and books than buildings, they say.

Other critics, including Educators, Students and Parents for a Better Vision of Seattle Schools, the group behind Sunday’s gathering, say the potential savings aren’t worth the disruption the closures would cause. They also fear losing state funds in the event that too many students leave the district rather than move to another Seattle school.

“I see a plan that’s hurting kids,” said Victoriya Jambor, a fifth-grade teacher at Laurelhurst Elementary, which is not on the closure list. “It’s all about the numbers and pretending the schools are businesses, and they’re not.”

Schools spokesman David Tucker has said the district used strict guidelines, including geographic need, building conditions and academic performance, in making recommendations.

Alex Kocmieroski, 18, and Chandra Wade, 17, plan to be at Thursday’s board meeting.

Both attend Nova Alternative High School, which would be relocated under the plan. They’ve formed a pact with fellow students to get their homework done while also organizing meetings and rallying to save their program. Meanwhile, they say the instability is affecting the incoming class.

“Parents want to send their kids to another school instead,” Wade said.

Karen Gaudette: 206-515-5618 or kgaudette@seattletimes.com