Schools face enrollment changes
While some of Seattle's public elementary schools are over capacity, other student populations are dropping. Looking at current enrollment, as well as 10-year projections, the Seattle School Board is planning to reallocate resources so that schools might address these demographic changes.
The goal is to minimize both student wait lists and the costs created by schools over capacity. Meanwhile the school board strives to keep their system flexible enough to deal with inevitable demographic shifts in the future.
"We have to look at what resources we have within the district and what population needs we have and make sure that were being fiscally responsible with all of these," said David Tucker, media relations spokesman for Seattle Public Schools.
In the school district's West Seattle sectors, enrollment at nine of the twelve elementary schools is expected to decrease as a result of decreased birth rates since 1992 in the schools' neighborhoods.
While enrollment at Cooper Elementary School has increased by 120 students over the last 10 years, it is expected to decrease by 116 students in the next 10 years.
Likewise, over the next 10 years enrollment is expected to drop by 71 students at Highland Park, by 163 students at Fairmount Park and by 99 students at Sanislo. Fairmount Park was merged with Sanislo this year.
Still, enrollment at Lafayette is expected to increase by 48 students over the next 10 years while the student body at Schmitz Park anticipates an increase of 36 students.
The Seattle School Board will respond to these capacity changes in two phases.
The first includes five proposed solutions. For one, district planning teams will visit schools to identify ways that they might more efficiently make use of school space.
As the school board determines how to best address these capacity changes Kathy Johnson, facility planning manager for Seattle Public Schools, will be working to provide information to parents, family, and community members while considering their opinions.
"Parents are interested in a long term solution, where children can have facilities of their own," she said.
The district will also look for opportunities to create new classrooms within existing buildings, and programs could also be transferred to different schools such as preschool education.
Additionally the district could respond to schools over capacity by providing new portables or relocating existing ones.
Finally, the Seattle School District might also make minor modifications to student assignment plans. This would address the excess capacity in some sectors by allowing them access and transportation to more schools. The School Board assured community members that they would be guaranteed an assignment to a nearby school and that they would still have the opportunity to chose a school.
The second phase will include long term projects such as consolidating under capacity schools and opening closed buildings.
On Oct. 15 proposed changes regarding the Student Assignment Plan and Transportation will be presented to the School Board for approval. If approved these could be presented to the Superintendent by December.
Meanwhile, the public is open to attend a Board Work Session on October 1 from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the John Stafford Center Auditorium.
For more information please visit http://www.seattleschools.org/area/strategicplan/capacity_management.html.