Cooper to close under chief's final rec's
In her final recommendations to the School Board Tuesday afternoon, Seattle School's Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson has proposed to discontinue the Cooper School program and move the Pathfinder Alternative K-8 school into its building.
The proposal has been hotly contested by both school communities.
A final public hearing regarding school closures will be help on Jan. 22 and the School Board is scheduled to vote on Goodloe-Johnson's proposal Jan. 29.
The superintendent told members of the media that she does not believe there is any alternative to closing some of Seattle's schools.
"If you don't close schools then you start devastating programs," said Goodloe-Johnson at a press conference Tuesday. "And that's not fair to kids."
As the district considered the best way to redistribute its resources it became clear that finding a new home for Pathfinder K-8, West Seattle's only alternative education program, was a priority. Pathfinder is currently located in the Genesee Hill building, which is too small for the program.
Initially, Goodloe-Johnson recommended that Arbor Heights Elementary close and that Pathfinder move into its building. Cooper was not immediately considered because relocating those students outside the cluster they live in violates the existing student assignment plan. However, West Seattle School Board member Steve Sundquist asked that the district analyze both Cooper and Arbor Heights without considering that factor, since the student assignment plan will be revised this spring, regardless.
The district agreed and after further analysis Cooper was recommended for closure by the district on Dec. 9. The superintendent said the final recommendation to close Cooper was based on the new student assignment plan, which will strive to create more community-based, neighborhood schools.
Goodloe-Johnson acknowledged that publicly announcing each option being considered has been emotionally taxing on many school communities. Still, she says that she would not change the methods used to determine her final recommendation.
"It has been a very collaborative process to make sure that we make the very best decision for students," said Goodloe-Johnson.
The school chief also recommends relocating West Seattle students attending the Accelerated Progress Program (APP) at Lowell to Thurgood Marshall. Lowell, which was on an earlier list of schools to be shuttered, will remain open under Goodloe-Johnson's proposal.
In all, the superintendent has named five buildings to close and suggests relocating eight programs. Under her recommendations, buildings that would close include Genesee Hill (Pathfinder's building), Mann, T.T. Minor and Van Asselt elementaries, and Old Hay Elementary School.
Besides Cooper, other programs that would be discontinued include African America Academy, Meany Middle School and T.T. Minor.
The district has said it is necessary to close some schools and move programs by next fall in order to save money and stave off a projected $25 million budget deficit next year.
While district financial officers predict it will cost $1.9 million to close the five schools over the next two years, they estimate it will still save the district roughly $16.2 million during the next five years. Additionally, it is estimated that the district will save $33.1 million in deferred building maintenance.
Officials have also blamed enrollment inequities.
The deficit has been caused by a number of factors, including the fact that Washington State law requires cities provide public education but does not fully fund it.
Community members are invited to respond at the following opportunities:
Jan. 7, 6 p.m. School Board Meeting at John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence
Jan. 20, 6:30 p.m. Public Hearing at Lowell Elementary
Jan. 21, 6 p.m. School Board Meeting at John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence
Jan. 22, 6:30 p.m. Public Hearing at John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence
Jan. 29, 6 p.m. School Board vote at John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence
Rose Egge can be reached at 932-0300 or email@example.com. Rebekah Schilperoort contributed to this report.