Backlash over Seattle school boundaries gets board's attention

SEATTLE -- Vocal parents managed to turn the tide in a boundary battle with the Seattle School District. The way things turned out, many of the parents who organized and petitioned the Seattle School Board got the changes they sought. However, that wasn't the case with some middle schools, which district officials say are too crowded to continue as is.

Parents had been complaining for weeks, and Wednesday night was their last chance to get the Seattle School Board to bend on boundary changes. A flurry of late amendments left many families unsure of about what was decided, or how their children might be affected.

"We were actually looking at the school's website just now trying to figure out what really is going on, because nobody seemed to be terribly sure about what the result was," said Adrian Saunders, whose child attends Wedgwood Elementary.

Voting unanimously, board members set out to redraw the enrollment map to ease overcrowding and squeeze new school campuses into the mix. For their part, parents wanted to keep their children attending nearby schools, and prevent siblings from being split up between campuses.

Tim Dugaw fought hard to keep his North Beach Elementary community together. He says there's a better way to deal with overcrowding than carving up boundary lines in a back room.

"I think it could be improved substantially if they just change the process and involve a representative from each school from the beginning, before they start proposing growth boundaries," Dugaw said.

In the end, the board was able to accommodate many of the requests, but not when it came to some middle schools.

"The truth is Eckstein and Hamilton middle schools are wildly overcrowded," said school board president Kay Smith-Blum.

The board's final solution allows some Wedgwood parents to still send their children to Eckstein, but that's not true for the entire neighborhood.

"Students that live in the new designated Jane Addams Middle School area will be going to Jane Addams next year, no matter what grade level," Smith-Blum said.