Seattle School District votes to shift boundaries, move students
SEATTLE - The Seattle School Board voted unanimously Wednesday night to approve controversial boundary changes in order to accommodate overcrowding in the state's largest school district.
The changes will be necessary to ease crowded classrooms in some schools, district officials said, but will mean some students are sent to schools that are farther away. Other kids may be separated from siblings, parents feared, or sent to schools that are currently under construction or being renovated.
The changes are expected to impact nearly 30 percent of the district's 51,000 students, and brought out more than 100 parents in protest to Wednesday night's meeting, which ran past 11 p.m.
"These students who are sitting next to me - by the time they start high school - will have been in six schools in 10 years," said Laura Hitchcock, a Ravenna parent. "That is patently unfair. That is why they are upset."
"What's not OK is to rip these kids out of their school after they've been there for two years, not letting them finish their school at the eighth grade before they have to transition to high school as well," Hitchcock added.
Jesseca Brand, the mother of a 2nd-grade student at Kimball Elementary, took issue with the fact that the changes seemed rushed, and that all of the information given to parents at her school was in English only, where nearly 40 percent of students are still learning the language.
"We were given the information two weeks ago and told it was going to change. At the end of the day, I didn't even know this was coming," Brand said. "Where did the neighborhood part of neighborhood schools go? And if you're going to bus us five miles away from our house, then what's the point of trying to create this neighborhood feeling?"
District officials tried to accommodate the requests of Brand, Hitchcock and other parents in the seven complicated amendments that also passed Wednesday night. Thousands of emails had poured into the district over the past week, officials said, along with petitions and phone calls.
"There have certainly been challenges as we try to tackle the capacity issue," said Assistant Superintendent Flip Herndon, as he spoke before the board.
District officials spent about an hour Wedesday night listening to more than a dozen parents weigh in on the issue, and then another two hours discussing it. A vote came just before 11 p.m.
"You have said you want to disrupt as few families as possible. You don't need to disrupt them," said parent Lisa White, who feared her child might have to change schools just before 8th grade. "They have been my son's classmates since kindergarten, live across the street, ride the same school bus, play in the same band, are in the same Spanish class. They get to stay at Hamilton (International School), and we don't."
"These kids are happy and thriving where they are. The school district should promote and support such positive communities, not break them down unnecessarily," she said.