Seattle parents get chance to vent over school boundary changes

SEATTLE -- Parents get a chance to vent Wednesday night over sweeping changes to Seattle school boundaries, and how sending kids to new campuses will impact families.

Concerns range from busing kids to distant schools, to splitting up siblings among different campuses.

With a map in hand and matching T-shirts supporting their local elementary, Tim Dugaw and Scott Howard were ready to make their case before the Seattle school board Wednesday night.

"Our big argument is going to be safety," Dugaw said.

The district is looking to redraw the lines on school boundaries, both to ease overcrowding and distribute students to new campuses under construction. Dugaw says his kids walk to North Beach Elementary right now, but the district wanted them enrolled at Loyal Heights.

"That would require the kids to walk across three main arterials," Dugaw said.

Howard says the proposed shake-up makes it hard for families to plan ahead.

"Kids need consistency and we're just trying to deliver that," he said.

District officials have been taking feedback for months, and are making changes. For example, a re-built Olympic Hills Elementary will be reserved for neighborhood kids, which wasn't in the original plan. But parents on Beacon Hill, including Julie van Arcken, say the concerns of their mostly ethnic neighborhood have gone unaddressed by the district.

"I understand the district is going to change the boundaries so everyone can fit in the schools," she said. "I just need to make sure that they are doing it in a way that's racially equitable."

Parents also worry their kids may end up at different campuses.

"A lot of us who have younger kids who haven't yet started school wouldn't be guaranteed a spot at the same school their older sibling was at," said Kelly Hughes-Berardi.

The school district says input is still being taken, and more adjustments and accommodations could come.

"I sympathize with their initiative," Howard said. "But at the same time, I feel there's precedence for us to stay in the neighborhood."

The district will take all this input and submit a formal plan early next month, with the school board taking a vote on Nov. 20.
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