Just two years after a bitter and contentious school closure process that in addition to breaking communities’ hearts, also led to the resignation of the superintendent and an overhaul of the school board, the Seattle Times tells us that “Demand exceeds space in some North End Seattle schools.”
Of course it does. North End schools, their programs and facilities enriched through the generosity of their more affluent PTSAs, have always been a magnet for families from across the district. And throughout the closure process it had always been abundantly clear how little wiggle room the district had left itself should its dire prediction of precipitously declining enrollment not prove true.
But North End schools aren’t the only ones unable to keep up with demand, and if there’s a personal “I told you so” moment in the Times piece it comes about three quarters of the way through, and hits quite a bit closer to home:
In the South End, declining enrollment has forced several schools to close. But Beacon Hill Elementary, where a dual-language immersion program begins this fall, has a waiting list — 48 students — for the first time in years. Graham Hill and Kimball elementary schools also had waiting lists in the fall.
That’s right, Graham Hill, my daughter’s school—that piece of shit, racist hell hole that couldn’t educate its students, and was losing kids faster than the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints… or so the district insultingly insisted—has a goddamn waiting list this fall! If I still sound bitter about the way the district grossly manipulated the numbers to justify closing Graham Hill, it is because I am.
Yes, we ultimately managed to save our school, but the Kafkaesque experience ended up ripping the heart and soul out of a tight-knit community, leading many of the school’s most active parents to step back into the shadows, or leave the school entirely. My own daughter now attends school on Mercer Island, where her mother moved, partially out of disgust and despair over the way the closure process played out. It is a good school, with tutors and enrichment programs the Graham Hill PTSA could never dream of providing its students… but we still miss our friends and neighbors and teachers, and I can’t imagine we’ll ever recapture that sense of belonging that came from seven years attending our neighborhood school.
Had we not fought so aggressively to save our school, or had we not fought so effectively, our students would have been scattered between five other schools within our cluster—that’s how little excess capacity (outside of the alternative program at the African American Academy) the district’s original closure plan left the South End. Had we acquiesced, and quietly sacrificed our neighborhood school for the good of the district, as so many editorial boards and columnists solemnly advised, Graham Hill would now be shuttered, leaving South End schools just as crunched for space as those in the North End.
No doubt there were a handful of schools—under-enrolled, failing programs in crumbling buildings—that warranted closure. But I remain convinced that the district’s determination to close 12 schools at once, whatever the consequences and whatever the facts, had always been motivated more by politics than by careful analysis or common sense. That only two years later the district is now facing a crisis of over-enrollment, pretty much bears that out.