Seattle School Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson has proposed closing seven school buildings, completely eliminating five programs, relocating all or part of nine, and creating one new Northend school in a plan that is sure to be at least as disruptive and unpopular as the previous round of closures, but politically, far more likely to proceed unchanged.
Genesee Hill Elementary
Lowell Elementary (APP)
Mann (NOVA Alternative High School)
Old Hay (Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center)
Pinehurst – (Alternative School #1)
TT Minor Elementary
Van Asselt Elementary
African American Academy
Alternative School #1
Arbor Heights Elementary
Meany Middle School
TT Minor Elementary
Decatur K-5 (formerly Thornton Creek)
Lowell APP to Hawthorne and Thurgood Marshall
Thurgood Marshall EBOC to Bailey Gatzert
NOVA from Mann to Meany
SBOC from Old Hay to Meany
Pathfinder K-8 from Genesee to Arbor Heights
Summit K-12 from Jane Addams to Rainier Beach
Thornton Creek to Jane Addams (expands to K-8)
TT Minor K-3 Montessori to Leshi
Van Asselt to African American Academy
I’m not sure how many students will have their education disrupted by these closures and relocations, but the numbers are obviously huge. Still, I wonder if these closures will generate the kind of effective opposition on the part of parents that I was a part of in 2006? Goodloe-Johnson is simply a stronger and more forceful administrator than her predecessor Raj Manhas, as evidenced by her decision to personally lead the closure process rather than hiding behind a citizens committee, and she’s yet to burn through her political capital with school board or her public good will. Furthermore, the relatively condensed nature of the process leaves affected school communities much less time to organize amongst and between themselves.
But I also think a sense of resignation has settled in over many Seattle schools families, or at the very least, a profound sense of fatigue, that should work to Goodloe-Johnson’s advantage. Most of the programs on the list have been targeted before, and so last night’s announcement was more a confirmation of the inevitable than a shock. At some point, it’s just no longer worth the fight.
I know from personal experience. In 2006, I fought hard to save my daughter’s school, Graham Hill Elementary, and although we succeeded, and have since been vindicated with academic awards and bulging enrollment, I couldn’t help but come away more than little soured from what was an unnecessarily bitter and divisive battle.
As I predicted at the start of the previous closure process, many families responded by moving their children outside the district, and that’s exactly what we did. My daughter now attends middle school on Mercer Island, where her mother moved in the wake of the closure fight. I’m not proud of the move, and I would have prefered my daughter remain in city, but given the choice between Aki Kurose, my neighborhood middle school, and Islander Middle School, it wasn’t a hard decision.
Still, it’ll be interesting to see how this round of closures turns out. In moving and splitting Lowell, Goodloe-Johnson has picked a fight with some of the district’s most affluent and connected parents, so there’s little chance these families will simply roll over. And while closing the chronically under-enrolled African American Academy makes a ton of sense on paper (its large facility accounts for the bulk of the excess capacity in the the Southeast quadrant), this alternative program has many passionate proponents, and a dedicated, if small, community of families.
I’ve never been convinced that large numbers of school closings either improves education or saves all that much money in the operating budget, especially when you factor in the number of students who end up leaving the district and taking their state and federal subsidies with them… students who are often the least expensive to educate. But in these tough economic times, there is little doubt that we will continue on this downward spiral for the forseeable future.