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Opinion: Community must work together on school boundary changes

September 28th, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Posted by Melissa Jonas

Photo by Kei Noguchi via Creative Commons/Flickr.

Seattle Public Schools is scrambling to avoid overcrowding. They’ve introduced a proposal to move kids around called “Growth Boundaries.” Kids would be bused miles instead of attending a school two blocks away or another school less than a mile away. We must encourage complete transparency and work together as a community to keep Beacon Hill awesome. SPS needs to be thoughtful and engage our community more in the process before any decision is made.

Even if you don’t have a child in the Seattle Public School system, you are affected by this proposal. When families travel farther from home for school, they have less time to invest in our community. We have fewer eyes on the street and less of the daily interaction that makes our community so strong and interesting. We all benefit from the volunteer efforts and the small businesses started by families with kids. When families are forced to send their kids outside of the neighborhood they’ve invested so much time and money in, they may feel less committed to the community and may even decide to leave. Property values are affected by reference schools. Our homes may be worth less after this proposal is implemented because potential buyers are holding out for a better or more convenient school.

Please sign up now to “Walk the Boundaries.” It’s another important way to share feedback about the proposal. Feedback is due by October 1.

  1. Download the map for the school attendance area(s) you will review. Each map has a grid to use as a reference point when you submit your observations and suggestions.
  2. Drive or walk the boundary shown on the map. Look for portions of a school’s proposed boundary that have geographic barriers or local features that separate a specific area from the rest of the attendance area. (For example, we are recommending that the elementary boundaries in Southeast Seattle be modified so that the light rail is a dividing line.)
  3. Mark any issues on your map and note the reason, or note that there are no issues.
  4. Enter your results in the online survey. Please complete the survey one time for each school attendance area boundary you review.

While you’re “Walking the Boundaries,” remember: the City of Seattle has invested millions of dollars in Safe Routes to School and Neighborhood Greenways. The SPS proposal doesn’t take any of that valuable infrastructure into consideration.

“Walk the Boundaries” is only one part of the outreach. Please attend meetings and send letters to our school board representative,
Betty Patu; School Board President, Kay Smith-Blum; Sally Bagshaw, Chair of the City Council committee responsible for the Neighborhood Greenways; and any other elected or appointed officials you believe may be interested in this proposal.

I’m confident we can help Seattle Public Schools find a solution to the problem that works well for communities. I’m confident that Beacon Hill will work with Georgetown, Mt. Baker, Seward Park and other South Seattle neighborhoods to create a plan that meets the needs of students while maintaining strong communities. We must.

Please note: all opinions expressed or implied in this message are Melissa’s own and do not reflect the position of the North Beacon Hill Council or the NBHC Board. This topic is on the council agenda for Tuesday, October 1. Please attend the meeting at 7 p.m. at the Beacon Hill Library and share your ideas. (Melissa adds: “The NBHC does actually agree that Beacon Hill is awesome. That’s an official position.”)

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