Category Archives: Education

School closure plan changes yet again: Rainier Beach/Cleveland merger off the table, for now

Photo by Claudia Snell.
Photo by Claudia Snell.
Seattle school superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson has announced another revised slate of recommendations for school closures and program relocations.

The recently proposed merger between Rainier Beach and Cleveland high schools is apparently off the table again. (Amber Campbell at the Rainier Valley Post posts a possible reason why: the potential gang violence, according to several unnamed Seattle Police Department South Precinct sources, would have been significant.) Instead, one potential option is to close Aki Kurose Middle School, moving those students to Rainier Beach, which would then have a 6-12 comprehensive performing arts program. Another involves discontinuing the Center School program and moving its students from Seattle Center to Rainier Beach.

The African-American Academy is still scheduled for closure, with students from Van Asselt to move into that building.

Continue reading School closure plan changes yet again: Rainier Beach/Cleveland merger off the table, for now

School closures and unintended consequences

The P-I has a follow-up article on the proposed Rainier Beach/Cleveland high school merger and the response of the community:

“The possible merger is troubling for some South Seattle parents, who say their schools are disproportionately targeted in the plan, and that disputes between rival gangs at the high schools could escalate with the change. They also wonder about class size at Cleveland and the fate of Rainier Beach’s powerhouse athletics.”

The Times has additional background on Rainier Beach, and a comparison chart between the two schools. The article mentions that “District staff members say they continue to evaluate the feasibility of combining the two schools, and haven’t ruled out moving Cleveland to Rainier Beach instead of the other way around.” Cleveland’s building was completely remodeled last year for $68 million.

Also on the school closure topic, former School Board member and Seattle Times reporter Dick Lilly suggests in a Crosscut editorial that closing schools such as Van Asselt that serve low-income families may drive those low-income families — in many cases, renters who are more easily able to pack up and move — out of the city.

School closure plans revised: Rainier Beach may merge with Cleveland

Just one week after Seattle Public Schools’ controversial proposals to close buildings and relocate programs, the plans have been changed. At a School Board meeting last night, Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson announced new proposals for consideration, including merging Rainier Beach High School into Beacon Hill’s Cleveland High School, eliminating Summit K-12 entirely, or moving students from several programs into the RBHS building, including Aki Kurose Middle School and displaced middle school-aged kids from three other programs on the chopping block: Meany Middle School, the African-American Academy, and Summit. (Here is the superintendent’s slide show of the recommendations, and this blog post discusses School Board reactions to the presentation.)

These changes would save the district an estimated $3.6 million, but with the district’s expected budget gap up to $37.1 million — $13 million higher than previously estimated — it seems there will be a long way to go.

Blogger Sable Verity suggests that the RBHS closure was always a given:

“This is all a part of the ORIGINAL, mostly UNDOCUMENTED South East Initiative. That planned called for RBHS to merge with Aki, to become a performing arts academy. Problem is, the district didn’t want to front the money and actually invest, they wanted someone else to come in and set up shop. Problem is, after the TAF debacle, folks were leery (’cept the brave and righteous souls at Broadway Bound) of doing business with SPS.

“Can’t say that I blame them.”

Community workshops to discuss the proposals are scheduled for tonight 6:30 – 8:30 pm at District headquarters in Sodo, 2445 Third Avenue South, and this Saturday, December 6, 9:30 – 11:30 am, at the Filipino Community Center, 5740 Martin Luther King Jr. Way South. A hearing about the previously announced Van Asselt building closure proposal is December 15, 6:30 – 8:30 pm at Van Asselt Elementary, 7201 Beacon Avenue South. Stay tuned to this SPD page for updates on added hearings and forums.

Comments may also be emailed to or snail-mailed to: School Board, P.O. Box 34165, MS 11-010, Seattle, WA 98124-1165.

Guest Editorial: Schools and the cost of consensus

by George Robertson

(Editor’s note: this is a guest editorial, and as such, reflects only the opinions of its author, which may or may not coincide with the opinions of the editors. Would you like to write an editorial for the Beacon Hill Blog too? Email us.)

School closures in Seattle are simply a necessity caused by our unwillingness to pay more taxes and the absolutely irreducible minimum costs of operation. In Seattle now, the closures are far from an unreasonable action. Unlike so many tax revolt-driven consequences of democracy, this one makes lots of sense. Seattle has 80% of the buildings in operation today, that we did with double the enrollment in a time more than thirty years gone by.

Nobody has rectified this waste, because no neighborhood faction can accept that their pet school is going to be one of the goners. I am getting pretty old, and my mother, who was full of advice too, died in her mid-nineties about 15 years ago. I was struggling with my daughter’s school district over facilities issues back then. Her advice then, was to accept that no action of government, or even of a school board, would ever be right. That is, she meant, really right. No decision would stand up to close scrutiny as logically impeccable and wise in all ways. She suggested then, that it is important to just try to precipitate some action that improves as much as you can, in the time available, on no action. And then when it comes time to decide, just make sure that you do decide, and then proceed to make it become a prompt reality.

The money we have pissed away not deciding this question for a decade would build you a very nice school to replace that dilapidated junk pile next to Jefferson Park. Had we done it when we were still prosperous, it could have paid for at least some new teachers to reduce the student/teacher ratio in the classrooms of the remaining schools during that last decade. But we could not agree, so we bickered and delayed. We ran the district inefficiently for another ten years with a budget that was perpetually on empty. Now with no reserves and a huge district budget disaster looming, we have no choice; the money saved will merely reduce an impossible budget shortfall, and prevent perhaps some of the layoffs and class size increases we will suffer in balancing the costs of public education with the money we’ve given the district to pay for it. We are doing this now, at a time when bailing out ourselves with unemployment compensation is competing with the schools for our tax money.

That was smart. I should have listened better to my Mom, when I had the chance.

George Robertson is a long-time Beacon Hill resident. His website is

Van Asselt building closure hearing, 12/15

As we reported last night, the Van Asselt building has been proposed for closure: its students would move to the nearby African American Academy building, and the Academy program would be discontinued. By law, the school district must have public hearings before closing a building. Van Asselt’s hearing is Monday, December 15, 6:30-8:30pm, at the school, 7201 Beacon Avenue South.

Public testimony will be limited to 3 minutes per speaker, and is expected to focus on the school building about which the hearing is being held. To sign up to give testimony, please call (206) 252-0042 or e-mail

If you are interested in hearings for any of the other school buildings on the closure list such as Lowell or Mann, the hearing schedule is here, as is information about community workshops to discuss the other proposed program changes.

Maple school kids sending care packages to troops today

Kids in Marcia Ventura’s fifth grade class at Maple Elementary School have been working on a project that culminates today with the shipping of about 50 care packages to the First Platoon, Charlie Company, 1-4 Infantry, stationed in Mizan, Afghanistan.

According to Ventura, this is the second year that Maple’s fifth graders have sent treats and morale to troops overseas. Last year, the class “adopted” a Marine, Corporal Paul Craddick, who served in Ramadi, Iraq. The students exchanged letters and phone calls, sent him monthly care packages, and hosted a welcome home party when he returned to the US. Along with students at neighboring Kimball Elementary, Maple’s fifth graders participated in a successful drive for gifts, to be sent to all 175 Marines in Craddick’s unit.

This year’s drive is slightly different, says Ventura, as “the students lack a personal connection
to any of the soldiers in the platoon. However, as the students were studying about the election all fall the issues in which the two presidential candidates differed, students became interested in the two wars in which the United States is engaged.” Locals may have already seen evidence of the class’s interest in politics; earlier this fall, the kids made “VOTE” signs and went out on Election Day to wave their signs and encourage Beacon Hillers to vote.

The students have carefully organized and labeled items which are now in the classroom, ready to be packed up this morning. Five parents, as well as Karen Craddick (Corporal Craddick’s wife) will volunteer their time to help the kids pack, fill out shipping forms, and send a little bit of Beacon Hill to Afghanistan.

More on the proposed school closures and other changes

Now that the school closure/relocation proposals are public, some parents are gearing up to fight, while others are resigned. (And some are probably thrilled, because programs are actually moving closer to them, or to better facilities.) We expect that there will be a big hubbub on this in coming days, though perhaps the Thanksgiving holiday will slow that momentum a bit.

The P-I‘s article about the proposals includes a map showing the movement of the various programs, generally southward.

Seattle Public Schools have posted a lengthy document that goes into detail on all the proposals, with statistics, maps, and reasons for the proposed actions.

Blogger and columnist (for the South Seattle Beacon) Sable Verity has a few things to say about the proposals, and particularly the proposal to kill the African-American Academy, starting with:

“I would like nothing more than to be able to stand up and say that the choice is wrong, that AAA is a fantastic school for our children and needs to be preserved. NOPE. I speak from experience as a former parent and employee. Shut. it. down.”

Seattle Schools closure recommendations announced; African-American Academy and others on the list

Seattle Public Schools have released their preliminary recommendations for building closure and program adjustment for the 2009 school year, and they are far from uncontroversial. Some of the changes will affect Beacon Hill and the rest of Southeast Seattle, particularly the programs at the African-American Academy, which are slated for cancellation.

Six buildings are recommended for closure: Genesee Hill, Lowell, Mann, T. T. Minor, Pinehurst, and Van Asselt. (Old Hay will close, but this may be temporary.)

Nine programs will relocate: the Lowell APP program to Hawthorne and Thurgood Marshall; NOVA to Meany; Pathfinder K-8 to Arbor Heights; SBOC to Meany; Summit K-12 to Rainier Beach; Thornton Creek to Summit’s current building, the old Jane Addams Junior High; T. T. Minor K-3 Montessori to Leschi; Thurgood Marshall’s EBOC to Bailey Gatzert; and Van Asselt to the African American Academy building on Beacon Hill.

The African American Academy, AS #1, Arbor Heights, Meany, and T. T. Minor programs that already exist would be discontinued.

Details are on this Seattle Public Schools FAQ PDF.

Final recommendations will be released on January 6, 2009. With the holidays, there’s not a lot of time to get your opinions heard, so if you want to give SPS a piece of your mind, you should email SPS soon at, call them at 206 252 0040, or mail your comments to School Board, PO Box 34165, MS 11-010, Seattle, WA, 98124-1165.

There will also be a series of public meetings. Dates and times may be found on the SPS Capacity Management website.

Readers, are any of you affected by these changes? Please tell us what you think.

Thanks to the West Seattle Blog for liveblogging the SPS meeting tonight. You rock!

African-American student achievement topic of meeting tonight at Cleveland HS

A town hall meeting about African-American student achievement will be held from 6:00 to 8:00 pm this evening at the Cleveland High School auditorium, 5511 15th Avenue South.

The Seattle Times reports that “a task force formed to study the African-American achievement gap wants to hear from parents, students, educators and other community members about their experiences and hopes for the education of African-American students.”

This is a state-wide task force, which will also hold town hall meetings in Spokane and Tacoma later this month, before making recommendations to the Legislature in December. For information, call Janet Hayakawa at 360-725-6503.