Ballard gets squeezed by proposed school boundaries, parents fight back

With Lincoln High School opening in Wallingford and Ingraham High School expanding in 2019, the Seattle school district is redrawing the boundaries for North Seattle high school students.

Until last week, one of the recommended scenarios (.pdf) kept the vast majority of Ballard-area families inside the Ballard High School boundary, drawing the northern line roughly at Carkeek Park. But this option has fallen off the list, and many parents in North Ballard, Crown Hill, North Beach and Blue Ridge are not happy about it.

The new option, called scenario F (above), draws the line at 80th St. instead of Carkeek Park. (In the map, green is Ballard High, brown is Ingraham and purple is Lincoln. There are several versions of scenario F — this is version 2 .pdf — but the northern cut-off remains 80th St. in each).

That means any families to the north of 80th will attend Ingraham High School, which is located up at 135th St., above Bitter Lake. If you live at 24th Ave. and 83rd St., for example, that’s 4.5 miles away. Ballard High is 1.5 miles away.

Then there’s the other option, called scenario H version 3 (above and .pdf). While the Carkeek Park boundary is preserved, the southeastern boundary is at Ballard High School itself: homes to the south of 65th At. and to the west of 15th Ave. — the West Woodland neighborhood — fall inside the boundary for Lincoln High. You could live a block from BHS, but go to school in Wallingford.

“North Ballard parents do not support either of these plans,” explains a new site, North Ballard Parents, created to rally opposition to the proposals. “We support our neighborhood and community all being allowed to attend Ballard High School. Seattle Public Schools shut down the high school serving Magnolia and Queen Anne, and now Ballard is paying the price.”

The organizers of North Ballard Parents have created a petition on which has 1,290 signatures and counting.

Another site, Save Seattle Schools, urges parents to “tell the board and the superintendent you will be voting no on the operations levy in Feb. 2019.”

Seattle Schools says the new scenarios take into consideration the potential changes in the highly capable pathways at the high school level. “We heard overwhelmingly that families want increased and equal access to advanced courses offered closer to home,” explains a November post on the Seattle Schools site.

The Magnolia neighborhood has worked hard lobbying the High School Boundary Task Force — which is tasked with creating the proposed boundaries — to remain inside the Ballard High School zone. One of its primary arguments: the commute from Magnolia to Wallingford would be problematic — as much as 74 minutes each way on Metro.

The task force is expected to present its recommendations to the school board on January 3rd, and the board is slated to vote on the final boundary map two weeks later on January 17th.

Your thoughts on the boundaries? Let us know in comments…

61 comments on “Ballard gets squeezed by proposed school boundaries, parents fight back”

  1. Fort-
    One more thing… Rising up and pushing back on this entire topic does not mean creating a moat, you donkey. It means making our voices heard, via attending public meetings, and hiring attorneys if need be. I didn’t purchase my house in a 10/10 rated school district to be later shuttled off to a 4/10 school district.

  2. @C. Ross:

    Ballard has been Magnolia’s attendance area school for a very long time. We moved here knowing our students would attend BHS knowing all that would entail (i.e. a slightly longer commute than if we lived in Ballard). This is hardly living in isolation and it doesn’t give anyone license to move our students around like cattle when they need warm bodies to open a new school.

    There were at least three original Task Force Scenarios that maintained the 85th St. boundary in the North and kept Magnolia at BHS (E, F, and G). It seems like someone did a literal land grab at the last minute with Scenario H/Hv2, in an attempt to reverse the negotiated compromise that originally set the 85th St, boundary – this took two years to negotiate between neighborhoods and someone co-opted the task force to undo it at the last minute.

    The five new scenarios are the repercussions of this. Now, with eight scenarios that keep Magnolia at BHS and only two that move the 85th St, boundary further north, “North Ballard” should be playing not to lose rather than to win, lest it lose further ground and have the boundary end up at 80th.

    If you live between 80th and 85th, you have no one but the “North Ballard” Parents to thank for the four new scenarios that move the boundary to 80th.

    “E, F, or G sound good to me. Keeps the line at 85th, where it should be…”

    Let’s meet up and make some signs.

  3. @May – Maybe you know something I don’t, but I thought the this boundary change was based on cohorting the schools and evening out the enrollment – not ‘needing warm bodies’ to fill a new school. Here are the published guiding principles from the SPS site:

    These principles were developed and put into priority order by the High School Boundary Task Force. They are being used in developing the task force’s recommendations on high school boundary changes.

    1. Equity: Use an equity lens to ensure that the changes don’t unfairly impact students with higher needs.
    2. Align high school boundaries with elementary and middle school feeder patters as much as possible.
    3. Use data, such as enrollment counts, enrollment projections, capture rates, student demographics, etc., to inform decisions.
    4. Create high schools that are the optimal size so that there can be a diversity of programs and services for students at their schools.
    5. Minimize fiscal impact.
    6. Minimize disruption to existing boundaries.

    They got to Hv2 in my opinion, because in that scnenario, Adams / Loyal Heights / North Beach align to Whitman, then Whitman and Salmon Bay to BHS,, Mag and QA align to McClure and then go to Lincoln, same with Eaglestaff to Ingraham, etc etc. aligning to feeder patterns stated in 2, and it evened out the enrollment across all the schools aligning to 4.

    What we learned lasy week is that the HCC proposal impacted that somehow…at least that is what they are saying – so, either, SPS was incompetent and had a taskforce do maps without knowing what the final HCC recommendation would be OR they are using that as an excuse to put out revised maps that counter their original recommendation and goes against their guiding principles. Your guess is as good as mine on that.

    I doubt the revised maps subsequent to Hv2 are a result of the north of 85th people because Hv3 still has that pool in BHS. So, that comment just don’t make a ton of sense unless you have some insider info. We already have enough neighborhood vs neighborhood nonsense going on thanks to SPS. We don’t need to make it go block vs block with fake news.

  4. @Keep it Real:

    The Guiding Principles themselves changed mid-course, so it is difficult to attribute any particular recommendation to principles versus preferences.

    From the May 8, 2017 High School Boundary Task Force documents:

    • Ground decisions in data.
    • Create boundaries that reflect equitable access to services and programs.
    • Maximize walkability.
    • Enable cost-effective transportation standards.
    • Maintain key features of New Student Assignment Plan (e.g. opportunities for creating diversity within boundaries, choice, option schools, feeder patterns)
    • Minimize disruptions by aligning new boundaries with current attendance area boundaries when feasible.
    • Be mindful of fiscal impact (costs and savings).
    • Be responsive to family input to the extent feasible.

    Latest Principles:
    • Equity: Use an equity lens to ensure that the changes don’t unfairly impact students with higher needs.
    • Align high school boundaries with elementary and middle school feeder patterns as much as possible.
    • Use data, such as enrollment counts, enrollment projections, capture rates, student demographics, etc., to inform decisions.
    • Create high schools that are the optimal size so that there can be a diversity of programs and services for students at their schools.
    • Minimize fiscal impact.
    • Minimize disruption to existing boundaries.

    The latest principles were around for quite a while before Hv2 emerged (while E & F were the frontrunners).

    I wouldn’t call an observation about causality “fake news.” There are a lot of moving parts and special interests. The notion that the task force has recommended anything other than Hv2 is fake news at this point.

    Happy Holidays!

  5. I think one thing everyone is forgetting in this is the kids that will actually USE these schools. If we ask them what is most important I would bet their top priority would be going to school with their friends & not which school has advanced classes or a bigger sport field, etc.

    Right now the feeder patterns are not consistent. Kids from whittier / loyal heights feed into Whitman but then are split down 80th or 85th and are sent to Ingraham. New plans split the McClure middle school kids in half from Lincoln to Ballard. I can’t imagine how hard it is if you are sent to a different high school from most of the friends you had from K-8 and have to try to forge new friendships. Hv2 was the only scenario that made an attempt at keeping kids together from elementary to middle school to high school and now Hv3 does it too aggressively at the expense of walkability and reason.

    I am not sure why the highly capable pathways are being given such weight? I would think that a public school first and foremost should serve the needs of the average student and prioritize students lives (transportation & social/emotional issues) since those greatly impact learning as well.

    And as far as “we pay the most taxes we get first dibs” that does not serve the public school model. The adults paying the taxes aren’t using the schools, their kids are and ALL the kids in Seattle deserve a fair shot at a good school, that’s not too far or too hard to get to with good educational resources. Call me a dreamer but I would hope that people can see beyond just their own child to the academic and social well being of the students in more neighborhoods.

    All good points. Please let me know how I can be more involved in maintaining the 80th-85th boundary. I plan to attend the meeting on the 3rd, but if there are any other opportunities to voice an opinion, I would like to know.

  7. Just focusing on 80th and 85th boundary is short sided, SPS messes with boundaries every year all the time. If Magnolia stays at BHS and continues to grow with the rest of the BHS boundary south of 80th, it is just a matter of time before 80th gets revisited. The root cause of why 80th is in play still exists. The area is growing, and so far, the Magnolia neighborhood cohort is all or nothing. By that, I mean wherever they go, they go together so it is a large chunk of kids that move or stay……there is no option where five blocks would get shaved off of Magnolia like they are doing here with 85th to 80th. Not saying they should or should not divide Magnolia, so let’s not get our panties in a bunch on that. I am just pointing out it has not ever happened, so if you on the fringe somewhere else, it will impact you at some point.

  8. Before the “New Ballard” was built, QA and Magnolia kids went to Franklin high school. Franklin was beautifully remodeled in 1990 – a gem in the south end. However, I could not go there even though I lived near there. Instead, I got on a bus and went to Ballard. Loved Ballard though, so in hindsight, no complaints. When “New Ballard” was built (was it 1999ish?), it didn’t take long for that lawsuit to emerge to go there instead of Franklin. Apparently, it was a civil rights violation to not be able to go to the “New Ballard”, but those violations were fine when it was the old sh^tty building and they were going to a nice new refurbished building.

    Good luck with that Ballard and nearby neighborhoods – your only hope is that SPS builds a new high school in Magnolia.

  9. This is a very complex situation and here are some things I’ve observed. First and foremost is that the state legislature consistently underfunds schools (esp. Seattle because, you know, we’re liberal and are supposed to pay for our capital expenditures on our own) so that the District can never afford to leave slack space in the system to deal with shifts in demographics. That said, the District is famous for changing its mind over and over, taking people’s input and ignoring it, etc. It’s never over until it’s done and gone.

    I think that the HCC cohort is both underserved and perhaps over-served. Underserved in that currently kids have too high a bar to meet the technical HCC cohort (testing 2 years ahead in both ELA and Math). The District used to handle this by assigning other not-quite-HCC-but-ahead-of-their-peers kids to the Spectrum program, which was variously implemented in the past in local schools but seems to have mostly gone away altogether. Each school is supposed to provide leveled learning challenges to each student, but with large class sizes that don’t easily break down into the right groupings, this is tough. Also: as more advanced learners are segregated out, the less advanced learners do less well since they have poorer models around them. Smaller but still heterogeneous class sizes would probably be better so that the teacher can help each of their students learn the most they can.

    Over-served: HCC students make the District numbers look better over all, even though they might increase the achievement gap. They also, typically come with more involved parents and sometimes outside resources like tutoring. These are the parents who show up at meetings and the District also wants them as voters. If the District doesn’t do a good enough job, these are the families who are more likely to send their kids to private school. If that happens, the District loses thrice: once for the per-pupil state funding; twice for the loss of that parent’s involvement at their public school; thrice for parents less interested in the politics around public schools.

    While I certainly sympathize with those who feel jerked around by changing district lines, the reality is that nothing stops changing, certainly not SPS or a city’s demographics. The District has long known that they should have built a new HS to server QA and Mag., but real estate prices make that extra difficult. That again goes back to the state’s chronic under-funding and Republic legislators who can only focus on cutting taxes rather than investing in our future. I myself had to switch schools/pathways (in NYC) when I reached 7th grade. It was hard, but I did fine and made lots of new friends. Many kids at these ages change lots of friends anyway. (Full disclosure: I am a substitute employee at an SPS school; my kid is Spectrum and still slated to go to BHS in all scenarios, but we may be moving out of the city for other reasons for his HS years.)

  10. @David – thanks for that perspective.

    Ultimately, what does the distric want to do with HCC in the long run? Do they want the decentralized model where it is available at each school? If so, what are the barriers to that happening? Clearly, some assumption was made by the boundary task force that did not come true, since maps had to be revised after the recommendation was already made.

    I do agree that the demographics and boundaries are always changing, I would love for consistent, transparent guiding principles to be used to update boundaries. Even if it does not work in my favor, I can at least accept it if I trusted the process. The post above mentions how the guiding principles shifted during the process, which I find disturbing. It really makes me wonder who is in charge, who is in who’s ear, and in the end, if that is really what it comes down to, then why did we have a boundary taskforce? The boundary taskforce was to have representation from regions of the city, not specific neighborhoods and make recommendations from that perspective. But if that is just getting tossed to the side, and really we needed to base this on the HCC decision and we all need to chip in to help solve Magnolias transportation issue, then fine….have the balls to just say that and quit wasting people’s time. Don’t talk about elementary and middle school feeders and get hopes up and then come back with a map that is even more divisive. I don’t think people are scared of changing schools. However if people don’t agree with why they are changing schools or are going to a school further away because of someone else further away, that is where the rub comes in.

    GO Beavers!

  11. @ MORE HCC—thanks for your response.
    I believe the District’s (laudable) goal is to offer more HCC by expanding the number of HCC high schools (including, potentially, BHS). This was a change to the guiding principles based on parent feedback surveys. Here’s a good explainer on this new goal:

    The problem is that, once again, schools are packed so tight due to real estate and budget constraints that adding HCC students to BHS (who would have gone to Nathan Hale (right?) would now go to BHS. But then you have to reduce the size of BHS’s catchment area by geo to accommodate more local HCC students.

    And remember, even if the District did the right thing and started the process for building a new school in QA or Mag., it would take ~5 years to get it done (with levy and planning time included). It does seem like Interbay has enough land that’s up for grabs to make that a real possibility. I’m not particularly pleased with Nyland’s leadership and this is an area where he could push as an outgoing legacy.

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