Local group fights to save Loyal Heights Elementary playground

A group of parents, friends and neighbors from the Loyal Heights Elementary community have banded together to try and save the fate of the playground on the school grounds.

Loyal Heights Elementary is set to undergo a major expansion starting in 2016 to accommodate the increasing demand of the local growing population. The school is set to expand its current capacity of 450 students to approximately 650-800 students and must rearrange physical attributes of the school in order to do so.

The $37.3 million expansion project is currently underway under the direction of Seattle Public Schools who believe that the project “will address current and projected elementary enrollment growth in northwest Seattle.”

Despite acknowledging the benefits that the expansion will provide the local parents and neighbors have some concerns. “While many of the proposed changes will be of great benefit to our expanding student body, we are concerned that the building plans include a severe reduction in outdoor play space,” writes the local group on their website.

According to the local group, the current proposal is set to cut the outdoor playground space in half, leaving 3000 square meters for outdoor activities. “To put that in perspective, a soccer field is approx. 6000 square meters,” writes the group.

The expansion project is set to include a new building that will house one new classroom per grade and recess will be staggered by grade. If all goes ahead as planned the group states that “108-133 students (the equivalent of 10-12 soccer teams) will be playing on a space about half the size of a soccer field.”

The group has created the below table to compare the amount of outdoor play space that the new expansion will offer each student versus other schools in our area:



In addition to the impact on Loyal Heights students, the local group is concerned about the impact that the lack of outdoor space will have on the local community.

“This play field is heavily utilized by the community, both after school and on the weekends. It is the only playground west of 24th and north of 65th outside of Golden Gardens. By limiting this play field, Seattle Public Schools will be taking away a valuable public resource,” writes the group.

The group is encouraging locals to write to Seattle Public Schools board members and officials and voice their concerns.

Click here to learn more about the expansion and the local group who are fighting to save the outdoor playground space.

SDOT install flashing beacons at Whitman Middle School

New flashing beacons have recently been installed at Whitman Middle School reminding drivers to adhere to the 20 mph speed limit in school zones.  New flashing beacons were also installed at 10 other schools throughout the city to remind drivers to think about student safety.

Every school in Seattle is surrounded by signs clearly notifying drivers of the lower speed limit and these flashing beacons Before entering the school zone, drivers pass a sign alerting them that they should expect to see students. The “School – Speed Limit 20” sign marks the beginning of the reduced speed zone.

SDOT has now installed flashing beacons along with the school zone signage on arterial streets at more than 65 schools to draw more attention to the reduced speed limit.

Before and after studies indicate an overall reduction in speeding as a result of flashing beacons, with the largest impact on those drivers exceeding the speed limit by 10 or more miles per hour.

To check out the schedule of when flashing beacons will be operating at each school, visit SDOT’s website.

Always remember to stick to the 20 mph speed limit in school zones and help keep local children safe.

North Beach principal heading to Green Lake Elem.

North Beach Elementary School (9018 24th Ave NW) will have a new principal next school year.

Seattle Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson sent a letter stating that the current principal, Joanne Bowers, has requested a transfer to another school and will be assigned to the same role at Green Lake Elementary. Bowers will stay at North Beach through this school year and start at Green Lake on July 1.

“Our plan is to conduct a hiring process that includes the opportunity for the school community to participate in interviews of applicants. An interview committee will be established that will include staff and family representatives,” the letter states.

According to spokeswoman Patti Spencer, the hope is to have the new principal appointed by the end of the school year.

Stranger Alert at North Beach Elementary

North Beach Elementary School (map) has issued a warning to parents about a stranger who has been hanging out around campus.  Some parents forwarded an email (seen below) from the school to MyBallard.

Today (Tuesday), the Caucasian man, about 5’6”, scruffy beard, brown hair, riding a shiny, red bicycle, approached a child while with her family, asking if she would like a toy out of his box.  The parents of course intervened.  Parents came to office and were instructed to call police. Police were called and did not come because the man was gone.

After lunch was over, a student reported running to the fence to retrieve a ball when the bell rang.  The man (who was on the other side of the fence) asked him a question about how to get in the building at night.  Families from North Beach have also had this man near their homes or on their porch.

The principal at North Beach says security from Seattle Schools is aware of this man, who also matches the description of a man hanging out near Loyal Heights School.  Staff at North Beach is said to be on “red alert,” and parents are asked to use all necessary precautions when dropping off their children.

New Seattle school boundary maps approved

Just after 11 p.m., the Seattle School Board unanimously approved the new boundary maps assigning which schools Seattle children will attend for years to come. The vote stretched into the night as directors added amendments to the plan, slightly adjusting boundaries here and there. For the Ballard area, the boundaries for Whittier Elementary/West Woodland and Loyal Heights Elementary/Adams Elementary were shifted slightly from last round of changes. The updated maps and address look-up tool will be available here by next week.

Above is a look at the new Loyal Heights/Adams Elementary boundary change. According to the Omnibus Amendment (.pdf), “Based upon current data, it is believed that moving the southern boundary for the Loyal Heights atttendence area from Northwest 75th Street to Northwest 73rd Street starting at 32nd Avenue Northwest running east to 24th Avenue Northwest, following the jog south in Northwest 73rd Ave at 28th Avenue Northwest to 24th Ave Northwest will result in a projections of 19 students shifting from Adams to Loyal Heights. This results in the projected enrollment at Adams moving from 13 in excess of functional capacity to 20 under functional capacity. Following the streets in this manner also ensures that the students who move into the Loyal Heights atttendence area are within the Loyal Heights walk zone.”

The southern boundary for Whittier Heights Elementary was adjusted from NW 67th to NW 65th St. Students north of 65th will go to Whittier, while students south of 65th will go to West Woodland.

The biggest remaining controversy was the dividing line between Ballard High School to the south with Ingraham High School to the north.

“Many families would’ve liked to have seen the boundary for Ballard to be further north than 85th St., especially those communities, North Beach, Blue Ridge, Olympic Manor, which now largely attend Ballard High School,” explained Seattle Schools Director Peter Maier. “I wish it would’ve been possible… but there simply isn’t the capacity at Ballard High School to do that while we’re serving the entire city.”

From here, a transitional plan will be developed, taking into consideration sibling grandfathering, transportation and educational programs for schools that will reopen. Viewlands Elementary is slated to reopen in 2011.

New school maps show minor Ballard changes

The new Seattle School boundary maps have been released with several changes affecting Ballard families. The most-anticipated change is the boundary for Ballard High School (see new map): the northern line remains NW 85th St., but the eastern line has shifted from Aurora Ave. to Greenwood Ave. — and a section around Green Lake has been moved to Roosevelt High.

The new map is above. The old map is below.

“The changes reflect balancing capacity at north‐end schools, preserving capacity at Ballard to accommodate a projected increase in student enrollment, and enabling more students to walk to Roosevelt,” Seattle Schools explained in this .pdf document posted this evening. “Changes requested but unable to be made include extending the northern boundary beyond NW 85th St., because it would have put Ballard over its functional capacity.”

There’s also a small change to the boundaries for both Whittier Elementary School and Whitman Middle School (see new map). The new map is above, the old map is below. The southern boundary, including for Loyal Heights Elementary, has been shifted just a bit.

“The changes reflect community desires to have the Whittier attendance area reflect more closely its surrounding neighborhoods and enable more students to walk to elementary schools within this attendance area,” Seattle Schools said. “The changes also reflect more recent 2009‐10 data; the proposed boundaries for this attendance area were based on older 2008‐09 data available at the time. These data show an increase in the growth for the Greenwood, Loyal Heights, and Whittier attendance area; boundaries were adjusted to accommodate this growth.” Let us know your reactions in comments below…

October 14th: Ballard residents speak out about boundary maps

Ballard High School warns of possible scam

Ballard High School says they’ve received several calls in the last few days from neighbors and businesses asking about a donation drive for a sports calendar. BHS says someone — or a group of people — are claiming to be students and calling around soliciting donations for the calendar, but it appears to be a scam. Kristina Anderson, the Athletic Director and Activity Director at Ballard High School, sent us an email with details:

They are asking for credit card numbers or check routing numbers. No such fundraiser is currently happening in this manner. Another neighbor just reported that she was approached today at her door by someone “who looked much older than a high school student” asking for a donation for a fundraiser to clean up 15th Ave NW. When she refused to donate he left in a very rude and inappropriate manner calling her some choice names. This is all a scam. Do not give these people any information.

If Ballard HS students or family members are engaged in any fundraising efforts on behalf of the school, they should be properly identifying themselves and be able to provide literature as to their cause. Please do not give any type of donation to anyone who looks suspicious or cannot produce additional information when prompted. Feel free to call the school with any concerns or questions.

Mini-grants to encourage walking/biking to school

The Seattle Department of Transportation is giving away up to $1,000 mini-grants to schools, PTAs or other school-related nonprofit groups that encourage students to walk or ride their bikes to school or improve walk and bike safety. All schools, both public and private, are eligible to apply.

“Mini-Grant funds can be used to create a Walking School Bus, plan a Bike Rodeo, organize a Bike Train, create incentive programs encouraging walking &/or biking to school,or purchase new safety gear for school crossing guard programs,” the SDOT website states. Last year several Ballard-area schools benefited from this program. The Bike Commuters of Ballard HS, the Loyal Heights PTA “Undriving” program, North Beach PTA “Pedestrian Safety and Encouragement” program, the Salmon Bay Walking School Bus, and the West Woodland Bike Safety Training program all received grants. Applications (.pdf) must be submitted by October 30th.

Packed house at Ballard school boundary meeting

Nearly 200 people packed Ballard High School’s library Wednesday night to participate in a community meeting about the controversial proposal to create Seattle school boundaries. “I thought it was going to be packed,” Ballard High Principal Phil Brockman told us as the crowd gathered. “But not this packed.”

Tracy Libros, who heads up enrollment for the school district, ran through a Powerpoint of the proposed student assignment boundaries, which were released October 6th. Libros said that the district is looking “at all the boundaries” to make possible changes. “We do believe that the initial proposal did not balance out the enrollment in the north end high schools, so we’re looking at that,” she said, explaining the new maps will be released on November 3rd. A school official told us the possible changes aren’t due to bad or incomplete data, but part of “continued refinement.”

Parents split into groups to discuss their concerns and questions, which were later read to the room. “The North Ballard community is very, very concerned about being cut off,” said one parent, referring to the dividing line at 85th St. that splits Ballard High to the south with Ingraham High (on 135th St. NW) to the north. Many other parents agreed. “I’d like to go to the defense of the families of the neighborhood of North Beach, Olympic Manor, the Blue Ridge area and Green Arbor (near Carkeek Park),” another parent said. “Any of our kids can get on a bus in those neighborhoods and be to Ballard in 15 minutes. And any kids that takes a bus from those neighborhoods in Ingraham takes an hour to an hour and a half.” One group even walked to Ballard High from 85th for the meeting, explaining that it took just 25 minutes.

While North Ballard residents felt cut off, some didn’t mince words about the fact Queen Anne and Magnolia kids will be attending Ballard High under the new boundary maps. “Obviously Queen Anne and Magnolia have a right to come to Ballard, but why aren’t they fighting the fact they sold Queen Anne High School several years ago? They should go to Ingraham,” one man said to a thundering applause. “Have them build their own (high school),” exclaimed another. Another parent brought up the new boundary that divides Whittier and West Woodland Elementary schools. “It will fragment the Whittier Heights neighborhood,” she said.

“I know that a lot of people in this room are not happy, but all I can tell you is that’s where the data lead us to,” Libros said. “When you put all the numbers together of where the students live and where the buildings are located, that is where the first proposed boundaries, which do need adjustment, landed,” she said. “There are certainly convenient buses in some cases, but not necessarily capacity at those schools for all these students.”

Another key issue that was repeated through the night is the grandfathering of siblings. “We want to keep our families together,” one man said, advocating a guaranteed grandfathering plan. “When our next son or daughter is coming up, we want to stay with that school.” While the district is proposing a 10 percent open enrollment provision, which would leave a tenth of a school’s enrollment to a lottery system, many expressed concerns that it’s too small to account for all the siblings and special circumstances. “We’re not doing it because we think it’s a good idea to be mean,” Libros said in response. “Seriously, it sounds like a no brainer, and it is in a sense, except we don’t know until the boundaries are adopted and we actually look at the students that are going to that school…. But to just stand here and say all siblings are grandfathered, I can’t do that because we don’t know if we can’t support it physically. It’s absolutely a high priority.”

A few parents raised concern over the short span of time between the release of the refined maps (November 3rd), the school board public hearing (November 9th) and the final board vote (November 18th). The district assured the crowd that they’re taking the community’s feedback seriously. “We really do welcome your input and comments,” Libros said. “We truly welcome your comments.”

Volunteers help clean up Salmon Bay School

A group of parents at Salmon Bay School spent some time this weekend cleaning up the landscaping surrounding the school, and there was plenty of dead brush and weeds to clear away.

Parents on the school’s gardening committee volunteer their time four or five times a year. They said they’re happy to save the school district a little money on landscaping, and they’re hoping to plant a butterfly garden on the east side of the school in the next few months.