City of Seattle proposes $2.65M to streamline school start times, improve school traffic safety

Earlier today, Mayor Ed Murray announced that he will propose $2.3M in startup funding to help Seattle Public Schools students get more sleep and be better equipped for academic success.

The funding will help SPS implement a two-tiered bell schedule (down from three), in response to requests from families. Mayor Murray will request the Families and Education Levy review board support the allocation, which is needed to fund additional school buses to sustain the new schedule. Additionally, the Mayor will also propose $380,000 to increase safety by maintaining crossing guards during school hours.

“This use of Families and Education Levy resources will go to implementing a better bell schedule and helping our students get to and from school safely. These are our children and I am committed to ensure they have all the tools they need to get a great education,” says Mayor Ed Murray.

After listening to parents, community partners and teachers, the City concluded that the health and academic welfare of students would be greatly increased by supporting the change of Seattle Public School start times from the current three-tier system to a two-tier one. This change will cost $2.3M in startup costs, which the Mayor will propose to the Families and Education Levy Oversight Committee as well as City Council.

“Thanks to the Mayor’s generosity and City support, Seattle Public Schools may be able to eliminate third tier busing for 2017-18. This means that in 2017-18 schools would start at 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. This change would build on our efforts to improve academic outcomes by aligning school start times with student sleep patterns,” says Superintendent Larry Nyland.

 

When Seattle Public Schools changed school start times for elementary and secondary schools in the 2016-2017 academic year, they saw positive changes in both longer reported hours of student sleep and reduced levels of discipline in high school students. These outcomes follow years of research around the American Association of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association’s recommendation to more closely align school start times with students’ biological and sleeping patterns.

Costs for district transportation are reimbursed by the state using a funding formula based on the prior year’s cost. The City’s transportation investment is one time.

Seattle Public Schools bell times set to change this year

Seattle Public Schools is reminding local families that bell times will be changing this upcoming 2016-17 school year.

According to the district, the change in school start times is designed to improve academic outcomes for secondary students.

They are providing a list of resources on their district website, from child care and nutrition, to after school activities and safety and security, to help families make the transition.

SPS has also prepared this video to provide information about the changes:

The district recognizes the challenges families face and has identified resources to help as they restructure their schedules, including potential effects on before and after school childcare, after school activities and nutrition programs.

The updated bell schedule is posted online and lists specific bell times for each school.

Locals host rally to protest Loyal Heights Elementary expansion

Loyal Heights Elementary parents and students, along with members of the community, will host a rally to protest the expansion of the school.

The rally will be held this Friday, June 10, at the school (2511 NW 80th St) from 8:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.

Many locals have expressed their anger about the planned expansion (see planned area of enrollment expansion on the map below) for the past few months and have now banded together to make a stand.

loyal heights

Rally organizers released the following statement yesterday:

Almost 100% of the community opposes the extent of the planned expansion of this neighborhood school. Many are extremely frustrated by Seattle School District heavy handedness and stone-walling against the community’s input, so we expect a good turnout at the rally.

The Seattle School District is wasting taxpayer dollars by replacing Loyal Heights Elementary with an unnecessarily mega-sized school that will:

  • Cause a construction budget overrun of 50%, to $44M – for an elementary school!
  • Create a building for over 825 students, when 2016-17 enrollment is 411 (shrinking).
  • Create a mega school on the smallest lot in the area.
  • Continue the District’s unauthorized move away from the neighborhood schools.

The Seattle School District has “listened” to community objections over the last two years, but has simply not responded in any real way to the concerns raised.

We are rallying to pressure the School Board to finally lead the District in this matter, and keep them from “running over” our community, other communities in the past, and in the future.

Rally organizers are reminding parents that students must be accompanied at the rally and that it will take place on the sidewalk, not on school property.

Find out more about the rally on the event’s Facebook page.

Majority of BHS juniors opt out of “Smarter Balanced” statewide exams

According to our news partners at The Seattle Times, 95% of Ballard High School juniors are opting out of the state wide Smarter Balanced exams.

The Smarter Balanced English Language Arts (ELA) and Math exams are replacing Washington’s old statewide exams and must be completed by schools before June 15.

According to the Washington State Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction, the state switched to the Smarter Balanced tests for a number of reasons including quicker results, increased accessibility for students with disabilities and English language learners, computer adaptability and connection to higher education.

According to The Seattle Times report, the numbers are decidedly higher than the Seattle Public Schools District opt out prediction of about 50% of students in some schools.

The junior cohort at BHS is not the only group of local students with such a high percentage opting out of the tests that many “see as unnecessary”.

Figures from district officials confirm that no juniors took the tests at Nathan Hale High School. 95% of juniors at Garfield High School and 80% of Roosevelt and Ingraham High School juniors also refused to take part.

The Junior cohort appears to include the majority of students who are opting out of testing as they do not need to pass the Smarter Balanced tests to graduate.

“What really convinced me was, it’s not a graduation requirement,” Kevin Nguyen, a junior at Garfield and president of his class told The Seattle Times. “At this time of the year, juniors especially don’t have that much time to just spend on stuff that doesn’t go toward graduation.”

According to the report, the major testing boycotts seem to be limited to students within Seattle. Bellevue School District has received only six refusals from the 19,000 students within the district.

Although the tests are not a requirement for Juniors to graduate, state schools Chief Randy Dorn is concerned that the high number of student boycotts could effect state funding.

Dorn confirmed that if less than 95% of students in Washington take the state wide tests, the U.S. Department of Education could withhold education funding under the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires mandatory annual testing.

“The decision to refuse testing doesn’t just affect the individual student,” Dorn told The Seattle Times. “It affects students across the state.”

Seattle Public Schools is currently monitoring the four schools that they believe will have the highest boycott rates and will release complete figures when they are known.

Parents upset about Whittier’s Developmental Preschool moving to Viewlands next year with little notice

By Doree, from our sister site, Phinney Wood

Seattle Public Schools is moving the Developmental Preschool program at Whittier Elementary School in Ballard to Viewlands Elementary in North Greenwood/Crown Hill next year. But, some parents in the Developmental Preschool are upset because they weren’t involved in the decision-making process, and they were given very little notice.

The Developmental Preschool is located on the bottom floor of Whittier Elementary.

The district says it is moving the program because it anticipates higher enrollment at Whittier in the next few years, and may need an extra classroom.

Amy Thompson, whose 4-year-old daughter, Ava, has attended the Developmental Preschool for the last two years, says the district apparently made the decision in February, but didn’t notify parents until Monday. She said the district posted a letter on its website on Feb. 17 detailing various district-wide Special Education changes, and the preschool change consisted of one line in that document. But no one from the district or Whittier Elementary notified parents of that letter on the website.

“It was deeply buried,” Thompson says of the notice. “And who’s going to go looking for that if they don’t know to look for it?”

Thompson says she heard about the move last Thursday from Whittier Principal Linda Robinson. Preschool families received a notification letter on Monday, and that same letter was sent home with all Whittier students on Tuesday.

Here is an excerpt from the letter by Pegi McEvoy, Assistant Superintendent for Operations:

At this time, we have tentatively planned to maintain the same number of homerooms currently at Whittier; however, the situation is such that we need to be prepared to add a homeroom as additional Open Enrollment date becomes available. This type of decision obviously needs to be made in advance. In anticipation of potential space needs for an additional homeroom at Whittier next year, we have decided to relocate the Developmental Preschool to Viewlands Elementary beginning in the 2012-13 school year. Consideration was given to the addition of a portable; however it was determined to be unfeasible.

SPS also says it is studying the need for additional Development Preschools at other sites throughout the district, including North Seattle.

The Whittier PTA has formally opposed the move, arguing that Whittier’s enrollment figures do not necessitate another homeroom next year. On Monday, the PTA sent a letter to district officials (see end of this post for the full letter).

Thompson said her family’s reference school is Adams Elementary, but they chose to enroll their 6-year-old son, Campbell, in kindergarten at Whittier this year, so he and his sister could attend the same school. With the preschool moving to Whittier, they will be split up.

Thompson said she understands school capacity issues, but the real issue is with timely notification. Since the Open Enrollment period has passed, she no longer has the option of moving her son to Viewlands next year, to keep her children at the same school.

“If it is a foregone conclusion that the program is moving, at a minimum, just give us a year of transition to work these issues out,” she pleaded.

Thompson says routines and structure are especially important for children with developmental issues. Her daughter has significant development delays and requires intensive speech, occupational and physical therapy. When Ava started going to the Developmental Preschool program at the age of 3, she used a walker to get around. Today she walks independently, and Thompson attributes that to the teachers and intense therapy at the preschool.

“All of them require a special level of education services, so whether it comes in the form of cognitive therapy, learning or physical therapy, their routines are very structured that way,” she explains. “It takes a while to develop that routine with your educators.”

She’s worried about the same level of services being available at Viewlands, after the district informed parents that the new Developmental Preschool room at Viewlands is not equipped for physical therapy, as it is at Whittier.

“Not having those things in place is a pretty big setback to their progress and overall development plan,” she says.

Thompson says the preschool has done a great job of integrating with the regular education program at Whittier, even having 5th graders as learning buddies for the preschoolers.

“The great thing about it is that as a parent with two typically developing children and one atypically developing, is it integrates the learning environment. So our whole family can participate, instead of Ava being off to one side.”

Parents in the preschool program have started an online petition to ask the district to hold off on moving the program for one year.

We contacted Seattle Public Schools yesterday for more information on the decision-making process to close the preschool. We will update this post when we hear back.

(Disclosure: My son goes to Whittier, but has no connection to the Developmental Preschool.)

Here’s the letter from the Whittier PTA to the Seattle School Board, opposing the preschool’s move:

To: Seattle School Board
From: Lisa Melenyzer & April Brown, on behalf of the Whittier PTA General Membership
Date: March 19, 2012
RE: Relocation of Whittier Developmental Preschool

The following letter is written on behalf of the PTA families and supporters of the Whittier Elementary School Developmental Preschool program. The program has been a powerful tool in serving the developmental needs of area children, providing a high quality early education environment and helping each student to realize their full potential. The program and its students have been put at risk as the classroom has been slated to relocate to another school next year. The PTA is formally requesting a reversal of that decision, maintaining the program at Whittier Elementary.

There are four primary reasons to reverse this decision on behalf of the students, faculty and parents at Whittier Elementary:

1. Capacity is a Non-issue
• This migration decision was purportedly motivated by concerns about classroom capacity at Whittier Elementary, however, the District-projected enrollment provided with Whittier’s Budget Allocation indicate that Whittier is expecting a decrease in enrollment, down to 451 from the October 2011 headcount of 460 students.
• A letter written to the Whittier community in January of 2012 by Pegi McEvoy indicated that if “enrollment is not as high as anticipated, we will not add an additional homeroom.” With no increase in enrollment, and no additional staffing for another homeroom, there appear to be no plans for 2012-13 for the classroom currently housing the Developmental Preschool.

2. The Decision for Program Migration Lacks Thoughtful Planning
• Despite a posting of the program change on February 17, 2012, students and families have yet to receive formal notice about the change, thus they were not afforded the opportunity to make alternative plans for siblings during the Open Enrollment period.
• Students and families were not consulted during the decision making process.
• Program officials have yet to confirm availability of Intensive services (e.g. speech, occupational therapies) or provide any insight on staffing positions in the new classroom.
• With principal changes planned this year for Whittier and Viewlands schools, the best way to ensure stability in the Developmental Preschool program is to let it continue in its present form with the support of the Whittier community.

3. The Decision Does Not Consider the Best Interests of our Children
• Disruption to learning environment removes routines and consistency which are critical for children with developmental needs.
• The move will divide families with siblings attending Whittier Elementary across two schools increasing demands on resources (e.g. travel) and reducing parental involvement (e.g. two PTAs, teacher conferences).

4. The Decision Does Not Honor the Interests of our Educators and Whittier Elementary
• Educators, administrators and the Whittier Elementary community were not sufficiently involved in decision-making processes.
• Removing the Developmental Preschool program reduces diversity and makes the school less representative of the community it serves.
• The Whittier staff has a proven track record of working collaboratively with the Preschool team and sharing resources to improve the experience of both the preschool and K-5 populations.

Given the lack of thoughtful planning, negative impact to children, families, educators and Whittier Elementary, the PTA is formally requesting a reversal of the relocation decision. In absence of a rationale to the contrary, we feel that a move at this time is unjustified and unnecessarily destabilizes the preschool population. Please consult with the District and ensure that the children and families served by the Developmental Preschool are being served appropriately and protected from unnecessary tumult.

Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to your speedy response to this request.

Signed,

Lisa Melenyzer and April Brown
Co-Presidents of the Whittier PTA
On behalf of the General Membership of the Whittier PTA

Local schools recognized for their high performance

Three Ballard-area schools are among the 21 Seattle Schools to be honored with 2011 Washington Achievement Awards. The schools are recognized for their their performance on the Achievement Index, a comprehensive measurement of Washington schools’ performance for the three previous years.

Ballard High School receives two recognitions – Overall Excellence and Closing the Achievement Gap. Principal Keven Wynkoop believes this is the first time Ballard has received the award. “I am especially proud of the two categories that we won in: Overall Excellence and Closing the Achievement Gap,” Wynkoop says. “Personally, those are the two most important categories that schools should be aiming for and it feels really good to get that recognition for our students, staff and community.”

Once again this year, Loyal Heights Elementary is recognized for Overall Excellence. The school also received this honor last year and in 2009. Loyal Heights is also given special recognition for science.

West Woodland Elementary also receives the Overall Excellence recognition.

The schools will be honored during a ceremony on April 25th at Mariner High School in Everett.

Seattle Schools asking for two-day snow waiver

Students may not have to make up all three school days they missed during this month’s snow storm. Officials at Seattle Public Schools (SPS) want to waive two days instead of tacking them onto the end of the year, which they say would cost the district $500,000.

Lola Velush, a first grader at Whittier, enjoying a snow day.

SPS is asking the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) for a waiver for the January 19th and January 20th snow days. During the storm Governor Gregoire declared a State of Emergency for those days. “This [the waiver] is contingent on a decision allowing the Emergency Proclamation to apply to schools in King County,” the release states. “OSPI officials said they will have more information next month on how to apply for waivers.”

One of the days was made up last Friday, leaving the other two. According to the district, they cannot make up the days during mid-winter break because families and staff have already arranged their schedules around the time off.

As a side note, next year’s mid-winter break is not a full week, but a four-day weekend with the Friday before President’s Day a day off and that Monday.

No fourth Kindergarten class for Whittier Elementary

Whittier Elementary will not be getting a fourth Kindergarten class next school year, but could get one additional homeroom for a different grade, if needed. The Seattle School Board is looking at options to ease overcrowding in the school district and one of the options included adding a fourth Kindergarten class – an option that was opposed by the PTA.

In a letter sent to parents on Tuesday, Pegi McEvoy the Assistant Superintendent for Operations for SPS writes,

Our preliminary enrollment projections indicate we may need to add one additional homeroom at Whittier next year. The additional homeroom would NOT be for a fourth kindergarten class – we are still planning for three kindergarten classes. The potential need for an additional homeroom is based primarily on enrollment distribution across the grades. If enrollment is not as high as anticipated, we will not add an additional homeroom. However, we need to be prepared in case this need arises . We are looking at options in the building, given the fact we cannot place a portable on the Whittier site.

The school board is voting tonight on the Short-Term Capacity Management and the New Student Assignment Plan: Transition Plan for 2012-13. The Board will not vote specifically on adding a new classroom at Whittier. Placement decisions – moving or adding a new program to a school – will be made by the Superintendent. If a new homeroom is added, it is unknown which grade would get the additional class.

“These decisions are made prior to open enrollment to ensure that families can review their options for the next school year,” the letter states. “The Superintendent seeks guidance for these decisions from staff and community groups, such as the Special Education Advisory and Advocacy Council (SEAAC) and the Advanced Learning Task Force to provide input to inform these decisions.”

According to the letter, no changes in the Spectrum program or the Phinney Neighborhood Association programs are being considered at this time.

Individuals can email suggestions to: programplacement@seattleschools.org.

Protesting teachers demand better for students

While most students took the afternoon off from school, passionate teachers gathered at Ballard’s busiest intersection to protest budget cuts.

Waving to honking cars, many of the protesting teachers were wearing red.

“Today is a furlough day which means that we’re essentially laid off without pay today,” Judy Oerkvitz of Lawton Elementary tells us, “But when you lay off teachers without pay what you’re doing is depriving students of their education. the state has a paramount duty to sufficiently fund education at the K-12 level and we think they could be doing a much better job.”

A Loyal Heights teacher waves at a passing car

All four corners of the intersection were populated by protesting teachers demanding better for students. One sign held by an Adams Elementary counselor reads, “This furlough is stealing from children to protect the 1%. Fund education!” Others read, “We should be teaching” and “Students need me IN the classroom.”

Even kids came out to support the teachers. Some chanting, “We miss math!”

Ann Gateley of Salmon Bay School on the left and Judy Oerkvitz of Lawton on the right.


Before heading to the intersection at 15th Ave NW and NW Market Street, teachers gathered in front of their schools for a picture to send the legislature.

(Thank you Colette for the tip!)

School make-up day next week

Students in Seattle Public Schools will make up one of this week’s snow days on Friday, January 27th. That date was scheduled as a professional development day for the staff, so kids were supposed to have the day off.

“It is important to get our students back in the classroom next week,” said Interim Superintendent Dr. Susan Enfield. “We know some families may have made out-of-town plans for next Friday, and we apologize for any inconvenience this causes.”

Next Tuesday is a three-hour early dismissal day and can’t be used as a snow make-up day. School officials will decide next week when to make up the additional two snow days – possibly tacked onto the end of the year.