Round two in debate over school boundaries in Seattle

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by HEATHER GRAF / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @HeatherGrafK5

KING5.com

Posted on October 16, 2013 at 9:29 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 16 at 10:33 PM

SEATTLE -- It's round two in the battle over school boundary changes in Seattle.  Last month, parents voiced concerns about students being shuffled to schools far away from their homes.  Now, concerns over race and diversity are being added to the conversation.

At Wednesday's school board meeting, Superintendent Jose Banda thanked the crowd for the input provided at five community meetings held over the last few weeks.

He said they had hundreds of people attend those meetings, and weigh in on the the district's first draft of the school boundary proposal.  The district also received 2,235 emails and suggestions and had 400 people volunteer to walk the boundaries being proposed.

All of that feedback was used to create the district's second draft of the plan.

"When we make some changes, then new people aren't happy with the new changes, so that's ultimately what happens sometimes," said Assistant Superintendent Flip Herndon.  "The process is ongoing."

When asked why school boundary revisions are necessary at this time, Herndon said it's a simple explanation.

"There are too many students and not enough seats," he said.

He's also reminding families that a lot of the changes won't take effect for several years.  Still, parents took the opportunity on Wednesday to make their case to district leaders.

"For the last four years, I've walked my children to school, two blocks down a residential street.  Under this proposed plan, we will walk .8 miles over three very, very busy arterials," said parent Erica Kermanson.

She was one of several parents who again spoke out about the increased distances their kids will have to walk, if shuffled to a different school.

There were also new concerns raised about racial equality, diversity, and making sure the district was doing its part to overcome language barriers.

"You know that non-English speaking communities don't even know what's going on," one mother told the board.  "Or maybe you don't, but you do now.  So please help."

Ten-year-old Isabella Lysaker, a fifth grader in Seattle Public Schools, was one of several children who spoke at the podium.

She wants no part of a roll-up of middle schools, that would happen if the current proposal regarding school boundaries is approved.

"I play the flute and I'm looking forward to playing in a middle school band, but now that option might be taken away," she said.

No decisions were made at Wednesday's meeting, instead, board members simply listened.

They will hold a work session on Thursday to essentially discuss the concerns raised on Wednesday, and adjust the current proposal accordingly.

Any revisions made will then be made public in advance of the November 6th school board meeting.

Families will again have the chance to voice concerns at that meeting.  A final vote on the issue is set for November 20th.

Seattle Public Schools has also set up an online survey, as another option for parents to provide feedback.
 

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