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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

December 4, 2008 at 3:12 PM

Proposed Seattle school closures

Courtney Blethen / The Seattle Times

Pathfinder K-8 School would move to Arbor Heights Elementary under the current Seattle Public Schools closure plan

Don’t judge a school

based on its building

Editor, The Times:

Don’t jump on board with the Seattle school district’s proposals just yet [“School closures: the march continues,” Times, editorial, Dec. 1].

You describe Lowell Elementary as “bursting at the seams” as if this were a bad thing. Think of it instead as needed revenue from more than 500 Washington state student allocations. Lowell has the largest enrollment of any elementary school because it is successful — a fact we should celebrate rather than decimate. It removes over 100 students from the crowded Northeast region. And the APP [Accelerated Progress Program] can’t expand once divided into two south-end schools. They will be over capacity on the first day of school.

Our students have never perceived a school that is “decrepit,” as the superintendent alleges. (Other buildings in the district are in worse condition with smaller enrollments.) There is too much quality learning there to notice.

Empty seats exist in newly rebuilt schools not because there are no children nearby to fill them, but because the district made the false assumption that a good building means a good education. It’s the program inside the building that draws families and teaches students. This is proven at Lowell every day.

Don’t risk the integrity of a great program like APP. The district recommends moving whole programs to new buildings — NOVA, Summit, Pathfinder, etc. Why single Lowell out to be split in half?

— Janet Pelz, Seattle

Where’s the logic?

I am appalled at The Seattle Times’ endorsement on school closures. You don’t even mention the closure of the Arbor Heights Program.

Why is Arbor Heights closing? Low enrollment? No. My friend is on the waiting list. Low test scores? No. Arbor Heights is not at step four or five, which would put it in trouble with No Child Left Behind.

Does it meet any of the criteria put forth by the district to justify closures? Not one.

Arbor Heights is closing simply because the building is big enough for the Pathfinder Program. The word “eviction” comes to mind. The Seattle School District is evicting 303 Arbor Heights students and bussing them north into five to six schools. Then they are bussing 400 Pathfinder students south — to save money? No. Bussing is expensive. Pathfinder is not a reference school, so the 160 kids who live within walking distance of the school don’t get priority to go to Pathfinder.

What’s more, the school district won’t hold a public hearing at Arbor Heights because the building isn’t closing. They don’t want to hear from us and you don’t want to write about us.

— Chris Conley, Seattle

Time for a game

of musical classrooms

Unfortunately, creating great educational outcomes and environments isn’t as easy as “just do it.”

The Times editorial cited the proposal to move the Accelerated Progress Program to two underfilled schools designated as failing to make “adequate yearly progress” under No Child Left Behind, and currently attended by mostly minority kids.

Superintendent John Stanford moved APP out of a similar co-location arrangement with a general-education population because he said it created a palpable sense of “haves and have-nots” that was detrimental to the self-esteem of the K-5 kids. An expert review of the APP program, paid for by the district last year, advised against co-locating the program with students of a different socioeconomic group because of the likelihood of divisiveness between the two programs. This is exactly what the district is now proposing with respect to APP.

How will moving the APP program into these schools improve the educational performance of the existing student populations, who will be in separate classrooms? The last time the district closed schools, 21 percent of the impacted students left the district. Is that good for the overall health of the school system?

Tearing apart existing programs and simply shifting students around to fill spaces without the support of data to show how it will work educationally is not a recipe for the long-term health of the district (fiscally or otherwise).

— Shannon Phillips, Seattle

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