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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

December 21, 2008 at 4:15 PM

Proposed closure of Lowell Elementary

Not the time

Editor, The Times:

Al Sanders would like to see Lowell closed and the Accelerated Progress Program [APP] his daughter joined four months ago split in two. Many other Lowell APP and special-eduction parents, however, do not share this view [“APP can be duplicated; Lowell should be closed,” Times, Al Sanders guest commentary, Dec. 18].

As a parent whose child has been at Lowell for four years, I believe that splitting a successful, needed program in two during a time of fiscal crisis is not wise and comes with serious risks, regardless of the intent behind the proposal. The fact that Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and the School Board revised their initial proposal last Tuesday and now opt to keep the economically sound, spacious and central Lowell School open and only move out half of APP, demonstrates that they too found it was flawed and at least some of our concerns valid.

I would not presume to psychoanalyze how parents respond to shocking news that their child’s school will be closed, their community splintered and moved across town, other than to empathize with all parents in the district whose children are being shuffled around in a process that seems erratic.

But I too can cite Lowell parents I’ve heard at various forums recently: “No matter what happens to our APP kids, let’s ask the district to keep Lowell open for the special-ed kids.” “As parents of a minority, interracial student, we have always felt that Lowell is colorblind.” “the APP program has been a godsend. My son is not a freak in this school.”

Or the special-ed father who pleaded, “We don’t want the district to warehouse our kids.” And the School Board member who, when asked if the district has enough resources to create two new APP programs at Thurgood Marshall and Hamilton, and provide for special-education kids if dispersed throughout the district, replied, “No, it doesn’t.”

— Susan Peters, Seattle

Tell me this

I wonder what Al Sanders’ plan is for the special-education students who also attend Lowell.

The two programs, APP and special education, have shared the building for more than 10 years and in that time have built a strong relationship for the betterment of both populations. As the parent of a special-education student, I would like to see the two programs continue to coexist.

— Leslie Rorty, Seattle

We need

a guarantee

Al Sanders creates straw men (or straw parents) to support his non-argument that closing Lowell will be good for the kids in APP. Fix the building if that is the problem.

Transplanting the APP program to other school buildings and not guaranteeing the resources to make sure that the program will take root is the genuine concern of the parents.

— Anthony Boxwell, Seattle

It’s not broken

The reason Lowell parents are ready to fight splitting the APP program in two is simple: The program is thriving and successful, and the district’s plan is flawed, rushed and ill-conceived.

We recognize that the Lowell building does not define who we are as a community; we are greater than the sum of our students, teachers, staff and very involved parents. How are we wrong to want to keep together a program that is effectively serving our children?

We ask no more or less than other parents in the district.

The district’s proposal defies their own research published in the University of Virginia APP study.

The initial proposal has since been revised, demonstrating that even the superintendent and School Board saw that our concerns were valid. Yet the new plan still doesn’t solve issues of capacity, APP growth, access and equity. We haven’t been given a plan that addresses the transition, and how the program will retain its strength and integrity, which is a critical factor in this time of financial crisis.

In order to attempt a division of the elementary APP program, the district would need time and money — neither of which it has.

Why wouldn’t the district instead turn its attention toward schools that are under-enrolled and struggling, rather than trying to fix programs that aren’t broken?

— Sally Hardwick, Seattle

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