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November 2, 2011 at 11:57 AM

Seattle Public Schools delays decision on dealing with overcrowding

Citing the need for more public input, Seattle Public Schools is extending the deadline for its plan to deal with serious overcrowding in some of its schools.

The plan was expected to be introduced at tonight’s school board meeting and approved Nov. 16, but the district now says the board will vote on it in January.

In the meantime, the district will hold two or three additional meetings to solicit feedback, spokeswoman Lesley Rogers said.

“This is such a big thing that it’s important to make sure everybody’s on the same page and we’re listening to all sides,” she said.

The decision is an abrupt change from the district’s earlier position that any decisions on reopening schools must be made by mid-November, with subsequent decisions on school-boundary adjustments finalized by the end of January.

“From a construction standpoint, we’re already late,” Chris Richardson, a senior district facilities official, said last month. “We need to have started yesterday.”

Rogers said she didn’t think the plan would cost more because of the rush. The district’s open-enrollment period, currently scheduled to begin in March, will probably not need to be moved back, she added.

A $15 million draft of the plan, presented at three community meetings last month, called for reopening a handful of schools, installing 35 more portable classrooms and making minor boundary adjustments.

Many parents complained to the district about the portables, which they feel make for poor learning environments.

For budget reasons, no new construction is available until 2016 at the earliest.

The district is in a pinch because enrollment has unexpectedly increased by 3,000 students – 7 percent – over the past three years, and it’s expected to rise at an even faster rate over the next decade.

Comments | More in Education | Topics: overcrowding, school board meeting, Seattle Public Schools

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