About 300 of Rainier Beach High’s 400 students walked out of class for about an hour Tuesday to protest the fact that their school isn’t scheduled to be remodeled under the school district’s upcoming construction levy.
The students marched peacefully around the block, according to a letter to parents from Rainier Beach Principal Dwane Chappelle, and they were out of class for about an hour.
The walkout occurred a day before the Seattle School Board will vote on a construction proposal that will go before voters in February. The board members are expected to ask voters to approve a six-year, $695 million package of projects that reflect months of discussions with staff, school board members and the public.
Different schools have come on and off the list during those discussions. The push to add Rainier Beach is the latest twist.
Seniors Brett Leslie and Kumar Nessenbaum, two of six students who organized the march, said Rainier Beach is the only high school that hasn’t received a full renovation since it was built. They see the school’s absence from the levy as one more sign that the district doesn’t care about Rainier Beach.
“We’re in 98118, the most diverse zip code in the country,” Nessenbaum said. “We want students to come here. We have so much potential.”
Leslie and Nessenbaum say they expect about 100 students to show up at Wednesday’s school board meeting to urge the board to add Rainier Beach to the levy list. And they say they won’t stop there.
“The vote is in February,” Leslie said. The board members “should definitely have time to change their decision by then.”
Principal Chappelle told parents that the current levy plan does include some money for earthquake-safety improvements at Rainier Beach and that district leaders have said the school may receive major improvements under under a levy that is expected to go before voters in 2016. The school also underwent $500,000 in renovations in 2008, he said.