<i>Closer to home</i> School assignments formula needs shaking up

Amid excitement and eager anticipation for eighth-grade graduations and the transition to high school throughout Seattle, frustration is etched on many Magnolia and Queen Anne parents' and students' faces. Due to the fact no high school, aside from the Center school, exists in or near these two neighborhoods, students from these neighborhoods are at a disadvantage.

Seattle School District's current assignment policy is a "choice" system: students list their top three high schools of choice, and then are assigned where space is available. Tiebreakers ensue when a school has less space than applications; students living the closest distance receive priority. Though Ballard High School is one of the closest schools to Magnolia and Queen Anne, that school already serves the population in the Ballard area. Such was the case for many students this year, as many eighth-graders were assigned to Ingraham High School, which is farther away - but closer for some of those living in Ballard. In some cases, as in the past, students have been assigned to schools even farther away on the south side of Seattle, usually schools that weren't among the student's choices.

The system for school assignments is really not a "choice," especially for students from areas without a high school, nor is it equitable. The school district has proposed a geographic assignment for schools in the past; however, this plan of action has not been implemented lately. In 2004, former school board representative Dick Lilly proposed an amendment to the assignment policy, indicating Magnolia and Queen Anne students would be assigned to a high school closest to their home address if they were not accepted into their three choice schools. In 2005 the superintendent wrote up a preliminary recommendation for a revised plan to assign students to schools closest to their home address, beginning in 2007.

Recent correspondence with Seattle Public Schools Enrollment Services and the school board representative for this region, Michael DeBell, has provoked dialogue toward changing the current system. Enrollment Services was optimistic about the movement of waiting lists, and stressed the school board would focus on a new assignment plan for the 2008-09 school year.

DeBell also emphasized the school board's action to revise the assignment system to provide a reference high school to all geographic areas. He plans to write up a policy proposal in the coming weeks in hopes of implementing the new plan next year.

Valerie Breen, a point person for the Magnolia Assignment group, encourages Magnolia and Queen Anne community members to speak up and provide ideas and feedback as the new plan is developed. Contact Michael DeBell at michael.debell@ seattleschools.org to give your input.

[[In-content Ad]]