Friday, December 05, 2008

Parents fight proposed school closures

By LINDA BYRON / KING 5 News and Charlotte Starck / KING 5 News
Thursday, December 4, 2008

SEATTLE – The list of proposed school closures in the city of Seattle grew Wednesday night.

Rainier Beach High School is now on the list. It could be combined with Cleveland High School. Another elementary school in the area may be closed, bringing the number of proposed closures from seven to nine. Other schools that could be cut include TT Minor, Pinehurst, Van Asselt, Genesee Hill, Mann, Old Hay, and Lowell.

Even as parents band together to save their schools, the Seattle School Board will soon have to sharpen its ax to propose even deeper cuts to other areas.

The proposed Seattle school budget gap has exploded into a canyon and many parents who packed a school board meeting Wednesday night disagree with how the superintendent proposes to bridge it.

"Bottom line is to have stronger schools. We have to be more effective and efficient, with quality programs and access all across the city," said Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson.

In addition to closing schools, the Superintendent proposes relocating many others programs. In addition, a number of programs, including the African American Academy, would go away even if the building stays open to house new programs.

But even those proposed cuts fail to make up the enormous amount of cash needed.

The school board heard how the previous projected $24 million shortfall has now skyrocketed to projected $37 million, based on the state's economic woes and the projected school closures are expected to save only an estimated $3.6 million.

They're just one small piece of the overall budget pie, but an extremely emotional one. Yet more difficult decisions are on the way.

The district's financial experts predict the new higher projected budget shortage means Seattle schools now must identify where to cut an additional $10.2 million.

Protests have blocked school closures in the past but the superintendent says it's not going to work this time around.

"I just don't think that's effective. I understand that people are emotional, very tied to their school," she said.

Still, people who came to Wednesday night's meeting wondered whether school closures are the way to go.

"I can't begin to share with you the rage, confusion, the fear that this recommendation has caused across our city," parent Michael Foster said.

"It seems that the district is in a panic," parent Laura Grauer said.

Public hearings and community workshops will be held during December and January at locations throughout Seattle.

Each of the buildings recommended for closure will host a public hearing on December 15, 16 or 18. Scheduled dates and times are listed below.

The School Board is scheduled to vote on the final recommendations on January 29, 2009.

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