School board passes transition plan with Seward set-aside, 2-years of transportation

The Seattle School Board passed the attendance transition plan for the 2010-11 school year late this evening. The vote was 6-1 with school board director Betty Patu the lone dissenting vote.

The plan includes a one-year continuation of a tiebreaker provision setting aside 20 percent of kindergarten seats at TOPS@Seward School for Eastlake children. The provision has been in effect for several years but will probably disappear after 2010-11 when a new geographic zone tiebreaker is created for Seward.

The big focus of the evening for TOPS parents was a last-minute change to the transportation grandfather clause in the plan. The original plan had said current students at a school who live outside the school’s service area would continue to receive bus transportation for five years. That was reduced to two years.

The change has the potential to be a big blow to TOPS which is an alternative school and draws students from all over the city. Many students come from southeast Seattle and won’t be able to get to TOPS without school bus transportation.

Several TOPS parents spoke movingly about the impact this would have on the TOPS program’s diversity. June Fung said she feared “the school will lose the wonderful diversity that took years to build.” Wayne Duncan slammed the district, saying that posting the transportation change on the district’s web site after midnight last Friday was “a breach of trust.”

The parents asked the board to consider returning to the five-year transportation grandfather provision, but an amendment to do that was defeated.

School Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson assured board members that they were free to revisit the transportation grandfathering provision at any time in the future. Board President Michael DeBell said he didn’t expect the issue to be revisited until the district had run through next year’s enrollment cycle.

Board members’ comments prior to the vote indicated that they were aware of the stress the transition plan process had placed on parents and students.

“I wish we could have had a simpler transition,” Board President Michael DeBell said.

It was obvious from their comments that the school board sees many issues unresolved with the transition to the new neighborhood attendance plan.

RELATED STORIES:

  • Linda Shaw from the Seattle Times reports that the board won’t guarantee that children entering kindergarten this fall will be able to attend the same school as their older siblings, but they’ll try to place as many together as possible.
  • The West Seattle Blog reports on how the board actions tonight affect schools and families there.