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AG Bell Students Fed Elsewhere...

A lot of AG Bell Elementary parents are f-u-m-i-n-g right now.  For those of you not familiar, Bell is located between 116th Street and Forbes Creek Dr (within Kirkland city limits). On May 4th, the Lake Washington School District announced changes to the configuration of elementary, junior high and high schools along with a change to the feeder school for AG Bell and Audubon

So, two things are slated to change in 2012:

(1) schools will run K-6, 7-8, 9-12 (instead of current K-6, 7-9, 10-12) AND

CORRECTION: in 2012 the schools will run K-5, 6-8, 9-12

(2)  AG Bell students will go to Finn Hill Jr. High and Juanita HS (instead of Kirkland Jr. High and Lake WA HS) while Redmond's Audubon students will be coming to Rose Hill Jr. High and LWHS.  These changes were initiated as a result of the need to address a boom in student enrollment.

Now to the fuming part.... 

AG parents were notified via a memo in their children's backpack after the decision had already been voted on and passed.   I've heard the principal didn't even find out until 4 hrs prior to the parents. One Bell parent says, "We were not included in meetings where this was discussed.  This is a neighborhood filled with families who have specifically moved into the area to send their children to AG Bell, KJH, and LWHS but we were given no voice in this."  Some are worried about their property values and are left wondering why their kids would have to walk by KJH in order to get bussed to Finn Hill JH. Bell students also already have friends and connections from their sports teams that align into the same feeder schools. Another Bell parent takes a hard stand stating, "I expect as a tax paying citizen in this district that this decision will be revoked until the community has a chance to repeal with alternative solutions."

Dr. Chip Kimball, LWSD Superintendent has stated, “If we don’t make any changes, we will need over 100 portable classrooms at the elementary level and about 28 at the secondary level to house the expected enrollment and to provide space for all-day kindergarten in the next five years. Changing feeder patterns reduces the need at the secondary level."   Dr. Kimball expressed great empathy when I asked him about this situation, but said with the way the population is spread and the overcrowding they are faced with, there just aren't any viable alternatives.  He knows this is really tough and plans to be holding meetings at the impacted schools this month.

So, here's what you can do:

-Go ahead and comment/discuss here to share ideas and chat about it.

-Concerned families should attend the LWSD Board Mtg on 5/17 @5:30pm/16250 NE 74th St, Redmond. CORRECTION: There is no public comment at the 5/17 mtg.  That is done once a monthat the regular meetings so the next opportunity will be on June 7th, 7pm.

-Affected families will rally on 5/20 at 6:30pm in the AG Bell Gymnasium/11212 NE 112th St, Kirkland

-Send a note to the communications office or to Dr. Kimball directly.

I have added a question/answer session between myself and Dr. Kimball that I thought you might find insightful as well:

Janis: Did LWSD follow proper protocol by not making this decision a public process with a vote?

Dr. Kimball: Yes, we followed proper protocol. There is no requirement in the law for a public process around a feeder change such as this one. The school board, through their policy governance structure, delegates this decision to the superintendent. With something as significant as this, however, I would not propose such a change without the board’s full support. This was discussed at public work sessions where we discussed facilities. No public attended those work sessions.  


That said, we believe that public processes are important, and we engage in those processes frequently and diligently. But what we don’t want to do is engage in a public input process unless there are viable options for the district to consider. In this case, there are not viable options. We have core community values around neighborhood schools, and also have a commitment to conserving public resources. Other options included closing schools on the west side of the district and building multiple schools on the east side of the district, or doing a complete reboundary of all schools across the district, which would impact significantly more families, and result in much of the same outcome. Neither of these options was in the best interest of students at large. So a public process wasn’t used, as really only one option appeared to be viable.

Janis: How was the boundary decided? Some think it would have been more logical to follow the geographic zip code boundary? (98033 to Lake WA/98034 to JHS)


Dr. Kimball: The decision was based upon looking at demographic data coming up through the system, and what we are projecting based upon births, development, attrition, and historical trends. At the meetings I will be providing the actual enrollments and show how we got to where we are. We have known for some time that this has been a problem, and have been putting off this shift. With terribly small JHS and HS campuses, those schools have a very difficult time offering a full complement of academic programs and electives. JHS is projected to be well under 1000, and Finn Hill is under 450, while Redmond High is projected to be over 1500, and Evergreen is projected to be over 1000. It is also important to note that Aububon at one time fed into LWHS. This was changed 17 years ago (1993) when Eastlake was opened to balance from West to East with the opening of a new school.

Janis: For some this decision doesn't seem logical when your child would be walking past Kirk Jr High to get to their bus stop to go to Finn Hill.

Dr. Kimball: In looking at the map there are no students that will be walking by Kirkland to get to a bus stop to Finn Hill. For Bell students, there is a geographical boundary that makes getting to Kirkland JHS actually more difficult. For some students, KJH and FHJH is equi-distant. For others, KJH is closer, but that is true in a number of locations. For all Bell students, JHS is closer than LWHS.


Janis: Will there be any flexibility in this decision-ie, grandfathering current families or other creative solutions to ease the pain of this transition?

Dr. Kimball: All of our high schools have an open variance policy. We are intending on continuing that policy. That means that any student can attend any high school. If you attend outside your regular high school, however, the district does not provide transportation. For Jr. High, there is less flexibility. We do not want to split families, so we will be considering sibling issues so that two students aren’t going to two different JHS or HS campuses at the same time in the same family. The changes impact current K-4 students only.


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Kirkland Resident

Finn Hill Jr. High and Juanita High School are excellent schools. I understand feeling upset if you moved to the area purely to attend KJH and LW, but students will get an excellent education at both FH and JHS. This isn't the Seattle School District, people....we have safe, high quality schools here in Kirkland!

By the way, Juanita High School is in the city of Kirkland as well. Families that live in the A.G. Bell attendance area, in general, live closer to JHS than LW. Food for thought. I see this as a GREAT opportunity.

LWSD parent

Just a correction, the configuration changes to K-5, 6-8, 9-12 in 2012.


on point (1) - elementary school will change to K-5 and middle school will be 6-8 (according to the hyperlink "two things are slated to change in 2012")

Lena Heiner

People aren't upset purely from an education standpoint. There are many issues involved here, not the least of which is the fact that this decision by the school board was made with no public disclosure, the parents, and community weren't given a chance to to even talk about it. And that is wrong. The parents with children involved know perfectly well what type of education they are getting out of the LWSD. That is why we are paying such close attention to what is happening.


I can understand the uproar and disruption this has caused and I would be equally upset if I were in this situation. That said, my kids attend Finn Hill Jr. High and have had a wonderful experience. The education, teachers and especially Principal Scarpelli are amazing. It may seem like an injustice, but I know the families will be pleased with Finn Hill (and the snazzy new campus).

Marian Luther

I am one of those fuming parents and rightfully so. Apparently Mr. Kimball and the school board don't understand the term transparency but they certainly do understand arrogance. Do they not work for us, the taxpayers? Why was the community purposely kept in the dark and why specifically was our area chosen over other areas? How can we know without the school board making full disclosure of their methods in deciding (prior to making the decision) and without taking input from the community it would affect. It's doubtful the decision was made on a geographic basis or there would not have been such intense secrecy; HOW does it benefit a child or the community when walking to school was possible previous to this decision but now they will need to be bussed or driven?

Shame on Mr. Kimball and shame on the school board. If they think the community is going to lie down and take this they are mistaken; parents are rallying and getting the message out to everyone, including those who do not have children but who will be affected by further plummeting property values based on this decision.

People need to take a stand not only about the decision that was made but the fact it was done in utter and complete silence without any community input. As the taxpayer's employees, Mr. Kimball and the school board need to be accountable.

Further along is the ridiculous decision to start junior high with 6th grade and high school with 9th grade. On average the students for both grades are far from mature enough or ready to make the transition at those times. 9th grade students will be thrown into a school with students that are as much as 4 years older than them during a transitional time that is exceptionally stressful already. Advocates believe this change will better prepare students academically but that's extremely doubtful knowing what stress can do to a child. With bullying at an all time high and getting worse each day, and I myself having a child who has already been subjected to mental and physical abuse and bullying, I demand to know what the school board intends to do in order to protect our children. What programs are they going to put in place to help the kids during the 2 year switch over time who will have had only 2 years of Junior High before they are pushed into a high school for which they are ill prepared? What advocates will be appointed to help them through the difficult times? Many questions that also need to be addressed and answered.

I challenge all parents and neighbors to step-up, get involved, demand answers and accountability as a community, and not take this decision lying down. If we don't look after the well being and what's best for our children and community it's obvious no one else will.

Lakeview Elem. Parent

Wow... AG Bell parents make a big fuss over having their kids go to Finn Hill. A decision is a decision. Face it. Rallying won't do any good for you. You're kids should be going to Finn Hill Jr and Juanita in the first place...

Ok? so quit fussing like little kids about feeder school changes

Bell Parent

It is easy to have a cavalier attitude when it is not your child in this situation. The AG Bell students have been associated with Lake Washington High and Kirkland Junior High for over 40 years.The decision was made to change that without any public input. That is a shame.

Juanita area mom

It's pretty normal across the country to have 6th grade in JH and 9th grade in HS. As a parent with young children entering the elementary school, I am very happy to have those huge 6th graders moving on up! The K-6 range is so much greater than the 4 yrs in HS.

Transitions are a challenge any way you look at it. The kids will adapt and survive. That said, I feel for all of you that currently walk and will have to bus in the future. That's annoying.

Kirkland Resident

I am sickened and disappointed with the spewing of untruths in Marian Luther's post. If you read the interview with Janis, you will see that DR. Kimball and the school board were hiding nothing. Were they advertising changes? No. Did they have to? No. Instead of jumping on your high horse and perpetuating rumors, step back a minute and do some research. YOU are not ENTITLED to anything other than a free, appropriate, public education. You are NOT entitled to be elitist about neighborhood public schools. I also take issue with the quote in Ms. Luther's post about "plummeting home values". Really? Since when does it "plummet" your home value to live within the Lake Washington School District? An absolute exaggeration based on ignorance and dare I say prejudice. Shame on you.

I can't take issue with the way parents were notified, however there is NO other option. As long as our community refuses to pass bonds that allow for new schools to be built, we have to make do with the space we have.

Kirkland Resident

Furthermore, there is a vast body of research showing the benefits of the 4 year high school model. We are actually behind the times on this one. 10th graders are at an extreme disadvantage walking onto the high school campus for the first time in their 2nd year of high school.

Bob Yoder

I think the Board should have held a Special Meeting at next Monday's meeting to allow for public comment.

The meeting is at 5:30, short, and with no opportunity to comment.

agbell parent

It's interesting to note the power point presentation Superintendent Kimball used in the board meetings to bring about this change originally stated the community supported the change in feeder schools. The presentation was changed *after* the decision was made and the community was actually notified. Would the school board have supported the change without the untruth? Hard to tell.

Oh really?


"Janis: Did LWSD follow proper protocol by not making this decision a public process with a vote?

Dr. Kimball: Yes, we followed proper protocol. There is no requirement in the law for a public process around a feeder change such as this one"

Take a look at this, and I really have to question Dr. Kimball's statement. http://www.atg.wa.gov/OpenGovernment/InternetManual/Chapter3.aspx

Marian Luther

I openly used my name in my comment because I stand by what I said but I do admit my initial comment comes across harsher than intended; it's difficult to write when you're hoppin' mad. However, I must say yes, I am, as we all are, entitled to answers and accountability as voters in this community. Obviously some who commented were unaware that Mr. Kimball had not yet answered the questions posed by Janis until after I posted my comment.
My son attends Bell Elementary, one of the most culturally diverse schools in the area and we relish every moment of it. My feelings are based on simply wanting the best education for my child and basic economics. I originally lived in this neighborhood as a renter and researched the schools thoroughly, purchasing my home based on that research. Granted “plummet” was too strong a word (besides they already have plummeted) but my belief that property values will go down are based on the fact I purchased my home because of the excellent reputation of KJH and LWHS, although I could have bought a larger home in much of the area schooled by FJH/JHS. This is fact, not prejudice, school boundary lines have and always will play a part in real estate. Does that imply FJH/JHS are bad schools? Absolutely not; LWSD has incredible schools but my research showed that KJH/LWHS were the leaders (which is why I chose to live in a shoebox), and why wouldn't I want my child to attend them if he could? And don't misunderstand me, I understand economic prejudice as well and believe every child deserves the right to an equal education no matter where they live, but if school ratings weren't perceived as important then there would be no websites like Great Schools, schools wouldn't strive for blue ribbon success, and real estate companies wouldn't tout the school ratings as a selling point.
I want to make clear what is so much more important than the potential economic issue with this change, which is that regardless of there being no "requirement" to inform the community of this change prior to making it, Mr. Kimball and the school board by not doing so showed a lack of regard for the families that are directly affected. They may have had the authority but that doesn't make it right. And no, I won't "get over it." That is what keeps people from making change where it should happen. If the superintendent and board have the authority to make a decision as important as this without the input of the community then perhaps they have too much power.
And yes, finally, with all that being said, I understand and know from sitting through numerous school board meetings that Mr. Kimball and the board have extremely difficult jobs, as does anyone in the area of education (I certainly couldn't do them), but sadly by keeping all of this secret they failed to see the resources they have in discussing it with the community. Yes, initially people would be angry but as the community has shown time and again they are extremely resourceful and perhaps would have been able to assist in working out a better solution. It is too bad that people continue to take what is sold as "the only solution" for just that, our country certainly wouldn't be what it is had our founders believed those words every time they heard them. Admittedly though, it very well might be but shouldn't we as a community have been respected enough to have been involved with coming to that conclusion?
P.S. Oh no! Yup, sorry, I just had to add this extra note. The irony in all this is that my son is not even affected by the boundary change and will be attending KJH and LWHS; my concern and reason for commenting was with that of my friends and neighbors whose children will be affected by this change and who were due more respect than they were given.

Jordan 17

It's great to hear from you and see what you've been up to. It's very beneficial for me and it's filled with information. keep smiling and take care!

Lena Heiner

Marian I back you 100%. People who are outside this issue can judge as much as they want. No community deserves to be treated like Dr. Kimbal and the school board have treated the people of A.G. Bell and the surrounding area. But it is easy to judge when you aren't involved in something.

Nursing clothing

. This was discussed at public work sessions where we discussed facilities. No public attended those work sessions.

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