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
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
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
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.