Parents say boundary changes could destroy academic gains

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SEATTLE  — The Seattle School District is talking about redrawing attendance boundaries for schools in November and parents at Hawthorne Elementary School said the move would destroy their children’s academic progress.

In the last few years the school has overcome low enrollment and poor test scores. If boundaries are changed, parents said it would mean a repeat of low enrollment, which would translate into less funding and community involvement.

When Karen Barrier purchased her home in south Seattle, she bought into her kids going to Hawthorne Elementary. But now Barrier is confused on where to send her kids to school next year with the talk of the district rezoning boundaries.

“We finally got settled, decided we liked where we are, and now we have to think about if we want them to go to a different school,” she said.

“It’s a complicated set of changes they are proposing,” Hawthorne Elementary PTA vice president Mary Murray said.

With the changes, Hawthorne Elementary could lose about 20 percent of its students. “It’s a large portion of our school and with those students,  go teachers who we care about,” Murray said.

More than three years ago, the district switched from a choice to a neighborhood enrollment system, encouraging parents to send their kids to the closest school. Parents did just that, and it was at a time when Hawthorne Elementary was struggling with low attendance and even lower test scores.

“We are going to invest and support people who are not in the school yet to come to our fundraisers,” Murray said.

With the help of private donations and a $1.3 million federal grant to boost its STEM program, the school has made significant progress. It has added more than a 100 students and more than doubled their test scores. Murray said the district is overstepping its boundaries by risking everything the school has achieved.

“It guts the community investment and it basically creates skepticism for families,” she said.

“If you do invest a lot in one school and it gets switched to another, it makes you think about if you are willing to do that again,” Barrier said.

But parent Lisa Jones said she understands the challenge the district is facing to even out class sizes across all the schools. “As long as it is not impacting the kids that are already there and it’s only the new students coming in, I totally understand,” Jones said.

If the boundaries are changed it will only affect new students and current students can choose to stay at the same school. The district said it is too early to talk about the proposal, but parents are encouraged to come and speak at five public meetings that will be held before a final decision is made.

All meetings are held from 6:30-8 p.m. at the following dates and locations:

  • Monday, Sept. 23 Mercer Middle School lunchroom (Spanish, Somali, Vietnamese and Taglog interpreters will be present)
  • Tuesday, Sept. 24 Nathan Hale High School Commons (Spanish and Somali interpreters will be present)
  • Wednesday, Sept. 25 West Seattle High School Commons (Spanish, Somali and Vietnamese interpreters will be present)
  • Monday, Sept. 30 Meany Building Lunchroom (Spanish, Somali and Vietnamese interpreters will be present)
  • Tuesday, Oct. 1 Ballard High School Commons (Spanish interpreters will be present)

Additional information on the growth boundaries project is available at


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