Why are we talking about option schools?
Currently, McDonald International School has a guaranteed attendance zone. The school is already near capacity. By 2016, the projected enrollment for McDonald is 525 students, and the school has a capacity of 420. The school can add a maximum of three portable classrooms. Even with portables, the school cannot continue enrollment at the current pace.
The Seattle Public Schools is currently in the process of revising its student assignment plan. On May 29, 2013 SPS proposed changing McDonald from a neighborhood school with a guaranteed attendance zone to an option school.
What is the timeframe for any changes?
Changes will not impact the 2013-2014 school year. SPS staffers put out a first draft of a new “growth boundaries” assignment plan in May 2013. This draft will be revised over the summer with opportunities for community input throughout the fall. The school board will vote on a final version of the plan in November 2013 so that open enrollment for Fall 2014 will be subject to the new plan.
See the growth boundaries project timeline on the SPS website for specific dates and details.
What is an option school and how are students assigned?
Option schools do not have attendance boundaries. Assignment is by application only, based on set tiebreakers. Parents opt in during open enrollment. SPS’s current tiebreakers for option schools are: (1) siblings of enrolled students; (2) Geozone students (those who live within a defined zone, usually several blocks around the school); (3) Lottery (open to all city residents)
What would happen to McDonald if it didn’t become an option school? Would enrollment boundaries remain as they are today?
It is highly unlikely that McDonald’s attendance zone would remain the same. McDonald is over-enrolled and other area schools (such as Greenlake and Laurelhurst) are under-enrolled. It is likely that the district would change McDonald’s boundaries even if it remained a neighborhood school.
Will all international and immersion schools in the district become option schools?
SPS proposes to make McDonald, John Stanford, and Beacon Hill option schools. Concord would remain a neighborhood school due to its location.
What questions about the option school model remain unanswered?
There are a number of questions that will be addressed.
1) Will the tiebreakers for McDonald remain the same as tiebreakers for existing option schools (siblings, geozone, lottery)?
2) What would be the boundaries for any geozone with guaranteed attendance?
3) Will heritage or native speakers be given any priority in tiebreakers? Heritage speakers are not currently a tie breaker in any choice program and would need to be a special consideration for International Schools.
4) What is the likely percentage of seats for each of the tiebreaker groups? Would there be any room left for lottery students?
5) Would the lottery be open to students all over the city, or only those in a specific geographic zone, i.e., the Hamilton Middle School attendance area?
6) If McDonald became an option, how many classes would be in the 2014 kindergarten class?
7) What would happen to students in the current McDonald assignment area? What would be their neighborhood school?
What are some of the potential advantages of an option school?
Some of the potential advantages of an option school are:
1) Administrators and teachers will have the ability to predict enrollment for each year and engage in long-term planning
2) The school could set enrollment to prevent overcrowding
3) Siblings of current out-of-boundary students would be more likely to get a seat at McDonald, reducing family division
4) Having more seats open for students outside of the attendance zone could increase equitable access and diversity
5) If seats are reserved for heritage speakers, having peers in the classroom to model language skills could increase the efficacy of the international school model.
What are some of the potential disadvantages of an option school?
Some potential disadvantages of an option school are:
1) Wallingford would be without a neighborhood school, because the district also proposes to make John Stanford International School an option school
2) The option school model would not address long-term capacity challenges at Hamilton, because the international school pathways would guarantee enrollment for both McDonald and JSIS students
3) The neighborhood community may be less likely to support McDonald (including the Immersion Support fundraising drive) if neighborhood students are not guaranteed a spot
How can I find out more?
The district has more information, including a powerpoint and timeline, available on the SPS Enrollment Planning - Growth Boundaries web page.
Parents at John Stanford who advocate for an option model have posted an FAQ document.
The proposal is also discussed on local blogs, including: http://wallyhood.org
How can I get involved and make my voice heard?
You can email comments to GrowthBoundaries@seattleschools.org (Please put your school or topic in the subject line.)
The district will hold a number of community meetings in the fall to discuss the growth boundaries plans. The meeting schedule and other information about the process is available on the growth boundaries project timeline on the SPS website.
For more information on the Language Immersion aspect of this proposal, download the FAQ to the right under 'downloads'.
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