Facing another budget deficit and possible school closures, SPS seeks community feedback

By Sami West

On August 10, 2023

Students arrive for the first day of school at Wing Luke Elementary School on Wednesday, September 1, 2021, along Kenyon Street in Seattle.

As Seattle Public Schools faces another budget deficit of roughly $100 million — and school closures are likely on the horizon — the district is looking for feedback at a series of community meetings this month.

For months, as district officials worked to patch a $131 million budget shortfall for the upcoming school year, they often referred to “well-resourced schools” as a key piece to solving the district’s precarious financial situation long term.

“A lot of you have asked, ‘Well, what does well-resourced schools mean? Why are you holding back the definition?'” Superintendent Brent Jones said Tuesday.

“Well, you caught me,” he continued. “I am holding back the definition because I don’t have one. You all are going to help us to define ‘well-resourced schools.'”

On Tuesday, over 100 parents and community members gathered at Garfield High School for the first of six community meetings this month.

Seattle’s financial woes have been fueled by declining enrollment in recent years, which has hit some schools harder than others. And when there are fewer students in a school, they get less funding and fewer resources, Jones said.

“The hard truth is, as much as we love every one of our schools, when they’re under-enrolled, they’re unable to provide the sufficient level of staff, services, programs, and up-to-date technology,” he said. “That is our reality.”

That’s why, Jones said, the district must rebalance enrollment across its schools, which may mean closing and consolidating some buildings.

At Tuesday’s meetings, district officials asked attendees about their favorite aspects of their child’s school and how the district can improve the resources and services offered, using the lens of “well-resourced schools.”

Jones said the feedback from these sessions, as well as a survey in September, will inform the district’s plan. A draft of that plan is expected to be presented in November.

The district’s next community meetings are scheduled for:

  • 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 10 at Madison Middle School
  • 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 14 at South Shore PreK-8
  • 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 15 at Nathan Hale High School
  • 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 17 at Robert Eagle Staff Middle School
  • 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 29 online via a Microsoft Teams meeting

This piece was republished from KUOW.

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