This post was written by Fiona Cohen and originally posted on the Our Schools Coalition website on October 1, 2013.
An elementary parent took a close look at the impacts of the proposed border changes on walkability, and found that as they are written now, the changed borders disproportionately affect children living in poverty.
Julie Van Arcken spoke at a community meeting on growth boundaries held in the old Meany middle school on Monday night. A Beacon Hill resident, her address would be moved from Maple Elementary, which is an easy walk, to Van Asselt, which would require a bus ride.
She took a look at which schools would be losing parts of their walk zones if the new boundaries went into effect. Found that 8 percent of Seattle schools would lose part of their walk zones. But when she looked at Title 1 schools—that is, schools with large numbers of low income kids—she found that 28 percent of those had boundary changes that would mean that kids could no longer walk to school.
Beacon Hill had a disproportionate number of places where walk zones got moved to other schools. Four out of six neighborhood schools in that part of town would lose part of their walk zones. You can find the details of her research at her blog: Mid-Beacon Hill.
Van Arcken said this doesn’t seem compatible with Seattle Public School’s stated priorities of educational equity and encouraging walkability.
“I don’t understand how this actually meets any of their guiding principles,” she said.
The need to have schools close to where children live came up again and again among people speaking at the meeting. The lunchroom was full, with 125 people signed in.
Several people who live in the area around T.T. Minor Elementary school appealed to have the building turned back into an elementary school. The district closed a neighborhood school there in 2009, and plans to reopen it as a home for the World School. Under the new map, the surrounding neighborhood is divided down 19th Avenue, with the west side going to Lowell Elementary and the east going to Madrona K–8.
One parent said that with neighbors sending kids to different schools, it becomes difficult for neighborhoods to invest in school.
“This neighborhood can not invest in anywhere because we are everywhere.”
Several others spoke against the school districts plans to bus middle schoolers from the northern Central District to Old Van Asselt, which is in Beacon Hill, before it opens the Meany Building as a middle school in 2017. They appealed for some better option that would not result in kids having hour-long bus commutes each day.