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Will closing schools really balance the budget for Seattle Public Schools? Parents have their doubts

caption: Students arrive for the first day of school on Wednesday, September 6, 2023, at Daniel Bagley Elementary School in Seattle.
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Students arrive for the first day of school on Wednesday, September 6, 2023, at Daniel Bagley Elementary School in Seattle.

Seattle parents will get more details next week on the school district's proposal to close up to 20 elementary schools by the fall of 2025.

The district is holding three in-person "well-resourced school" meetings at high schools across the city next week, and one on Zoom the following week.

District officials have said distributing students more evenly across fewer schools is key to get back on good financial footing and better serve students. The district faces a $105 million budget gap next school year, and even larger shortfalls of $129 million and $153 million the following two school years.

But a growing number of parents and community members are skeptical that the benefits of shuttering over a quarter of the district's elementary and K-8 schools outweigh the disruption for families.

The district says closing a school saves between $750,000 and $2 million in expenses related to administration, transportation, support staff, building maintenance, and operations.

RELATED: How Seattle Public Schools' budget woes got so bad

Megan Fisher, the parent of a first-grader at West Seattle's Gatewood Elementary, says the district should provide the public with more data showing closures are the best solution to the ongoing budget crisis.

"Like our kids in school, we get taught to show our work when we're doing math," she said. "We just want to see the district show us their work."

Fisher is also a leader of All Together for Seattle Schools, a citywide grassroots advocacy group of parents, teachers, and community members. As of Friday afternoon, their letter opposing the closure plan had gotten nearly 600 signatures in less than a week.

The letter also calls for the district to provide more data and analysis on potential closures, consider alternative plans, and better involve the community in the process.

"It's a bummer to not feel, as a parent, that your voice actually matters or is able to be heard," Fisher said.

RELATED: Seattle Public Schools' latest budget proposal: Tapping into reserves, changing school start times

Debbie Carlsen is another leader of All Together for Seattle Schools and is a parent of a first-grader at Olympic Hills Elementary in northeast Seattle.

To get on board with the plan, Carlsen says they need the district to more clearly spell out why it's worth the disruption to families.

"We're curious about what this proposal is really trying to address and it's not clear," Carlsen said. "Are they trying to solve an issue around resource management, or is it just about addressing the budget deficit?"

The district's community meeting schedule is as follows:

  • 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 28, at Roosevelt High School, 1410 NE 66th St.
  • 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 30 at Garfield High School, 400 23rd Ave.
  • 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 1, at Chief Sealth International High School, 2600 SW Thistle St.
  • 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 4, on Zoom.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was amended on Tuesday, March 28 to correct the name of the West Seattle elementary school from "Gateway" to "Gatewood."

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