In today's news: $7 million over three years to three schools — Rainier Beach, Cleveland, and Aki Kurose.
The schools' small sizes are largely the legacy of the district's school-choice system. Budgets are based on enrollment, meaning larger schools had funding to offer more electives, AP or honors classes, and extracurricular activities. Many Rainier Valley families sent their children to those bigger schools — even if it meant a long bus ride to West Seattle or north of the Ship Canal.
Low test scores and long-held negative perceptions also hurt, and enrollment steadily dropped. For at least 10 years, Rainier Beach and Cleveland have been the district's two smallest comprehensive high schools — smaller now than even some elementary schools — and Aki Kurose, the second smallest middle school in the district, is slowly shrinking.
But the district can't just give up on the schools because of low enrollment, said School Board President Cheryl Chow.
"It's an equity issue," she said. "After 20 to 30 years of the district basically letting the schools in the South End flounder, it became a downward spiral. People are saying, 'They should be like all the other achieving schools.' Well, yes — if we could make the playing field equal."
Seems like a fair assessment of our predicament.
Each of the three schools rolls out major changes in the fall. At Aki Kurose, an extended school day will allow students, even those required to take double doses of math or language arts to catch up to their peers, to fit electives into their schedule.
For parents with school-aged kids —
- Is this the sort of action that could affect where you decide to school your children?
- What will it take to get more south-end families to support nearby public schools?