Seattle's Garfield High School is kicking off its school year with more students than it expected, which officials attribute to a new assignment plan pushed by Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson. At last Wednesday's school board meeting, Seattle Public Schools' director of enrollment Tracy Libros told the board and Goodloe-Johnson that an additional 120 students had showed up at Garfield. Fifty of them were new ninth graders.
However, some say that the number of students over capacity at Garfield is even higher. School board director Kay Smith-Blum pointed to a letter from Garfield principal Ted Howard to parents that says that 1,784 students registered for classes this year. Smith-Blum pointed out that the school was originally built to hold only 1,600 students. How are we going to deal with Garfield's bubble in the long run? she asked.
District spokeswoman Patti Spencer suspects that the overcrowding results from the new student assignment plan that was rolled out this year. Under the old plan, every school had an enrollment limit. Spencer told the Stranger that the new plan guarantees incoming kindergarten, sixth, and ninth graders a place in their neighborhood schools. The rest were being grandfathered into their old school through the highest grade. Garfield had been prepared to accommodate 1,650 students this year.
Spencer said "not every student had a full schedule the first few days of school." And Garfield was understaffed when it opened Sept. 8. Although the district had been preparing over summer for the launch of the new assignment plan—increasing staffing, adding classroom space and portables where needed— it looks like Garfield somehow slipped through the cracks. Likewise, Jane Adams elementary classes and Lafayette Elementary School also exceeded their enrollment this year, Spencer said.
UPDATE: Tonight the Garfield High School PTSA will do an Q&A on its enrollment numbers with Libros and Executive Director of Schools Nancy Coogan, starting at 7 p.m. at the school.