The Seattle school district is seeing a surge in student enrollment after almost a decade, but administrators are too busy figuring out logistics to celebrate. With 47,043 students—that's 684 more students than projected this year—a number of schools are complaining about over-crowding.
For example, Garfield High School had enrolled 1,790 students as of Oct. 1, compared to the district's original projection of 1,656 (it was updated to 1,778 in June). Garfield's PTSA co-president Jayn Foy testified before Wednesday's school board meeting that there were more than 1,800 students at the school right now and 140 staff members, bringing the total to about 1,980 people in a building that was originally built for 1,600.
Garfield's PTSA is fuming, as is apparent from their October newsletter (.pdf): "GHS has no authority to set capacity limits, and the overcrowding means we have insufficient teachers, counselors, security, maintenance, and administrative staff; students have reduced choices for course of study; and there are negative effects on school culture and unity." Things are so bad that kids are still standing in the lunch line three minutes until class begins, Nancy Coogan, the district's executive director of Central Region schools admitted at a PTSA meeting last month.
The big question is, if the district was expecting more students since summer, then why didn't every student get a schedule and why were classes understaffed the first week of school? Pretty simple: The district messed up. According to the PTSA newsletter, Coogan "acknowledged that staffing needs were recognized too late."
Roosevelt High School reported that over-enrollment resulted in over-crowded classrooms, with administrators scrambling to provide additional teachers to confront the problem. In an act of desperation, the school asked students to voluntarily change their schedules to accommodate the sudden influx. Others were randomly selected. Other over-enrolled schools include Jane Adams and Lafayette elementary schools and John Standford International School in Wallingford.
The district is blaming the over-enrollment on its New Student Assignment Plan, which was pushed by SPS Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson. At Wednesday's school board meeting Goodloe-Johnson said that adjustments to capacity would be made before the next school year.
"It's an exciting problem," the district's enrollment planning supervisor Rachel Cassidy said of the over-enrollment. "The issue is with finding space for the kids. There are a number of schools that are over-crowded right now and there are huge capacity issues." Cassidy added that some schools were under capacity, including two of the district's three new elementary schools, McDonald and Sand Point elementaries. Final enrollment numbers will be out in a few weeks.