Seattle Public School's enrollment numbers are expected to grow by an estimated 6,000 more students over the next five years. But instead of celebrating, the district is scrambling to figure out where to house all these additional students.
The latest to struggle with over-capacity problems is Lowell Elementary School. Last month, the district noticed a surge in the number of Accelerated Progress Program-eligible students who want to enroll at Lowell through its open enrollment program.
The district's solution to this problem? Split the APP program by sending APP fourth and fifth graders to Lincoln School for the 2011-2012 school year. In a letter (.pdf) to Lowell staff and parents today, Nancy Coogan, executive director of the district's central region schools, says that the latest enrollment numbers "has made it increasingly apparent that we will not be able to accommodate the growth we are seeing at Lowell." Coogan called the split a short-term solution, one that would "ensure that we have adequate space for all students, including those with special needs remaining at Lowell."
But some members of the Lowell community are vociferously protesting the idea, and have even started an online petition asking interim superintendent Susan Enfield not to break up the APP program. They would ideally like to see the entire APP program moved to Lincoln, not just a part of it.
The district hired an architect in May to figure out capacity management issues. Lowell was already over capacity by then, with 583 students (and reportedly no fire sprinklers). The school's functional capacity is 475. The school is expected to have approximately 700 students in the new school year.
"By dividing the APP community now, siblings will be split between two locations, and our 4th and 5th graders, along with their teachers, will be detached from the larger school community and their entire APP cohort," the petition says. "This will adversely affect the cohesion of the program. It would also create a potential inequality with the other APP elementary location, Thurgood Marshall, which is not splintered in this manner."
The district has scheduled a public meeting for Monday, June 27 at 7 p.m. at the Lincoln School auditorium to get feedback from the community.