Whew. Those who feared that Seattle schools would soon be on the chopping block can breathe a sigh of relief — for the moment, at least.
On Wednesday, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) Superintendent Dr. Brent Jones presented a fiscal plan to the board for the 2024-25 academic year that did not include any school consolidations or closures. The district is still facing a big deficit, though, and consolidation may still be on the table for 2025-26 and beyond.
Got those hands up? Let’s try to answer a few lingering questions.
Why were closures discussed in the first place?
SPS has a projected $105 million budget gap to fill, complicated by declining enrollment. Here are the numbers getting crunched:
- SPS currently has 104 schools serving ~51,000 students, which is a drop of 5,000 students since 2019
- As of 2020, ~22% of Seattle students were enrolled in private schools, with that ratio steadily climbing
- 18 schools are less than 65% filled to operational capacity.
How will SPS save money?
Dr. Jones’ plan included the following possibilities for cost-cutting measures:
- Central office + school staffing reductions
- Expense trimming
- Program adjustments and restructuring
- Changes to transportation
- Leasing or selling non-school properties
- Thinning out “rainy day” funds
What happens now?
The school board will vote on the general plan on Dec. 13. Afterwards, Dr. Jones will prepare a more detailed 2030 strategic vision for a “system of well-resourced schools” by April 3, 2024.
School consolidations could still make its way into those longer term decisions. But that may be impacted on when the state decides on potential new funding. So stay tuned — this topic will be much-discussed in the next year.