Seattle and Bellevue districts discuss possible school consolidation

What will it mean for parents and students?

The exterior of Wilburton Elementary school in Bellevue, WA, with colorful playground equipment

Bellevue’s district has discussed possibly consolidating three out of seven elementary schools impacted most by declining enrollment.

Photo via Bellevue School District

Pencils down for a sec. You may have heard recent chatter in Seattle and Bellevue about possible public school closings and consolidations down the line.

Local officials said such moves could be necessary to resolve budget shortfalls. Bellevue is further along in exploring this issue, while Seattle is only just beginning to float the idea.

As talks continue, let’s sort through the basics parents and students may want to know.

Wait, why would any consolidation be needed?

Time for some math. Seattle has 106 public schools with ~50,000 students, and Bellevue has 30 public schools with ~18,000 students. Both districts have seen big enrollment declines in recent years due to factors like the pandemic, which led some parents to home-school their children or enroll them in private schools.

Public schools receive most of their money from the state based on how many students attend, so officials worry that resources could be stretched thin unless they take drastic action.

Is there a difference between closing and consolidation?

A school closure would mean shutting everything down for instructional purposes (the building, facilities, teaching, etc). But the local districts talk more about consolidation, which blends multiple school communities into one building, and may keep the other impacted buildings open for certain uses.

Which schools might be impacted?

No specific Seattle schools have been mentioned yet, but the Bellevue district listed seven elementary schools that could be affected by consolidation — including Ardmore, Eastgate, Wilburton, and Phantom Lake.

What happens now?

After several listening sessions with community members, the Bellevue district is expected to reveal a potential plan at a school board meeting tomorrow, Feb. 9. The district also posted a timeline for the process.

Seattle Public Schools will host information sessions, though dates haven’t been revealed yet. There’s time to talk things over — the earliest the Seattle district would consolidate any schools is 2024-25.

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