Future of Summit K-12 is uncertain

Future of Summit K-12 is uncertain

Parents, teachers and the alternative school\'s 530 students learned two weeks ago that their program would be bumped next June from its North Seattle building to ease school overcrowding in that area and make way for a new, traditional kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school.

 

Summit\'s future is uncertain. A decision will come with a broader plan that district officials are working on for closing schools and moving programs next year, Seattle Public Schools spokesman David Tucker said

\"We really wanted to have a thoughtful, carefully considered process for the entire district,\" he said.

But for Summit parents, the weeks-long wait has been interminable. Will Summit relocate? Will it close? Should they start shopping for a new school?

\"We\'re on pins and needles,\" parent Ed Lambert said, sighing. \"They\'ve put us in this limbo state.\"

It\'s a frustrating, but familiar, position for Summit -- targeted for closure or consolidation twice in recent years. Though it was spared, the school\'s enrollment took a hit each time.

And it\'s taken a toll on longtime Summit parents and students, too. Many admit to lingering anger over what they consider a lack of support from district headquarters and say they\'re tired of fighting to save the school.

\"They\'ve worn us down,\" said parent Jeff Blakley. His son graduated from Summit in 2007, and his daughter, a junior, has attended since kindergarten. She wants to graduate from Summit, he said, but she\'s reluctantly started thinking of plan B in case the school closes.

\"The only school she\'s interested in is Summit,\" Blakley said. \"But she\'s as tired of all of this as we are.\"

The uncertainty also affects staff members\' morale, and not just because they worry about where they\'ll work next year, Summit math teacher John Olver said. Like parents, some staff members also feel as if their school is a perpetual target. \"The feeling that\'s out there is that we\'re breaking up something that\'s special,\" he said. \"For a core group of teachers, there\'s a real genuine sense of loss.\"

Summit is the district\'s only K-12, and parents typically are drawn to the school\'s multiage classes, strong arts programs, social-justice focus and welcoming atmosphere.

But those aren\'t among the criteria the district will use to develop a school-closure plan, which concerns Olver.

Officials will look at factors including academic performance and building condition, as well as each program\'s per-pupil cost.

\"As an educator, and as a dad, the cheapest way of doing education is not necessarily the best way for every kid,\" said Olver, whose daughter attends Summit.

For Summit sixth-grader Julia Liddane, lobbying to keep her school open has been a regular activity during the past few years. She\'s attended her share of School Board meetings, waved signs with her friends and written letters to board members. This time has been by far the hardest, she said.

At school, teachers and parents are trying to be reassuring, she said, but students still are buzzing about the situation. \"All my friends are worried. We just want more details about what they\'re going to do.\"

Her mother, Andrea Liddane, chose to send Julia and her other two daughters to Summit because she liked the thought of their attending the same school and hoped they\'d be able to avoid the sometimes-tough transitions among elementary, middle and high schools. If Summit closes, she said, she faces the daunting prospect of finding three new schools for her daughters.

Seattle Public Schools\' open-enrollment period was delayed and won\'t begin until March, but tours are starting soon, and Liddane said she wouldn\'t want to wait until school-closure decisions are completed in late January to start looking.

Like other Summit parents, Liddane said she\'d rather be focusing on volunteering in the classroom, building up the Summit parents\' group and strengthening the school\'s partnerships with local arts organizations.

\"We put out all this energy into saving the school ... it\'s exhausting,\" she said. \"Some of us behind the scenes are saying, \'OK, let\'s just get it over with.\' \"

Summit families hope to be relocated to another building, but there\'s no consensus on where.

Lambert said he hopes to see the school move to a more central location. His children are so attached to Summit that they take an hourlong bus ride from their South Seattle home to attend, but he recognizes that not all families are willing or able to do that.

Relocating south would allow more students to attend and could make the student body even more diverse, he said.

He just wants to make sure another school doesn\'t get displaced as a result. \"We don\'t want to prey on another school,\" he said.

Parent Jack Quick said he believes the district will keep the Summit program alive, and he plans to immediately start recruiting more families to enroll in the school, wherever it\'s located. \"I believe in the staff,\" he said. \"Even if it\'s held in a tin shack, I know it will be a great experience.\"