June 11 Transportation Policy Meeting

Please join us on Wednesday, June 11 at 7:00pm in the Stevens Library in support of the effort to restore bus transportation for Stevens’ students who are losing it next school year as a result of the new SPS transportation policy. A group of parents have done some extensive research in order to strengthen our argument (see the information below). The agenda for the meeting is to finalize our talking points and plan the next steps in this effort. We hope you will join us to find out how you can help.

 

Re: Change in Seattle Public Schools’ Transportation Plan for 2014-2015 School Year

 

The families of Stevens Elementary School students who were assigned to the school for the 2013-2014 academic year and earlier, but who live outside of the Stevens assignment area for the 2014-2015 school year, have been grandfathered into the Stevens attendance area through 5th grade. However, families were notified on February 28, 2014, that they will no longer have yellow bus service to the school beginning in the Fall of 2014, because they now live outside of the assigned attendance area.

 

We request that Seattle Public Schools restore bus service to the affected area for the remaining years until kindergarteners who were assigned to Stevens 2013-2014 academic are promoted to middle school.

 

Following is documentation supporting the reasons for this request:

 

1. Contradiction to District Policy Recommendations: The Superintendent’s Student Transportation Taskforce Recommendations dated August 30, 2012, lay out a long term plan for SPS transportation policies. (The document is available to read in full here: http://www.seattleschools.org/modules/groups/homepagefiles/cms/1583136/File/Departmental%20Content/transportation/S2T2_Final_Recommendations.pdf?sessionid=eae134abd7a3a609382767abf22a9787)

 

At the top of page 6, the document reads as follows (emphasis added):

 

Long Term: 2014 – 2015 or 2015 – 2016: Schedule

Major changes in student transportation services will require major community engagement.

Further, any changes in student transportation services must be understood by parents and

students before they make enrollment decisions. Therefore changes for the 2014 – 2015 school year will need to be explained and adopted in the Fall of 2013. If appropriate community engagement cannot be accomplished prior to the Fall of 2013, major changes should be postponed until the 2015 – 2016 school year.

 

There was no community engagement regarding these changes for the 2014-2015 academic year during the Fall of 2013.

 

2. Poor Communication: This change in policy was poorly communicated. Students living in the affected area were notified by a letter dated February 28, 2014, that they would be losing yellow bus service. This was five days into the SPS open enrollment period, and well after the school open houses, leaving inadequate time for families to consider this change when making a decision about school choice for the 2014-2015 school year. The process also allowed no opportunity for community input into the policy change.

 

3. Changes Disproportionally Affect Minority Students: When the new attendance boundaries and yellow bus service cuts are applied to the current Stevens attendance area demographics, non-white students are disproportionally affected by these changes and the cancellation of bus service. Below is a chart comparing the new Stevens Elementary School attendance numbers:

 

Students assigned to Stevens Within 14-15 Boundary % of Student Population Outside the 14-15 Boundary % of Student Population
Total Students 181 225
Special Education 15 8.2% 36 16%
ELL 24 13.2% 59 26%
White Students 101 55.8% 91 40.4%
Non-White Students 80 44.2% 135 59.6%

 

 

 

4. Loss of Diversity: Stevens has an incredibly vibrant, healthy community that values its diversity and is committed to meeting the needs of all students. The current Stevens student demographics very closely mirror the overall SPS student demographics across Seattle:

 

Student Demographics Stevens Elementary Seattle Public Schools
White 46.2% 44%
Special Education 15.2% 14.7%
Free/Reduced Lunch 39.9% 41.6%
ELL 10.1% 7.5%

 

 

The attendance area south of Madison, the section of the current Stevens boundary that will lose bus transportation in the 2014 academic year, includes a much larger percentage of the minority student population than the area north of Madison. Thus this change in policy will affect minority students more heavily and have a negative impact on the Stevens community as a whole. Furthermore, SPS will be dismantle its most accurate mirror, found within one school, of the district’s own incredible diversity.

 

5. Lack of Walk-Zone School: The neighborhood affected by this change is not in the walk-zone for any public Seattle elementary school, including Madrona K-8, the attendance area school for this area beginning in the 2014-2015 school year. Therefore, SPS is obligated to provide busing to this student population. It seems there would be no cost difference whether this transportation was provided to Stevens or Madrona. Furthermore, the school within the walk-zone for this area, TT Minor, is slated to reopen as the World School in 2016, leaving this community with no viable walk-zone elementary school available to them in the foreseeable future.

 

6. Excessive Disruption to Students: This neighborhood has now been assigned to four different schools since the 2008-2009 academic year: TT Minor, Leschi/Lowell, Stevens, and now Madrona. The families in attendance areas 42/43 are bearing an inequitable amount of disruption throughout the implementation of the new SPS enrollment plan and school closure process. This change in transportation policy will only create further disruption as some caregivers are forced to change their students’ school because the lack of transportation is an insurmountable hardship for them. When analyzing the demographics of this area, this hardship is another example of this policy’s disproportionate effect on minority students.

 

Frequent interruption in school attendance is linked to long term academic success, as numerous studies have shown, and it is especially problematic for students from marginalized groups.

 

According to national estimates, one-third of 4th graders, one-fifth of 8th graders, and one-tenth of 12th graders have changed schools at least once in the previous two years. Changes in schools, particularly during the academic year, can impede children’s academic progress and decrease social competence. School mobility has the strongest effect during early elementary and high school, with multiple school transfers leading to worse effects. Low-income and minority children are more likely to transfer schools than their more economically advantaged and non-minority peers. (The Negative Effects on Instability on Child Development, Sandstrom and Huerta, Urban Institute, September 2013).

 

7. Questionable Intentions by Seattle Public Schools: In the letter mailed to the Stevens families affected by the transportation changes, and in communication from the Superintendent’s office, cutting our neighborhood’s yellow bus service was explained as a monetary decision. However, when the decision was questioned by the community, researched by the Transportation Department, and revisited by the Superintendent’s Board, the reason listed for not continuing bus service is noted as being related to school capacity. There is no mention of the bus cancellation having any financial consequences and did not address the potential inequity that would be caused by these changes.

 

Below are notes from the Superintendent’s Cabinet meeting on May 1, 2014 (emphasis added):

 

Response from Superintendent’s Cabinet Meeting

 

The implementation of the Board’s goals of reducing costs and implementing the new boundary work created some potential areas of concerns. The Superintendent’s Cabinet asked the Transportation to review impacts and mitigate any unintended consequences around equity and capacity. At the Superintendent’s Operations Cabinet on May 1st, the Transportation Department presented the disaggregated data for elementary schools, discussed the Board’s intention on the changes to the Student Assignment Plan and the updated Transportation Service Standards. After this review, the Ops Cabinet recommended the following minor modifications to the Transportation Standards for FY 2014-2015 to address the unintended effects of boundary and transportation changes.

 

The following exceptions to the 2014-2015 Transportation Standards are one year exceptions and will be reviewed for potential inclusion for future years through the legislative process.

 

1.     Graham Hill will receive two additional buses to address equity South and West of the current FY2013-2014 Transportation Boundary.

2.     Concord International School will receive one express bus on a first come- first served basis in the Denny-Sealth area. The location of the shuttle will be established as routing proceeds.

3.     McDonald – Changes meet the intent of Board adopted changes without equity impacts, therefore no additional service is recommended.

4.     Stevens – Changes meet the intent of Board adopted changes to manage capacity, therefore no additional service is recommended.

5.     South Shore requested the school be moved from tier 3 to tier 1 for safety concerns to avoid older students using the onsite Community Center as students are dismissed from South Shore. Community outreach was conducted by South Shore, and the community supports the move. The changes will be made to the arrival/departure times and the School bell time will be adjusted accordingly.

6.     Transportation will work with K-8 schools to enhance space availability notification to enable 6-8 students to ride with their K-5 siblings on a space available basis.

 

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