Task force removes four schools from Shoreline district closure list

Saturday, June 1, 2024

A map from the Shoreline school district website shows the current nine elementary school boundaries

By Oliver Moffat

An advisory task force removed Meridian Park, Cascade K-8, Parkwood and Briarcrest from its list of Shoreline elementary schools they will recommend be closed in 2025. At the May 30 meeting, the task force continued the work of winnowing schools from the list and will reconvene within two weeks to identify more schools to spare.

With enrollment dwindling, districts across the state are closing schools to fill budget shortfalls and closure announcements in Seattle and elsewhere have caused controversy.

Seeking to avoid the kind of acrimony and distrust deep budget cuts caused in 2022 and 2023, the Shoreline school district assembled three advisory groups comprised of parents, staff and members of the community:

The Budget Advisory Team meets monthly to review detailed presentations on the districts financial situation.

The Strategic Planning Coalition has been working since January to help draft the district’s first strategic plan which was reviewed by the school board at the May 21 meeting and is scheduled to be voted on after hearing public comment at the June 4 meeting.

And in February, the district assembled the School Capacity Review and Closure Consideration task force to make a recommendation on whether or not to shutter one of the district’s ten elementary schools and if so, which one.

At the May 16 meeting, the 21-member school closure task force, removed four elementaries from its list of schools it will recommend be shuttered.

The task force struck Meridian Park (the district’s largest elementary) from the list because, as District Academic Officer Mike VanOrden said, “if you were to close Meridian Park there simply wouldn’t be enough space to put those students in other schools.“

Because it serves both elementary and middle school students, closing Cascade K-8 Community School would have saved less than half the amount of money compared to other schools and so was removed from the list.

The task force chose to spare recently-rebuilt Parkwood and currently-being-renovated Briarcrest because they will have lower building maintenance costs compared to other schools.

Now the task force must pick more schools to save while minimizing the impact a closure could have on historically marginalized communities, making the choice of which schools get spared next more complicated.

State and federal funding for lower income students could be impacted.

More than 40% of Ridgecrest students currently qualify for free meals, which (under current state and federal rules) means the entire school receives lunch and breakfast at no cost.

A new Washington State law (House Bill 1238) lowers the threshold to 30% and next year four additional Shoreline schools will qualify for school-wide free meals: Briarcrest, Echo Lake, Parkwood, and Meridian Park.

Closing a school will relocate kids and change school demographics, potentially lowering the percentage of students who meet the eligibility requirements below the 30% threshold in the all-kids-eat-free schools.

Ultimately, the district’s budget, academic priorities and the final decision on whether to close a school and if so, which one, will be entirely up to the elected School Board and Superintendent Dr. Susana Reyes.

The closure decision and any new school boundaries is expected to be finalized in time for Kindergarten open enrollment in January of 2025.

Information on how to attend a school board meeting and submit public comment is available on the district’s website.

School Board meetings are televised here


Anonymous,  June 1, 2024 at 5:56 AM  

I wish taxes were raised, particularly for large businesses and people in higher income brackets, instead of putting schools and services on the chopping block. Even as someone without any children, I recognize that those in our community deserve a high quality education.

Anonymous,  June 1, 2024 at 11:09 AM  

I’m confused. The city council tells us that we need to abandon our single family lots, cut down our trees and pave over green space to accommodate the tens of thousands of new residents. Is the school district not anticipating that they will have kids? Or are they resigned to them being educated elsewhere? I’m old enough to remember when our school district was a selling point for house buyers. What went wrong? And what happened to the $ from the school bonds that we’ve approved on a semiannual basis?

Anonymous,  June 2, 2024 at 9:19 AM  

This isn't the first time Shoreline had to close schools due to a drop in the school age population. The first Meridian Park Ele is now the preschool center. There once was a Paramount Park Ele and also a Cromwell Park Elem, and a Ronald Ele. You can't keep schools open on wishful thinking and fond thoughts about your local school. This is a very real budget crunch and needs to be addressed clear eyed. Seems smart to me that they keep the former Cordell Hull Jr High (now Meridian Park) because there is room to expand should they need it in the future.

Anonymous,  June 2, 2024 at 10:16 AM  

Sure hope that classroom behavior improves and more people return to seeing public schools as a viable choice. The drop in enrollment correlates with the marked increase in classroom disruptions since 2020.

Ben,  June 2, 2024 at 12:25 PM  

There's not much to be confused about here, though of course it's disappointing to see schools closing. Enrollment is down. All the money from school bonds has gone to pay for schools and there isn't enough money to keep all the schools open given lower enrollment.

Enrollment is anticipated to come back up eventually, with more people moving to Shoreline, but those people have to move here first. Money unfortunately does not simply appear in order to keep a school open until it's needed again.

As for the claim that the city is paving over green spaces, that's not how I'd characterize plans to improve road and pedestrian safety. Some in Shoreline seem to deeply resent that there are people currently living in certain areas. It's bizarre. Imagine you lived in an area with a dangerous street that kids walked to school on every day, and the city has a plan to improve the safety of the street, and a bunch of people protest it because an entirely marginal number of trees are going to be cut down. That's Shoreline. Trees first, certain children last.

Anonymous,  June 3, 2024 at 9:02 AM  

If you keep pushing more apartments for single folks and getting rid of starter homes for younger families you will never increase enrollment. The city has done this to itself. Poor schools that focus on equity rather than education and apartments rather than starter homes.

Anonymous,  June 3, 2024 at 3:28 PM  

Hey Ben, you want to tell us what you mean by "certain children"?

Anonymous,  June 3, 2024 at 8:49 PM  

Close Meridian Park! Stop trying to make the crossing of 175th safe! There are several schools that can be "expanded" if needed for other use - Meridian Park and Parkwood are so close to each other there is NO NEED to keep Meridian Park open. I'd love to know what "criteria" the task force considers...

Anonymous,  June 4, 2024 at 2:58 AM  

I'm guessing its a complex issue being driven by many factors including price of homes and interest rates. 25 years ago when I moved here this was a high end starter home area....now its just a high end area and the starter homes have moved north hence young families have a tough time starting here. Throw in the high interest rates which is causing existing homeowners to stay in their home and even the young families that could afford to move here can't find a home, think about it how many for sale signs are in you neighborhood. Throw in the demographics of less kids in general and you see why school populations in this area are going down and I don't think its going to change in the near future unless families start moving into apartments

Anonymous,  June 4, 2024 at 7:31 AM  

Young families are finding affordable houses to buy in Arlington. If you want a cheaper apartment you rent in Lynnwood not Shoreline. I'm sure MLT is cheaper than Shoreline, too. On my cul-du-sac all my neighbors raised their kids when I did and now those kids are 35-40 yrs old and the neighbors are staying in their homes because they are all paid off. You find that all across Shoreline. Like it or not the number of elementary schools has to shrink.

Anonymous,  June 4, 2024 at 4:58 PM  

All the buildings going up around here are definitely not family friendly. No green lawns or even large balconies like older buildings had. Definitely not family friendly. 😔

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