Education, News, Transportation

SPS Proposes Shutting 67% of Neighborhood’s Grade Schools Out of Walk Zones

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From Julie van Arcken, Beacon Hill, advocate for low-income schools losing walk zones:

SEATTLE – A parents’ group on Beacon Hill has applied for a Seattle Department of Transportation mini grant for funds to implore the Seattle School District to let their children keep walking to their local neighborhood schools.

In its draft Growth Boundaries Proposal, the district has proposed removing families at 67% of Beacon Hill neighborhood schools from their district-designated walk zones, and instead bussing them to faraway schools. The Beacon Hill group compared all the city’s current grade school maps to the school district’s proposed maps for 2014 and found that:

  • Citywide, families at 28% of Title 1 (low-income) schools would lose official Seattle Public Schools-designated walk zones, compared to 12% of non-Title 1 schools.
  • Under the new proposal, 67% of Beacon Hill schools would lose walk zones, compared to 13% for the rest of the city.
  • All of the Beacon Hill schools losing walk zones are Title 1 (low-income) schools.
  • Beacon Hill is the only neighborhood where children would be taken out of walk zones to cross interstate-feeding arterials, or, in the case of Beacon Hill International, I-90 itself.

“The district shouldn’t be removing kids from walk zones anywhere, but it’s especially unfair that the district is targeting low-income schools in Southeast Seattle to stop walking to school,” said Julie van Arcken, a Maple walk zone parent whose child would be bussed miles away under the new proposal.

The group applied for funding under the City of Seattle’s Safe Routes to School Mini Grant Program, which provides grants of up to $1,000 for education and encouragement programs for walking and biking to school. The group, which only asked for $28, would use the funding as reimbursement for funds already spent on signage, photocopying, and other lobbying materials to implore the school district to let Beacon Hill children remain in their current walk zones, and not be bussed to faraway schools.

“It’s ironic that the city is encouraging children to walk to school, while the district wants to make it unsafe for them to do so,” said van Arcken. “We’re really hoping that this Tuesday, Oct. 8 — International Walk to School Day – isn’t the last day that many Beacon Hill kids are able to safely walk to their local schools.”

After hearing from parents up and down Beacon Hill, the North Beacon Hill Community Council voted unanimously to advise the School Board to reject the district’s boundary proposal.

In a letter to the school board, Council President Melissa Jonas wrote, “Community response in the brief time since the proposal was announced has been overwhelmingly negative to every aspect of the plan as it applies to S Seattle. … We are confident we can help develop a proposal that keeps neighborhood students in our neighborhood and within safe, realistic walk zones.”

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