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School Boundary Changes

Mercer Middle School

Mercer International Middle School Capacity

School Board Approves Changes to Mercer Attendance Area Boundaries

Impact to families living in Hawthorne and Kimball attendance areas

Issue: Mercer International Middle School has more students than can fit in the school.

Throughout the fall and winter, we asked families to provide their input about potential changes to relieve enrollment overcrowding at Mercer. Thank you to everyone who responded. We have posted the background on this issue and a summary of the feedback received.

Change for 2021-22 School Year

On Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, the Seattle School Board approved changes to the attendance area boundaries for Mercer International Middle School, Aki Kurose Middle School, and Washington Middle School, beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

image of a map-see PDF map

The approved scenario changes the Mercer attendance area boundary so that the Kimball elementary feeder area attends Washington Middle School and the Hawthorne elementary feeder area attends Aki Kurose Middle School.

Students currently attending Mercer will be automatically grandfathered and remain enrolled at Mercer through the end of grade 8.

Current 5th grade students at Hawthorne and Kimball, who have older siblings enrolled at Mercer (in 2020-21 and 2021-22) must apply for a grandfathered assignment to Mercer during Open Enrollment for School Choice for 2021-22, this February. These students must submit a school choice form, with their older sibling’s student ID number included, during Open Enrollment, between Feb. 1 and Feb. 26, 2021.

Current 4th grade students at Hawthorne and Kimball, who have older siblings enrolled at Mercer (in 2020-21, 2021-22, and 2022-23) may apply for a grandfathered assignment to Mercer during Open Enrollment next February 

All students who do not have siblings currently enrolled at Mercer in sixth and seventh grade, will be assigned to their new attendance area middle school (either Aki Kurose or Washington) when they enter grade 6.

You can use the Assignment Lookup Tool and Address Lookup Tools to determine your attendance areas.

Transportation will be provided for two years for all students in the Kimball feeder area who attend Washington Middle School if the district is providing to/from transportation for students beyond what is mandated by law.

How this change was decided

The Seattle School Board considers and votes on any boundary changes. District staff work develop potential options to first discuss with school leaders, the broader school community, and then to take to the School Board.

Guiding principles for boundary changes were set by the Seattle School Board in 2013 but were not ranked. In 2020 district staff — aligned with the current strategic plan — prioritized racial equity, then proximity, program continuity, and fiscal impact, when developing boundary change scenarios. District staff reviewed aggregated demographic characteristics of southeast Seattle students potentially impacted by changes, and discussed student benefit, unintended consequences, and mitigations with school leaders.

Six elementary schools were feeding to Mercer: Beacon Hill, Dearborn Park, Hawthorne, Kimball, Maple, and Rising Star.

Shifting the Rising Star feeder area out of Mercer was not recommended due to its Equity Tier 1 status and its recent elementary attendance area boundary changes with Maple and Wing Luke. Shifting the Maple feeder area out of Mercer was not recommended due to its recent elementary attendance area boundary changes with Rising Star and Dearborn Park, and its proximity to Mercer — all Maple residents live within the Mercer walk zone. Mercer is within the Maple attendance area and Maple does not border another middle school.

Removing Rising Star and Maple from further consideration left four schools for potential boundary change scenario development (Beacon Hill, Dearborn Park, Hawthorne, and Kimball). District staff did not consider shifting portions of multiple feeder areas to retain the neighborhood peer group of current fifth grade students.

All Kimball feeder area residents reside within the Mercer walk zone, but some reside within the Washington walk zone as well. No other feeder areas are entirely within the Mercer walk zone. Some Hawthorne feeder area residents are within the Mercer walk zone; some are within the Aki Kurose walk zone.

The Beacon Hill area has the smallest enrollment count at approximately 144 students in grades 6-8, the other schools had enrollment counts as follows: Hawthorne (170), Dearborn Park (189), and Kimball (221).

Beacon Hill was considered but no scenarios impacting Beacon Hill were presented. If a dual language school was to be impacted, Dearborn Park made more sense for the long-term goals of the Dual Language pathway and its size. Dearborn Park has the highest percentage of students of color and English Learners and the 2nd highest free and reduced-price lunch population.

Two potential scenarios were proposed to the Operations Committee of the Whole of the Seattle School Board.

On Jan. 6, voting members of the Committee moved to introduce Scenario A.1 (impacting the Kimball and Hawthorne feeder areas) on Wednesday, Jan. 13, with action taken on Wednesday, Jan. 27.
 

What Happens Next 

Students will attend the new attendance area middle school beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

Resources

PROCESS AND CONSIDERATIONS
Who made the decision on middle school boundary changes?

The Seattle School Board approved changes to the Mercer, Aki Kurose and Washington middle school attendance area boundaries on January 27, 2021, beginning next school year, 2021-22.

Mercer will not be moved to a temporary site for another two years. Why is the board/district feels the move will need to happen immediately?

If a change was not approved until Fall 2022, students would not be able to be grandfathered at Mercer. All students would need to move so that Mercer could fit in its temporary location at Old Van Asselt in fall 2023. That would create disruption for current middle school students.

The plan the Board approved shifts two feeder schools this fall and allows for grandfathering.

Why was a decision made on Jan. 27, 2021, especially during a pandemic?

Mercer will move into a temporary site in 2023 while the new building is constructed. Since students currently attending Mercer will receive grandfathered assignments, it will take two years for enrollment capacity relief to come into full effect.

The Board made a decision by Jan. 27 so that impacted families know what their next year assignment will be before the 2021-22 Open Enrollment period in February 2021. We want families to have complete and accurate information when considering school choice options.

What criteria are used to develop recommended changes?

Guiding principles for boundary changes were set by the Seattle School Board in 2013 but were not ranked. In 2020 district staff — aligned with the current strategic plan — prioritized racial equity, then proximity, program continuity, and fiscal impact, when developing boundary change scenarios. District staff reviewed aggregated demographic characteristics of southeast Seattle students potentially impacted by changes, and discussed student benefit, unintended consequences, and mitigations with school leaders.

How was racial equity and students furthest from educational justice prioritized in this process?

Racial equity is our top priority. Learn more about our district’s strategic plan, Seattle Excellence: URL.

Mercer, which serves many students of color furthest from educational justice, is too crowded to operate effectively. Boundary changes are challenging but the status quo is inequitable and unsustainable. All of the elementary feeder areas within Mercer are home to many communities of color. As a result, any potential boundary change would impact some students of color, furthest from educational justice. However, when developing potential solutions for Board review, district staff committed to ensuring that students of color, furthest from educational justice were not disproportionately impacted. Some of the questions district staff considered were: To what extent do our current boundaries and placement of programs and services uphold systemic racism? Would a proposed change make schools more or less racially diverse? Would a proposed change disrupt programs or services that are serving students of color, furthest from educational justice?

Were the Dual Language Immersion schools, Beacon Hill and Dearborn Park, considered for a change in middle school assignment?

Yes, the Beacon Hill and Dearborn Park areas were considered for a boundary change. One of the potential scenarios presented to the Operations Committee of the Whole on January 7, 2021, impacted Dearborn Park, but that scenario was not selected by the School Board. Enrollment Planning will continue working with the Department of International Education to improve Dual Language


ATTENDANCE AREAS

Why is the middle school attendance is not based on address as it is for high school?

A student’s designated middle school is based on their address, just as it is for high school. The difference is that elementary attendance areas feed into a middle school attendance area (based on where you live), but middle schools don’t feed into high schools.

Could there be middle school boundaries that don’t follow elementary–middle school feeder patterns?

There are three unintended places in Seattle where middle school boundaries divide elementary attendance areas.

However, maintaining elementary to middle school feeder patterns is one of our priorities because we’ve consistently heard from families that it’s important for cohorts to stay together.

Was there any thought to re-evaluating the old system of keeping elementary school cohorts together?

While the district did receive this suggestion from families during the process, this was not suggested as a potential solution. All students are assigned a school based on where they live. Elementary schools feed into middle schools. Changes to this model would impact schools across the entire district and would require districtwide discussion and engagement.

If my student’s middle school assignment changes, will their high school also change?

High school assignments are based on home address. There is no feeder pattern from middle to high school. Students will still attend high school based on their home address. Click here to use the address lookup tool for 2020-21 boundaries.


MIDDLE SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION

Was there thought about adding another middle school or will there be in the future?

No, not at this time. There is currently available space for additional students at Aki Kurose and Washington, and at Meany Middle School (which neighbors Washington to the north). School construction is funded by capital levies based on regional and district need. The next opportunities to fund a middle school replacement would be with the proposed Buildings, Technology and Academics/Athletics V Capital Levy (BTA V), which is expected to go to voters in 2022, or the Building Excellence VI Capital Levy (BEX VI), which is expected to go to voters in 2025. The timeline for planning, funding, and implementing capital construction projects can be quite long for a new middle school – a new middle school costs approximately $130 million. Ultimately the School Board will make the final decision on what projects would be included in BTA V and BEX VI.

Why is SPS committed to limiting middle schools to only 1,000 students?

All new middle schools in Seattle are designed for 1,000 seats. This was developed by educators and other district staff as the optimal middle school size to support student learning.

When will construction start and end for the new Mercer building?

Construction is expected to start in Summer 2023 and continue through Summer 2025. The new school building is expected to open for Fall 2025. Mercer Middle School will be located at the Original Van Asselt interim site (7201 Beacon Ave.) for two years.


Will students who are currently attending Mercer have to change schools?

Students who are currently enrolled in grade 6 or 7 at Mercer Middle School will continue to be assigned to Mercer. This is also known as grandfathering.

If students currently have a sibling at Mercer, can they continue to be sent to Mercer even if the boundaries are changed?

Students entering middle school in 2021 or 2022 (current 5th and 4th grade students) who have a sibling enrolled at Mercer will be assigned to Mercer if they submit a school choice form during open enrollment (Feb. 1–26, 2021).


WALKABILITY AND TRANSPORTATION

How do these changes follow the guiding principle to “maximize walkability.”

“Maximize walkability” is one of several priorities used in decision making. Each of the six schools that currently feeds into Mercer has students who live within the walk zone, and several schools are very close. We recognize this is a difficult change for families, but it was considered amongst other considerations.

Will transportation be provided to the new middle school?

Kimball students moving to grade 6 at Washington Middle School will be provided with yellow school bus transportation for two years to Washington if the district is providing to/from transportation for students beyond what is mandated by law. This is a variance from district transportation standards and was included as part of the mitigation for the change.

Aki Kurose students in the attendance area will be provided with transportation according the district transportation service standards.