Seattle Public Schools

Resources

Well-Resourced Schools at Seattle Public Schools

Looking Toward a System of Well-Resourced Schools   

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) is building a system of well-resourced schools. This effort aims to ensure every student is prepared for college, career, and life. 

What is a well-resourced school?

Graphic that includes 8 components with icons and text. - Multiple teachers per grade level - Stable support staff - Inclusive learning for EVERY student - Social and emotional learning support -Art, music, and PE teachers - Stable operational budgets - Safe, healthy, and beautiful schools and grounds - Connections to the community
(click to enlarge graphic)

Our goal is that every school in our district will uphold our community’s values and offer a comprehensive education to prepare students for lifelong success. A well-resourced school is a central hub for students, families, staff, and community.  

A Well-Resourced School:  

  • includes access to high-quality educators and modern classroom resources, textbooks, and technology 
  • offers curriculum that is inclusive and representative of diverse cultures, backgrounds, and abilities  
  • prioritizes safety through proactive security measures 
  • fosters a supportive environment where students feel valued and supported socially and emotionally

Why: SPS believes in the transformative power of public education and the collaborative investment needed to shape schools that reflect our city and communities.  

How: We prioritize innovative, high-quality schools staffed by exceptional educators. Our aim is to ensure every student receives a world-class education tailored to their academic, social, and emotional needs.  

What: By fostering a culture of equity, inclusivity, and safety, we provide access to modern resources and diverse curriculum, empowering students for lifelong success and fulfillment in post-secondary education and the workforce.  

While this plan will mean some large-scale system changes, it is crucial to focus on the end goal: creating a school system where every student has access to the academic, social, and emotional support they need.

Because SPS operates more than 70 schools serving our youngest students, the recommendation of transition to a system of well-resourced schools focuses on the schools that serve students in preschool through 5th grade first.

Among our 104 school buildings, Seattle Public Schools currently has 73 schools that serve our students in preschool through 5th grade. Twenty-nine (29) of our elementary schools currently serve less than 300 students.

Our main goal is to make sure students get a great education, even when we face challenges.

A teacher and preschool student read a book together.

How did we get here?

We have reached a crossroads for our district.

Like all school districts, SPS is adapting to shifting community demographics, which affects how many students are enrolled in our schools. We also know that student and community needs change over time. Additionally, persistent gaps in state basic education funding have impacted SPS and other districts across the state.  

SPS is operating several school buildings that are under-enrolled, which often occurs in our that serve our youngest students. Low enrollment can lead to fewer staffing resources, more staffing adjustments, and more frequent changes due to budget. 

SPS operates more than 70 schools serving students in preschool through 5th grade.  

If we maintain the current number of school buildings that serve our youngest students, SPS will need to reduce services.

This could mean:

  • having more students per teacher
  • reducing core school staff
  • reducing or eliminating preschool
  • reducing central office staff that directly support school operations
  • curriculum adoption reductions

Depending on how much we cut, we might still have to close some school buildings. 

The alternative being presented to the Seattle School Board is that our district takes on the challenging but rewarding work to develop a system of well-resourced schools.  

This new model would mean SPS would have fewer school buildings that serve students in preschool through 5th grade, but the building capacity would be better aligned with student enrollment.  

Our aim is for all our schools to reflect community values and provide a complete education that prepares students for success throughout their lives.  

What are next steps?

Dr. Jones will bring the preliminary recommendations to the Seattle School Board in June 2024. 

We hope you are able to join us for one of the upcoming informational community meetings. To ensure SPS families have the greatest opportunity to take part, each meeting will present the same information but be held in locations around our district.  

We will continue to work to prioritize inclusive and high-quality education for our students. We are approaching these decisions in a thoughtful way to ensure we minimize negative impacts on student learning. 

Superintendent Jones is not recommending any school closures or consolidations for the 2024-25 school year.

Well-Resourced Schools and Budget Presentations to the School Board 

Timeline

What is the community vision?

Past and Upcoming Community Engagement

Superintendent Jones launched a community-wide effort to reimagine a system of well-resourced Schools that is safe, equitable, and offers students and families the programs, services and resources they need to succeed and thrive in the neighborhoods where they live.  

The community vision will provide a foundation to frame challenges and opportunities for SPS in the coming years. It will help guide future strategic planning and resource allocation decisions, including funding for Well-Resourced Schools, SPS Funding Our Future planning, renewal of the Seattle Excellence Strategic Plan, and the BEX VI Levy. 

May and June 2024 Community Meetings

SPS is building a system of well-resourced schools. This effort aims to ensure every student is prepared for college, career, and life.

This month, the Seattle School Board will hear an update and the community will be invited to well-resourced schools community meetings.

Join us for a community meeting

Frequently asked questions

Answers to community questions and how to submit your questions or feedback.

District Budget

What is SPS plan for a responsible budget?

While we are not closing any schools for the 2024-25 school year, we will be making some necessary changes to balance our budget in a fiscally responsible manner that ensures educational excellence across the district. To balance the budget for 2024-25 school year, this district intends to seek the implementation of loan tools the Washington State Legislature provided to specifically address budget de-stabilization, along with restructuring some programs.   

How much is the budget shortfall? 

Seattle Public Schools has been making significant reductions in its budget the last few years to move towards a position of long-term financial sustainability. Conservative fiscal practices, on-going reductions of $61.8 million in FY 2023-24 and $29 million proposed for FY 2024-25 have helped reduce the projected on-going deficit for 2025-26 from $129 million to approximately $94 million depending on the final approved budget for FY 2024-25. SPS is anticipating one-time resources of $20 – 30 million to help balance the FY 2025-26 budget leaving a shortfall of between $50 million – $75 million. These ranges depend on unknowns such as the needs of special education students, actual enrollment, impacts of new collective bargaining agreements, and the ending fund balance from FY 2023-24. 

How much of the budget shortfall would be reduced by closing schools?

It is estimated that each elementary or K-8 site closure would result in savings of $750,000- $2,500,000.

On average, Seattle Public Schools estimates closing a site serving K-5 students would result in savings of approximately $1.5 million. Savings would be realized in the following areas.

State Activity Code Category and average estimated savings for 2025-26

  • Other Support $940,000: Includes activities foundational to the operation of schools but not directly in the context of student instruction (culinary services, maintenance, custodial services, grounds, utilities, and information systems). This estimate is net of assumed on-going costs for maintenance, grounds, and utilities in vacated buildings.
  • Principal’s Office $375,000: Includes management and coordination at the school level (principal, assistant principal, attendance specialists, and school clerical staff).
  • Teaching Support $170,000: Includes building-based support services (non-teaching staff, building leadership team expenses, staff peak load expenses, activity-based stipends, and other miscellaneous teaching operational expenses).

Total $1,485,000

It is also anticipated that with a smaller number of schools and more stability across the district, efficiencies from centralized operational support services will also be realized. These savings are not included in the above estimates at this time, but will be estimated once a formal proposal is made.

If Seattle Public Schools recruited 4,900 new students, how would that impact the budget deficit? 

SPS estimates the district would receive approximately $66 million in revenue through the state’s funding model for an additional 4,900 kids (enrollment decline from 2019-23). 

The direct teaching expenses associated with serving those additional kids is estimated to be $54 million. This is only the direct cost of teachers and special education instructional assistants. Costs of other student facing supports such as school site administration and support staff (e.g., assistant principals, office staff, librarians, counselors, social workers) transportation, athletics, nutrition services, operations, etc. would also increase. The additional costs for those supports would be dependent on the specific needs of the additional 4,900 kids. 

Why can’t the district use its Fund Balance to cover the shortfall?  

For 2025-26, there are no significant one-time solutions available to help balance the budget. In order to stabilize the system going forward, system changes and/or an increase in resources are required.   

In 2023-24, the district used its Economic Stabilization Account ($42 million) to help cover the $131 million shortfall. Other Fund Balances have restricted purposes, like inventory or prepaid grant funds, or district restricted funds like school carry-forward balances.  

To balance the 2024-25 budget, the district is planning to use $32 million in one-time funds from the unrestricted Fund Balance and to borrow $27.5 million from its own capital program (to be repaid with interest by June 30, 2026). These short term or “bridge” solutions are in addition to ongoing budget cuts at the central office and at schools. 

Why can’t you just increase the size of the Operations levy to make up the funding gap? 

Operating Levy collections are capped by the State Legislature so we are limited in how much we can collect from local taxpayers. Seattle Public Schools requests and receives the maximum amount allowed at the current time. 

Can SPS get more money from the State to make up the funding gap?  

Seattle Public Schools and all school districts will continue to work closely with the Legislature to improve the adequacy of funding for K-12 priorities. However, due to other statewide priorities receiving increased funding, K-12 spending has decreased from 52.4% in FY 2018-19 to 43.1% in FY 2023-24 as a percentage of the total state budget. Additional funding from the State cannot be relied upon to eliminate the funding gap.  

If the recommendation to consolidate schools is approved, will the district still need to make additional budget cuts? 

Whether SPS will need to make reductions in addition to school consolidations and a change in bell times will depend largely on the outcome of the 2025-26 Legislative session.   

We will be developing different budget scenarios in the fall and winter of the 2024-25 school year, which will prioritize where additional reductions or reinvestments would be made depending on the outcome of the Legislative session. 

Why can’t SPS just reduce Central Administration to cover its deficit?  

The projected deficit for FY 2025-26 is approximately $94 million. Total Central Administration spending for FY 2024-25 is budgeted at $69 million which is 5.5% of the total operations budget for Seattle Public Schools. This percentage has reduced from 6.4% in FY 2022-23. Seattle Public Schools’ spending on Central Administration is in line with other peer districts in the Puget Sound area whose spending on Central Administration ranges from 7.75% to 5.04% for FY 2022-23.  

The district has a $1.2 billion budget. Closing a school to save $750,000 to $2.5 million doesn’t seem like it would make a big difference. Aren’t there better ways to cover the deficit?  

One alternative to closing schools would be to have less staff at each individual school. This would mean further reducing school staff — assistant principals, librarians, counselors, social workers, instructional aides, custodians, maintenance workers, security personnel, grounds staff, — and/or reducing the number of teachers by increasing class sizes.  

We believe that these types of reductions in our existing system of schools would be in direct opposition to the district and community’s vision for a system of well-resourced schools.  

As context, in the proposed budget for FY 2024-25, 73% of the $1.25 billion budget is planned to be spent on Teaching and Teaching Support ($913.7 million).  

Of the remaining $339.3 million:  

  • $202.1 million (16.1%) is for Support Activities (such as student transportation, nutrition services, maintenance and operations of buildings, technology, and security),   
  • $68.1 million (5.4%) for Principal’s Offices (including Principals, Assistant Principals, school office support and school office supplies), and   
  • $69.12 million (5.5%) for Central Administration.  

Saving $2 million by closing an individual site is the equivalent of approximately:   

  • 20 – 30 operational staff positions (maintenance, security, custodial).  
  • Bussing for 4 schools.   
  • 33% of the Seattle Public Schools’ budget for athletics.   
  • 12 – 15 teacher, academic interventionist, librarian, counselor, social worker, or nursing positions.  
  • 20 – 25 Instructional Assistants.  
  • 25% of per pupil discretionary funding at all schools.  
  • Four years of library materials allocations at all schools.  

What other scenarios/options were considered to stabilize the budget? 

If Seattle Public Schools does not consolidate elementary schools and make a change to bell times, staffing throughout the system will have to be reduced — resulting in layoffs. Specific decisions have not been made. A list of potential other options Seattle Public Schools could explore is below:  

Examples of high-dollar reduction options (est. > $5 million each):​  

  • Additional class size increases (K-12)​;  
  • Changes to labor contracts. 

Examples of medium-dollar reduction options (est. $1 – $5 million each):​  

  • Additional reductions at Central Office services for schools​;  
  • Additional reductions in contingencies;​  
  • Additional reductions in grounds/custodial/maintenance staffing; ​  
  • Additional reductions in Professional Development; ​  
  • Additional reductions in school non-staff discretionary funds; ​  
  • Consolidate non-traditional schools; ​  
  • Program adjustments and restructuring;​  
  • Reduce or eliminate athletics​;  
  • Reduce non-teaching staff at schools;​  
  • Reduce school specialist staff (art, music, PE)​;  
  • Reduce / eliminate pre-school offerings.  

Examples of low-dollar reduction options (est. <$1 million each):​  

  • Additional furlough days for non-represented staff; ​  
  • Additional reductions in Senior Leadership;​  
  • Elimination of shared leave program for staff; ​  
  • Reductions in Security; ​  
  • Relocate from JSCEE; ​  
  • Travel freeze.  

Consolidation and Closure

When will SPS share a preliminary recommendation with a list of schools planned for closure? 

Seattle Public Schools is planning to present a preliminary recommendation for school closures in June.

School Board policy 6883 governs the process for school closures including public review, site-based hearings, final recommendation and School Board action. 

Why consolidate or close schools?  

As much as we love every one of our schools, when they are under-enrolled, they become under-resourced and this causes inequity and inconsistency from school to school.   

Why is SPS considering closing schools?  

Current funding in Washington State does not support small schools. Washington state funding is based on the cost to run a 400-student elementary school.  

Small elementary schools are not financially sustainable given the current funding model and student needs, and they dilute resources available throughout the system.   

The district can go in one of two directions – we can cut services and supports in smaller schools, or we can maintain and plan to enhance student services and supports with a reduction in the number of elementary schools to match elementary school enrollment. We must consider which is the greater priority – the location of the school building or the services and educational opportunities available to students when they are at school.   

Based on October 2024 enrollment data, Seattle Public School’s average elementary school enrollment is 317 students with 29 elementary and K-8 schools with fewer than 300 students and 24 more with between 300 and 400 students. None of the surrounding districts (Bellevue, Renton, Lake Washington, Shoreline, Highline) has an elementary school with less than 300 students.     

We have too many schools for the number of students we’re currently serving.    

The budget deficit has forced us to make some tough choices about how we want to serve students. By closing schools and serving students at fewer sites we can consolidate our resources and make sure students have access to the supports and services they need and deserve such as stable support staff, art, music and PE, social and emotional supports, and inclusive learning environments.   

If we don’t close schools, we’ll need to pursue other options to balance the budget including reducing core staffing, reducing or eliminating pre-school, renegotiating labor contracts, and additional reductions in central office staff, curriculum adoptions and grounds/custodial staff. SPS believes in the importance of well-resourced schools but to make that vision a reality we need to restructure our system.  

Communication and Community Engagement

How is this process going to lead to well-resourced schools? 

We have launched a community-wide effort to reimagine a system of well-resourced schools which offers students and families the support, the programs and resources, and the inspiration they need to succeed and thrive in the neighborhoods where they live.

We will continue this community engagement to ensure that the decisions we make will be responsive, equitable, and sound, as we consider making any substantial consolidation, closure, and programmatic changes. Read more about the well-resourced schools community engagement.

What strategies are being used to keep the community informed? 

The district has been sending direct messages to families and staff. SPS publishes information on the district website regarding a System of Well-Resourced Schools as information is available. 

How are we communicating and getting input from families for whom English is their second language? 

Translation and interpretation services are provided at May and June community meetings based on request. American Sign Language (ASL), Amharic, Cantonese, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese interpreters are available to be requested. Additionally, our community can use Google translate for content published on the district website. District messages sent through email and text message to families are translated into the preferred language as indicated by families.  

 

Student Impact: Student Benefit

If SPS closes schools, will students receive transportation to their new school? 

SPS is not changing the eligibility criteria and ride times in the Transportation Service Standards. Consistent with our current standards, students who live inside the attendance area and outside the walk-zone for their assigned school will be eligible for transportation. Students who receive transportation as part of their IEP will continue to receive that service. 

What are the plans for preschool? 

Our plans for a well-resourced school system includes space for two Pre-K classrooms at every single elementary school. Seattle Public schools knows that early childhood education is a critical part of a well-resourced schools system so Pre-K is an important consideration as we plan for well-resourced schools and school closures.

We want to provide Pre-K in all elementary schools and we know how important access to preschool is to families. This way students can start learning earlier, transition smoothly to kindergarten at the same school as older siblings and families can get involved in school life right from the start. We don’t currently have Pre-K available at every elementary school but we’re planning now so that every school will have space for Pre-K and we can continue expanding access alongside with our partners in the Seattle City Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL). 

How will a system of well-resourced schools provide special education services? 

Every well-resourced school should have a continuum of supports and extensions so most students can get the services they need at their neighborhood school. The design for well-resourced schools includes 3 classrooms for intensive services at every school which would allow all schools to offer multiple intensive service models.

In well-resourced schools SPS will offer a more inclusive learning environment for all students, provide special education services in a less restrictive environment, and allow more students to be served at their neighborhood school instead of receiving services at a school farther from home. Special education services can also connect with Pre-K in every school so many students with disabilities can transition directly from Pre-K to Kindergarten without switching schools.  

Class Sizes, School Sizes, and Enrollment

What will happen to current class sizes if schools are consolidated? 

Additional students in a building will result in a proportionate increase in teachers to maintain current student:teacher ratios. 

How many schools have fewer than 400 students?  

Based on October 2023 enrollment data, Seattle Public School’s average elementary school enrollment is 317 students with 29 elementary and K-8 schools with fewer than 300 students and 24 more with between 300 and 400 students. 

Why can’t we have smaller schools with smaller class sizes? 

Current funding in Washington state does not support smaller schools. Washington state funding is based on the cost to run a 400-student elementary school.  

Small elementary schools are not financially sustainable given the current funding model and student needs, and they dilute resources available throughout the system.  

The district can go in one of two directions – we can cut services and supports in smaller schools, or we can maintain and plan to enhance student services and supports with a reduction in the number of elementary schools to match elementary school enrollment. We must consider which is the greater priority – the location of the school building or the services and educational opportunities available to students when they are at school. 

Based on October 2023 enrollment data, Seattle Public School’s average elementary school enrollment is 317 students with 29 elementary and K-8 schools with fewer than 300 students and 24 more with between 300 and 400 students. None of the surrounding districts (Bellevue, Renton, Lake Washington, Shoreline, Highline) has an elementary school with less than 300 students.   

What is the ideal size of an elementary school? 

The ideal size of an elementary school is 3-4 classes per grade level, which is approximately 450-600 students. 

Elementary schools of this size: 

  • Still allow for students to be well-known and cared for 
  • Foster diverse friendships 
  • Facilitate smoother transitions to middle school 
  • Promote academic excellence through consistent grade-level teams and additional support staff 
  • Prioritize social and emotional development  
  • Create dependable access to Art, Music, PE, Sports, and clubs 
  • Provide enrichment opportunities, and create a nurturing environment for all students 
  • Strategically allocate resources 

What numbers were used to calculate enrollment? 

Enrollment is based on the annual October student count.  

How does the district ensure accuracy of the enrollment forecast? 

The district has consulted with multiple, external demographic experts, including FLO Analytics, and Educational Data Solutions, LLC, in addition to our district planning teams. Forecasts do not show enrollment growth in the next 10 years. See more about enrollment and projections.

What happens if enrollment increases in the next few years? 

Forecasts do not show substantial enrollment increases for at least the next 10 years, but we know that changes can happen and include a minimum 5 percent buffer in our capacity analysis to leave space for unanticipated changes.  

School districts go through longer term cycles of enrollment increases and decreases. In Seattle, enrollment peaked in the 1970s, declined until 2007, and then grew again until 2019. In the past, we closed schools and sold property. Currently, we are not planning on selling any property, but will be doing a deeper analysis of future facility needs and how to best position the district for the next growth cycle. See the March 2024 Enrollment and Demographics Trends Forecast.

How is enrollment predicted?

Demographic predictors of enrollment include population growth, housing, births, and migration. More information is available on the Enrollment Data page.

Has the district seen more growth in homeschooling and/or a significant increase in families opting for private school?

While data shows a decline in Seattle Public Schools’ enrollment since its peak of 53,627 in 2019, private school enrollment has remained steady without significant gains or losses since 2015. Home schooling has declined since its peak of 681 students in 2020 to 409 in 2023. See the March 2024 Enrollment and Demographics Trends Forecast.

Board Planning

What other options could the Board consider to address the budget deficit? 

If Seattle Public Schools doesn’t close schools we will need to identify other ways to balance the budget including reducing core staffing, reducing or eliminating pre-school, renegotiating labor contracts and additional reductions in central office staff, curriculum adoptions and grounds/custodial staff.  

How can I share my thoughts with the School Board before they make a decision? 

There are multiple ways to engage in the well-resourced schools process: 

Join one of our community engagement sessions. 

Send us a comment or question.

After Seattle Public Schools shares a preliminary recommendation with a list of schools there will be public hearings and other opportunities to share your thoughts. 

Share your questions or feedback

Share your feedback or ask us a question about transitioning to a system of well-resourced schools, please fill out our contact form.

We will be updating our well-resourced schools FAQ as answers are available.