Seattle moves to shutter 20 elementary schools amid budget gap

Elementary schools are only at 65 percent of capacity due to an exodus of over 4,000 students during the extended pandemic closures.

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA

Wednesday night, the Seattle School Board unanimously approved a proposal that could close up to 20 of the district’s 70 elementary schools to try and curb a $100 million annual budget gap. 

During the board meeting, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) proposed closing almost a third of the district's schools, which could begin as early as the 2025-26 school year, according to KOMO news. 

As stated by the district, elementary schools are only at 65 percent of capacity due to a massive exodus of students during the extended pandemic closures, as well as low enrollment. 29 schools have less than 300 students. 

SPS was posting about the decline in enrollment being connected to the budget about two years ago.  

The new plan aims to increase capacity to 85 percent in the remaining schools. 

A three-year teachers’ union contract signed in 2022 added $94 million to the deficit in the budget, according to the Seattle Times. District officials also plan to discuss possible job cuts. Some teachers could transfer to the remaining schools, while others could replace retiring workers or those leaving the district. 

The district is also cutting staff in its administrative headquarters and reducing school budgets in addition to planning to borrow millions from its reserves.  

Brent Jones, superintendent of SPS, asked the board for permission to begin drafting the school closure plan, and a final recommendation is expected in the fall, followed by a public review period.

The school's shuttering is in pattern with a trend of home school becoming more and more common after the COVID-19 lockdowns. 

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