By Stuart Jenner.
On Monday, Nov 6, from 6:00 pm to 7:15 pm, there is a Greater West Seattle Middle School Options Open House at the gym of Our Lady of Guadalupe church, located at 7000 35th Avenue SW. There are 14 schools with information booths. Families are invited to sign up ahead of time at a link provided by the event organizers. Note that students currently in grades 6 or 7 may also be able to enter these schools; the event is not only for parents of current fifth-grade students.
The 14 schools include a mix of private and public options in West Seattle, Vashon, and elsewhere in Seattle. Some are close to or in White Center. The signup form asks for one’s location and includes check boxes for Burien, Normandy Park, and White Center. See below for a list of the schools.
Middle school is an incredibly formative time. Highline’s options may or may not be the best fit. Some questions to consider or ask when looking at middle schools:
- What is the value system? More on this below.
- What supports and communities exist for parents? More below on this as well. How are parents treated: as partners, roadkill, or somewhere in between?
- How will the logistics work of getting to/from school?
- What is the social scene? The culture?
- Where do students go for high school? Will that be an option for your child?
- What is the cost, if private? What are the add-ons, for example, 8th-grade field trips?
- What are the academics? More on this below.
- How much screen time do students have in class? At home?
- What is the math? The Highline district no longer offers Algebra in middle school. If your child is ready for acceleration in math, the options available at private or out-of-district schools may provide significantly more opportunities for them in high school and for college. College planning starts with middle school!
- I would also look at arts/ music. The Highline District mandates that all students take a year of world language in 6th grade, which means most students can only take a semester of PE and one semester of art or music. For some students, that’s fine; for others, it may be too much sitting.
- Hands-on learning. What classes are available where students can work with robots, with shop tools, with cooking, or other activities that are creative and fun and build self-confidence while maybe beginning career exploration?
- What are the steps to enrolling, if public?
- Vashon has long recruited out-of-district students and has a straightforward process. They want to ensure the students can handle the commute for 180 days.
- Seattle historically has not sought out-of-district students. But with their significant enrollment drops over the past few years, they may be more amenable to taking out-of-district students.
- Charters will have a lottery if there are more student applicants than spaces.
- For private schools, what are the enrollment steps? What do the schools look for? And what financial aid is available?
- Reality: private schools need tuition revenue to stay solvent.
- Costs vary: some private options are in the $10,000 range, others are up to $35,000 per year. Some will have scholarships. Some partner with outside organizations that provide scholarships.
Point 1 above was about values. This is really, really important.
I know a family that regularly attended a religious service together. A teacher at an expensive, highly regarded private school had an absolute vendetta against a certain faith community. The teacher assigned negative readings about this faith, made disparaging remarks, blamed the family’s religion for all sorts of ills, never acknowledged the positive contributions members of the religion had made to the world, and had zero concern for the student and family’s emotional well-being. It was a terrible experience for the family. But there was zero consequence for the teacher.
Another story about values: how is diversity defined? Are the school teachers getting instruction from administrators to teach that the world is dual: there are victims, and there are oppressors? Are the teachers hearing in diversity training that people of one group have everything handed to them, and people of other groups have to work? This is a paraphrase of a video from a person who addressed a Highline teacher summit a few years ago that preceded the start of the school year.
Point 2 is on the parent community. It helps significantly to have an active parent group. They can organize talks, joint student/ parent activities, arrange for volunteers, and sometimes help fundraise for extras. But most of all, parenting is a journey, and it helps to have fellow travelers.
Point 7 is on academics. Some middle school credits and grades can count for high school graduation. What’s really important, though, is to have a rock-solid foundation for high school classes. So, ask about writing instruction, homework, assistance in time management, and homework management. Ask whether students read paper books or only books online. Some schools have a “no homework” policy. The reality is gaining mastery takes practice, and there are not enough hours at schools to master most subjects.
The schools included at the Open House:
Seattle public schools:
Charter Schools in Seattle (no tuition)
Private Secular Schools in Seattle
Private Lutheran School
Private Catholic Schools in Seattle
Private Catholic School in Burien
Vashon Public School
Vashon Private School