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Seattle School Board may close around 20 elementary schools to address $104M deficit

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(The Center Square) – The Seattle School Board has unanimously approved a plan to address a $104 million budget deficit that could include closing approximately 20 elementary schools.

The district’s “well-resourced schools” plan finds the district would be better accommodated with approximately 50 K-5 sites, with 10 per region after the 2024-2025 school year. There are no plans for school closures or consolidations for the 2024-25 school year.

According to the district, closing a school could save Seattle Public Schools between $750,000 to $2 million.

The projected deficit of $104 million for the 2024-2025 school year could increase to $129 million for 2025-2026, and $153 million for the 2026-2027 school year if the district fails to balance the budget.

Currently, the district has 73 K-5 schools, with 29 elementary schools serving fewer than 300 students.

In comparison, the Bellevue, Renton, Lake Washington, Shoreline and Highline school districts do not have any elementary schools with fewer than 300 students.

“I know how difficult it is going to be for our community. I think it’s our duty to really bring our system into stability,” Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Brent Jones said at Wednesday night’s school board meeting.

Seattle Public Schools points to the district’s consistently decreasing enrollment. Currently, enrollment at Seattle Public Schools is approximately 48,000 students across 104 school buildings. From 2019 through 2023, enrollment at the district has decreased by 4,900 students, which has resulted in an $81 million drop in revenue.

District enrollment peaked in 1964 with 94,042 students throughout 117 buildings.

The district’s total student-teacher ratio has dipped below 30 since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, according to data from the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Jones will bring preliminary 2024-2025 school year budget recommendations to the Seattle School Board in June.

The Seattle Public Schools School Board is scheduled to vote on a final budget for the next school year in July.