Seattle district is looking at closing as many as 20 elementary schools

May 13, 2024
Enrollment has dropped by more than 4,000 since before the pandemic, and the district faces an annual budget shortfall of more than $100 million.

The Seattle School Board has approved a proposal that could eventually close more than a quarter of the district’s nearly 70 elementary schools

The Seattle Times reports that the move, which could force thousands of students to switch schools in 2025-26, is aimed at reducing a more than $100 million annual budget gap.

The district's enrollment has dropped by more than 4,000 students since pre-pandemic years, and a three-year teachers union contract inked in 2022 was projected to add $94 million to the deficit. 

The district’s superintendent, Brent Jones, and his staff are expected to draw up a preliminary list of about 20 schools that could be shuttered or consolidated.

Such school closures would be by far the largest in Seattle in recent history.

District officials say they plan to discuss possible job cuts with union-represented employees. 

The district anticipates looking at each school’s current and 10-year enrollment projection, the age and condition of the buildings, academic offerings and equity. Officials say they will also examine the distances between schools and safety issues, such as traffic near schools.

The district is using about 65% of the space at its elementary school sites to educate about 23,000 K-5 students, Jones said. Twenty-nine of the district’s elementary schools have fewer than 300 students.

Although the school closures aren’t expected to take effect until fall 2025, the district is also wrestling with how to shed $105 million from next school year’s estimated $1.1 billion budget.


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