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November 14th, 2018
Licton Springs PTO

Seattle School District Threatens to Evict Native K-8 School 

Seattle, WA – After only 14 months in its new building, Licton Springs K-8 once again fights for survival as Seattle Public Schools proposes to evict or dismantle the school. With these actions, the district continues to marginalize the Native-centered K-8 program, which has fought multiple closure attempts and been housed in three buildings over the past six years.

In 2013, the Seattle School Board promised Licton Springs K-8 a permanent home with room to grow in a shared building with Robert Eagle Staff Middle School in North Seattle, a sacred Duwamish site (renewing the promise in 2017). Robert Eagle Staff also houses the district’s Highly Capable program.

The shared building is over capacity in its second year, despite warnings from parents in 2013 when the district redrew the school boundaries. To solve the capacity issues, the district is proposing to shut down the middle school program at Licton Springs or relocate the school to the Webster building in Ballard (although only 6% of Licton Springs students live in the attendance area).

Licton Springs K-8 (formerly AS1 and Pinehurst) is an option school with an emphasis on Native education and social justice. It is a Title I school that serves at-risk students, with a population composed of 22% Native students*, 61% students of color, 51% students on free and reduced lunch, and 19% students who receive special education services. 

Although Licton Springs was promised room for 250 students, today at 175 students, the lack of classrooms is forcing middle school classes into hallways and stairwells—including special education classes, violating a federal mandate.

In a letter to Seattle Public Schools, Payton, a 7th grader at Licton Springs says, “We have three names because we have been tossed around like an animal and we’ve been moved around to several different schools. This needs to stop. . . I want to go on Rites of Passage in 8th grade, but SPS is trying to take that away from me. We are a K-8 community, not an elementary school.”

David LaSarte-Meeks, a member of the Coeur d’Alene tribe and a Licton Springs parent, says, “They named the Robert Eagle Staff school after an Indian educator, recognizing his work in fighting for marginalized Native students. They have murals all over the campus, recognizing Indian leaders from hundreds of years ago who fought for marginalized Native peoples, and yet, [Seattle Public Schools] continues to marginalize Native students in their system at the exact same campus. The irony and frustration at this point are just really overwhelming.”

The district cites low enrollment as a justification for closing the middle school. Jo Cripps, a middle school humanities teacher who has fought for the survival of the school since 2008, points out, “As long as the school’s future location is unclear, families will act proactively and send their children to stable, secure programs. . . The physical space that the middle school has been awarded makes it immensely unattractive to most families.  What family wants their child learning middle school math in an open hallway?  What family wants their special education child learning in a wide-open space that strips students of their privacy and dignity?  And what family wants their child enrolled in elective classes with a nomadic teacher who hauls around curriculum on a cart and has no access to a legitimate classroom with basic technology?”

Seattle Public Schools initially pushed for a decision by January, but after impassioned responses from Licton Springs and Robert Eagle Staff families at a contentious community meeting, SPS officials decided to slow down the process of solving the building capacity issues. 

Robert Cruickshank of Demand Progress attended the community meeting and observed, “The room was united in agreement that the way the district structured this meeting was flawed. The room was united in agreement that the options presented were flawed. The room was united in agreement that the district had done a poor job of involving parents in this process to date. And the room was united in agreement that Licton Springs should remain a K-8 and that the parents there should decide the question of its location.” 

The district has scheduled no further meetings nor given a new timeline, leaving the future of Licton Springs K-8 hanging in the balance.

Two Licton Springs middle school students at the community meeting
Robert Eagle Staff / Licton Springs K-8 building, murals by Andrew Morrison

*The Seattle School District counts multi-racial students in a separate category. At Licton Springs, 22% of students identify as Native, including multi-racial students with Native heritage.


Press Contacts

David LaSarte
(206) 225-8734 

Steve Treseler
Licton Springs PTO Communications
(206) 310-3727