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Lake Washington School District Begins Move toward Four-Year High Schools
District is one of last in state with grades 10-12 in high schools

February 5, 2009

Contact:       Kathryn Reith, Director of Communications
            (425) 702-3342 or (425) 214-6115
KReith@lwsd.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Redmond, Wash. – “Since I became superintendent, I’ve been asked by parents and staff members, ‘Why don’t we have four-year high schools?’” said Dr. Chip Kimball, superintendent of Lake Washington School District. “As I looked into this issue, I asked a different question – are four year high schools better for student learning? And the research says they can be.”

Today, Dr. Kimball announced a feasibility and public engagement process to determine if the district should move toward a school configuration pattern featuring elementary schools with kindergarten through fifth grade, middle schools with sixth through eighth grade and high schools with ninth through twelfth grade.

One major issue Kimball identified is that high school transcripts, used for admission to higher education, begin with ninth grade. Students who are in ninth grade in the current Lake Washington system are actually in junior high school buildings, which house grades seven through nine. As a result, they have a hard time understanding that their ninth grade performance will count as high school work. Kimball believes that four-year high schools are more conducive to college readiness. Students know from the first day of high school that their performance will have an effect on their ability to get into any kind of post-secondary education, whether technical college, community college or university.

Before deciding to introduce this discussion, Kimball commissioned a study of the educational research. He noted that no configuration is perfect but the research does support a four-year high school model over the three-year, grades ten to twelve model. He also found that a two-year (grades seven and eight) junior high was the worst configuration, while a grades six through eight middle school was more successful if paired with a middle school educational philosophy. That philosophy creates a middle step between elementary school, where students have the same teacher all day for most subjects, and a high school model, where students learn different subjects from different teachers.

District staff also took a preliminary look at demographic trends. They reviewed how those predicted student numbers would affect school building needs. While going to a four-year high school model will require expansion of high school facilities, the district’s initial review predicted a need for increased capacity at the elementary level in the next ten years. By moving to a system that shifts sixth graders into middle school and ninth graders into high school, the need for more classrooms shifts from elementary schools to the high school level.

“If our community and district are interested in this move, it will take about four years to do the facility construction work needed to prepare for the shift,” noted Kimball. “That would also depend on running a bond election and getting approval from taxpayers to pay for this change. Since our maintenance and operations levy and our capital levy are both expiring, we expect to have those issues on the ballot next February. If we want to add a bond to that election, we need to have these discussions this spring. Then I can make a recommendation to the Board of Directors and give them enough time to determine if we should run a bond next February.”

Kimball anticipates that the earliest the full district could shift to a new configuration would be in the fall of 2014, if the district decides to move in that direction and a bond is successfully passed.

The district will conduct a public engagement process this spring with parents, community members and staff. It will include public conversations about the issues involved as well as surveys and focus groups.

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About Lake Washington: Lake Washington School District is a high-performing public school district serving Kirkland, Redmond, and Sammamish, Washington. It is the sixth largest district in the state of Washington, with over 23,000 students in 50 schools.

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