This is a very different kind of blog post than what I normally post here. This is usually a blog about cheerleading, rec cheer in particular, and coaching rec cheer. But there is something going on in my neighborhood right now that prompted me to write this and post it on my neighborhood's Facebook page. I felt like I needed a part of my catharsis about the issue to be expressed here too. Maybe something in here will help someone else.
The very quick background: The Bellevue School District is looking to possibly change the boundaries of our neighborhood so that we would attend Sammamish High School instead of Bellevue High School (we are equidistant to each). Many of my neighbors have gone absolutely insane over the idea of being moved to a "low-ranking" school (all of the Bellevue schools are amazing, but Bellevue HS is ranked higher than Sammamish). The straw that broke the camel's back for me was the suggestion that a legal fund be started to fight the District on this issue. Talk about FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS. So I wrote this post to my neighbors:
Warning: Long post, but I hope you will read it through. Important ask at the end.
This whole redistricting thing just makes me sad.
It makes me sad because I have to finally come to the realization that the neighborhood I grew up in is gone. The people are being replaced one by one with the younger, more affluent, shinier models. The houses are being replaced one by one with the bigger, BIGGER, million-dollar, shinier models. I’ve never dealt well with change, but even I have to face the music at some time. And I guess that time is today.
It makes me sad—not about this-school-or-that-school—but about the attitudes of the village that is helping to raise my children.
As of May 2016, Bellevue High School had an enrollment of 1545 and will be closed enrollment next year. Sammamish had an enrollment of 938. It seems the neighborly thing to say would be, “Yes, we are the logical neighborhood to change schools, geographically, to make things better and less crowded for everyone as a whole.”
As of the 2015 US News rankings, Bellevue High School had a percentage of students living below the poverty line of 8%. That’s right, a single digit. Sammamish High School, by contrast, has 29% of its students living below the poverty line. It seems the neighborly thing to say would be, “Yes, we are a more affluent neighborhood than ever before in the history of Woodridge. Let’s take some of what we have been blessed with to a school with fewer advantages economically and see if we can make a difference there.”
So yes, I can open enroll my kids to Sammamish. Or I can move out of the neighborhood I have lived in since I was born (and have seriously considered it). Or I can go the other way and “unify” with my neighbors and start a legal fund and sue the school district over which EXCELLENT high school we attend.
But that’s not the point. At least that’s not my point.
I. Am. Sad.
I am sad that my neighbors feel this way and are willing to spend copious amounts of time, energy, and money on this when there are so many more pressing things in this world that could use that kind of time, energy, and money.
I am sad that our neighbors in Seattle at Beacon Hill Elementary School, right across the water from us, with 70% (you read that right, 70%) of their kids living below the poverty line, don’t have a playground at their school in their tiny little school yard. Why? Because their 40-year-old equipment became unsafe and was injuring kids and had to be removed. The school and the district don’t have the money to replace the structure so the kids have a pile of wood chips to play in for recess. They can’t ask the parents to contribute to a fundraiser because these parents are struggling to put food on the table, so new playground equipment is pretty low on the priority list.
The Special Ed teacher at Beacon Hill, bless her heart, is trying to collect some sports balls and jump ropes and sidewalk chalk so the kids have SOMETHING to play with until a new playground can go in, that with the help of the media (soliciting donations from the public) and grants, they HOPE will start construction in late fall. Until then, the kids (including those attending the summer programs at Beacon Hill) get to play in wood chips, with a couple of basketball hoops and tetherball poles for diversion. There is a city park next door with a beautiful playground, but because it isn’t secure and Beacon Hill Elementary doesn’t have an army of para-educators and specialists and parent volunteers to keep the kids safe and contained, they can only take the older kids across the field and to the park. And the kindergartners sit in a pile of wood chips.
Can you imagine this happening in Bellevue? Well, it wouldn’t, and it couldn’t, of course. Because our playground equipment gets replaced with the slightest bit of wear (as do our schools, come to think of it). And if for some reason the playground equipment at Woodridge had to be removed, and the district couldn’t afford to replace it (I know…I’m in the realm of fiction here), then the PTA would throw together a quick fundraiser and the $40 grand needed would be collected in a few days.
So I asked my 6-year-old twin kindergartners to go through their bin of sporting equipment and pick out about a dozen balls and other items and we went over to Beacon Hill on Wednesday and gave them what we came up with. A few used basketballs and jump ropes and a small monetary donation and you would have thought we had paid for the whole playground. The vice-principal and office personnel were so grateful and so sweet and had tears in their eyes. (One of my boys even said, “Why did they say ‘thank you’ so much?”). And my boys got to see outside of how the 1% lives, if only a small glimpse.
That reaction prompted me to start a drive with my friends and family and community. So if you have extra sports balls or other playground items sitting around that aren’t getting any use, please consider dropping them off to me and I will take them over to Beacon Hill. And if you think a donation to their playground fund might be a better use of your hard-earned dollars than a legal fund to sue BSD (or heck, if you want to contribute to both, who am I to say), then feel free to donate online, or mail a check, or leave a check with me made out to Beacon Hill PTA and I will add it to what I have collected and take it over. Microsoft even matches the donations, and I’m guessing other employers do too.
And maybe getting outside of myself and my very sheltered little community will help me feel less sad about the First World Problems that are plaguing our neighborhood, and help me remember that I am VERY blessed. And where much is given, much is required.