Welcoming the Special Olympics USA Games to Seattle

The Special Olympics USA Games is a premier, national sports competition that showcases the power and joy of sports at the highest levels. From July 1-6, 2018 more than 4,000 athletes and coaches from all 50 states and the District of Columbia arrived in Seattle and the surrounding region along with 10,000 family members and friends. 

In addition to showcasing the awe-inspiring abilities of thousands of athletes with intellectual disabilities, the 2018 USA Games in Seattle models the ideals of inclusion and celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics movement.

The USA Games take place every four years with previous host cities being: Ames, Iowa (2006); Lincoln, Nebraska (2010); and Lawrenceville, New Jersey (2014). Now, in its fourth running, the Special Olympics USA Games is in Seattle.

I was one of the 10,000+ volunteers working to help support the Games. I loved having the opportunity to welcome the families and athletes to Seattle by volunteering the first 2 days of the event at the Family Welcoming Center.  I was part of a volunteer group that greeted all the families fresh from the airport and worked to get them settled in the Seattle area.

It was so fun to meet families from across the U.S. and provide them information on family activities, demonstrate how to use light rail and the bus system, recommend restaurants and must see Seattle sights. Almost everyone wanted to ride the elevator to the top of the newly renovated Space Needle, attend a Mariners baseball game and get a peak at Mt. Rainier.  The athletes stay with their coaches in the dorms on the University of Washington campus and their families wanted to make the best of their "down time' to see the area.  

The games offer 14 sports including swimming, flag football and soccer. With the exception of the Opening Ceremony, all events are free and local families are encourage to come cheer, wave signs and make some noise.  Venues include the University of Washington, King County Aquatic Center, Seattle University and Celebration Park.

The Special Olympics USA Games is the biggest sporting event to hit the Seattle area in more than 25 years and I am so glad that I was able to volunteer, use my knowledge of Seattle and the area to introduce so many families to Seattle!  

 

Seattle Public Schools - Upcoming Changes - High School - Science, Boundaries and HCC

A lot is happenings with Seattle Public Schools right now and I will focus this blog on high school changes including final decisions on boundary and HCC changes and the recent announcement impacting the high school science curriculum. I have attended several of the district meetings and will continue to follow, as there remains many unanswered questions. All these changes impact current and new families moving to Seattle. Many of these issues have been unresolved and I am glad to be able to finally provide clearer information to families relocating to Seattle.  

As of the January 31st Seattle School Board meeting, there are no high school boundary changes for the 2018-19 school year, but changes are approved for the 2019-20 school year. All 9th graders in fall of 2019 will be assigned to their attendance area high school based on the approved 2019-20 boundaries. All 9th graders attending Ballard or Roosevelt in 2018-19 as their attendance area school and who live in areas that are changing to the Lincoln High School attendance area in the fall of 2019 will be geo-split, meaning they will start 10th grade at Lincoln High School.

The boundary pathways for High School HCC (highly capable) was under review and decisions for the 2018-19 school year were also confirmed at the January 31st Seattle School Board meeting.  Beginning in 2019-20, there will be three HC pathways: a north pathway at Lincoln High School (new to open school in September 2019), a central/southeast pathway at Garfield High School and a southwest pathway at West Seattle High School. The IBX (International Baccalaureate) program at Ingraham High School remains as an optional pathway.

The current high school science changes will be put into place for the current freshman class, Class of 2021. These students will be required to have three credits (three full years) in science instead of the current two year requirement. There is also a new required exam at the end of junior year, the Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science. This exam will now be a graduation requirement. This exam is based on the new Washington State Science Standards which were adopted by the State in 2013.

The sequence of classes is also changing and now looks different vs the sequence offered in the Bellevue, Lake Washington, Issaquah Public School Districts and also most Seattle area independent schools. This is causing a bit of confusion and I will continue to follow. 

I am still trying to understand how this impacts AP offerings and if the Ballard Biotech Program will be impacted for the class of 2021 and later. It also appears that no other district is making such comprehensive changes to meet the state standard and this is continuing to cause confusion for Seattle School District families.  

I am always here to assist your family and do my best to stay on top of all the Seattle area district changes (ncluding Mercer Island, Bellevue, Issaquah and Lake Washington) to help you make the best decision for your family.  

 

     

     

     

    Meet the Global Families of Puget Sound

    I love this article from ParentMap magazine written by Jiaying Grygiel. A big part of my business is working with new families relocating the Seattle area from other cities in the U.S and several of my client families are relocating to the U.S. as expats with plans to return to their home country.  An interesting and welcoming read.

    http://www.parentmap.com/article/seattle-population-international-city-growth?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=READ%20MORE&utm_campaign=Digital-Edition-9-1-17

     

    Housing in Seattle - Seattle Times Price Map

    The Seattle Times just published another article about housing costs in the Seattle market.

    I have attached the link and especially found the interactive pricing map informative. With the average home price in Seattle and the suburbs continuing to grow at a record pace, this article points out neighborhood by neighborhood where the AVERAGE price of a home or in some neighborhoods a building lot is $1 million dollars and more.

    Seattle housing is in the news a lot lately due to having one of the highest increases in housing costs in the country with record yearly growth and limited inventory. In certain areas, a  large number of homes are also sold to foreign investors placing all cash offers to purchase.  Currently, 40% of all homes in the Seattle area are listed for $1 million dollars or more.  The median time a home is on the market is 7 day with 62% of all listed homes exceeding the asking price.

    Housing continues to be the number one concern of my client families especially when pairing with their desired public school district and specific school.  I partner with several realtors to assist their clients with school information to help the family not only find the right fit school, but right fit house within their budget.  Unfortunately, more and more I see families having to give a bit on their desired commute time to meet their school and housing goals.

    http://www.seattletimes.com/business/real-estate/million-dollar-homes-on-the-rise-in-seattle-and-the-eastside-how-many-in-your-neighborhood/

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    Charter Schools 101

     

    I will admit that I do not know a lot about Charter Schools and there are currently only eight charter schools operating across Washington State. With Charter Schools and Vouchers in the news both nationally and locally,  I hope you find this information of value. 

    "Most Americans misunderstand charter schools," was the finding of the 2014 PDK/Gallup poll on public attitudes toward education. The survey found broad support for charters, but also revealed that 48 percent of Americans didn't know charter schools were public. Fifty-seven percent thought they charged tuition. And nearly half thought charters were allowed to teach religion.

    The term "charter" refers to the decision by states to turn public education into a two-sector system. One is a traditional school district, centrally managed. The other, charter schools, are independent, not owned by a central school board. Both are public, but they're organized in very different ways. A local school district does not tell charters what kind of curriculum to use, what company to contract for supplies and they may hire and fire teachers without a contract. It also leaves the charters and their oversight committee responsible to make sure all student's needs are met including ESL and special services.

    There are currently 6.900 charter schools across the U.S. They are publicly-funded, privately-run schools with the first one opening in St. Paul, Minn., in 1992. Today, they enroll about 3.1 million students in 43 states.

    Fifteen percent of the nation's 6,900 charters are for-profit.  Depending on the state laws, a charter school can hire a for-profit company to manage its school. In Michigan, 80 percent are for profit, more than any other state.

    Funding for Charter Schools - I had a hard time finding information on the funding of Charter Schools.  The funding appears to vary by state -  with a potential mix of local, state and federal dollars. Each state has its own laws and regulations for distributing that money to districts and individual schools. A major concern is that charter schools will take money away from the already underfunded public schools. 

    Evaluating Charter Schools - In general, they're evaluated based on test scores, graduation rates, finances — the same as traditional public schools. There is a big inconsistency state-to-state in how well that's done. One of the debates is the need for better oversight of charters. Charter supporters don't want a lot of oversight.. When a charter school is not doing well, the state has to step in with most closures occurring due to financial reasons and poor management.  There are numerous incidents of charter schools closing suddenly and disrupting the student's learning. When this occurs, it requires the public schools to admit an entire school and classrooms of students mid-term.  

    Charter Schools and Washington State:

    The Washington State Supreme Court ruled last year that charter schools were unconstitutional in our State.  In Aprli 2016, the state’s charter schools were allowed to continue by a legislative bill that Gov. Jay Inslee allowed to become law without requiring his signature. 

    Currently, eight charter schools serve 1600 students across the state.  With the opening of three more charter schools planned to open the Fall of 2017 - one in South Seattle, one in West Seattle and one in Walla Walla.   A majority of Washington State charter schools serve students of color with reduced-free breakfast and lunch programs.

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    KidsQuest Children's Museum - Now Open!

    The newly expanded interactive children's museum reopened this week.  The completely new KidsQuest museum is now located in downtown Bellevue by the Bellevue Public Library.  It is geared for infants to age 8 with plenty of exhibits to suit all personalities and interests. I stopped by for a quick tour and wish my teens weren't aged out of all this fun! 

    There are many STEM related exhibits plus great art space too.  There is still the very popular and busy play area for kids age 3 and under. Bigger kids can spend a lot of time on the 2 story climbing structure, exploring the outdoor play space appropriately named "Sticks and Stones" and getting wet - as the museum brings some of our Pacific Northwest rain inside with a Water and Splash Zone.

    I love the new Bellevue Mercantile themed store and barnyard play space. Set in the year 1915  - the space brings us back to when the Bellevue area was populated with farms. Try your hand at washing a cow complete with blow dryer, check out what is happening at the chicken coop and gather eggs to sell at the country store. So fun - with lots of make believe opportunities.
     
    Here is their website link for more information and to confirm hours and pricing. The museum also has party rooms, class room space and an art studio. KidsQuest is also now offering several Early Childhood classes with parent & child classes and drop off options. 

    Remember there are other great Children's Museums in and around the Seattle area too:

    Seattle Children's Museum
    Imagine Children's Museum in Everett (North of Seattle)
    Hands On Children's Museum in Olympia (South of Seattle - near the State Capitol)

    Seattle Mama Doc Podcast

    I love podcasts and now enjoy getting stuck in Seattle traffic as it allows me more time to stay current on all my subscriptions.  I just recently discovered the Mama Doc Podcast - a parenting and health podcast hosted by a local Seattle mom and doctor.  Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson is also the Executive Director of Digital Health for Seattle Children’s Hospital and a news reporter for NBC KING5 in Seattle.  You can find this free podcast on ITunes and subscribe to its bimonthly feed. 

    Great topics from teens and e-cigarettes to information about the recent mumps outbreak around several communities to advice on screen time for kids of all ages.  These podcasts vary in time from 5-15 minutes with two of her longer and highly rated episodes on ADHD - offering parenting tips and how to recognize ADHD signs in children. 

    Do you have a favorite podcast?  What about one about Seattle? I'd love to hear about it and add to my podcast list.   

     

    Holiday Fun Around Seattle

    There are so many - almost too many - holiday fun activities around Seattle during the month of December.  I am dedicating this blog to free or low cost activities and sights to celebrate the season.

    Winterfest at the Seattle Center

    Winterfest at Seattle Center is the perfect spot to get into the festive spirit.  A favorite of families with toddlers and young children - enjoy the elaborate train set with village scenes, stay for a performance of local student groups and even catch an ice sculpting demonstration - all free.  All of this takes place inside the warm and dry Amory building and you can make it a real adventure and take a roundtrip ride on the monorail.  A seasonal ice rink is on site and offers ice walkers for new skaters - with skate rentals and a fee for each skating sessions. 

    Downtown Seattle Delights

    Downtown Seattle offers so many choices for you family to celebrate the season besides shopping. 

    A long time tradition for many families is a visit to the Fairmont Hotel's Teddy Bear Suite. Step into this hotel suite (donations encouraged for Seattle Children's Hospital) to find the suite taken over by teddy bears of all shapes and sizes.  Plenty of bears available to hug and even spots to curl up and read one of their teddy bear themed books. The hotel is beautifully decorated and has a giant Christmas tree in the lobby - perfect for a family photo.  

    Stop by the atrium of Pacific Place where it snows nightly along with a laser - Light up the Night - 3D laser show. 

    The Holiday Carousel is ready for riders and is located in Westlake Park. Proceeds benefit Treehouse, a local charity providing foster children school supplies, birthday presents and other important childhood resources.

    Gingerbread and Harry Potter delight at the Seattle Sheraton Hotel. The 24th annual holiday gingerbread display is Harry Potter themed and will make even your teens get into the holiday spirit.  Local architecture firms partner with the hotel bakers to create this over the top tribute to the wizarding world. 

    Bellevue - Shines and Snows

    Not to be outdone by Seattle, Bellevue has become a fun family holiday destination too.  Bundle up and enjoy the nightly Snowflake Lane family show along Bellevue Way.  Be entertained by dancers, drummers, polar bears and reindeer characters along with holiday music, light show and snow! 

    Another part of Bellevue's Magic Season is Family Ice Skating  at  Ashwood Park by the main library. This temporary ice rink hosts "Learn How to Skate" nights and offers skating for the entire family - all with paid admission.

    Holiday Garden Delights

    Swanson's Nursery - Seattle - Not only does this nursery have beautiful pre-cut Christmas trees, garland and plenty of decorations for the tree, they also host two of Santa's reindeer. Stop by an visit and pose for pictures with one of Santa's reindeer resting up for the big night.  See the How the Grinch Stole Christmas themed model train village and you might even get a glimpse at another special visitor - Curley the camel !  Free

    Bellevue Botanical Garden - Garden d'Lights features over half a million tiny colorful lights that transform the Bellevue Botanical Garden into a blossoming nighttime winter wonderland.  Dress warm and wander along the garden paths enjoying this amazing light display and appreciate the 1000's of volunteer hours it takes each year to plan and design.  Pick up a treasure map at the front booth and help your child spot the slug, spider and other light critters hidden throughout the garden. Admittance Fee - Free on select evenings

    Molbaks Poinsettia Festival - Woodinville - For our family, a holiday tradition is a walk through this Woodinville nursery to enjoy everything holiday - trees, decorations, carolers strolling the aisles, Danish kringle samples and, of course, the huge display of poinsettias.  This year there are 22 different varieties of poinsettias from jingle bell rock, classic Christmas beauty to princettia pink and premium ice crystals -plus a 10' tall Christmas tree made entirely of poinsettias - a classic spot for family photo.  Free

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    Lakeside's New Micro School

    Projected to Open Fall 2018

    There has been a lot of talk about Lakeside expanding their school in Seattle. While demand at Lakeside's original campus continues to be high, the school administration is looking at other way to educate students outside of their traditional school and campus.

    I had a very informative phone call with Sue Belcher, Lakeside School's Director of Micro School Research and Development to learn more about this new school model. They refer to their new school as a micro school. Lakeside's micro school will have a different education model, but still keeps to their standards of academic excellence and innovation. 

    The school is slated to open for the 2018-19 school year and will service grades 9-12 with 160 total students = 40 students across each grade.  When the school opens in the Fall of 2018, it will accept only 9th and 10th grade students and (80 students total) grow by a grade each year (adding a new 9th grade class each application year) until reaching capacity and filling out all four grade levels by the 2021-22 school year. 

    They are currently scouting downtown South Seattle locations and access to light rail is a priority. It will not be a campus school, but instead reside in an office building or like structure with a lease secured by winter 2017. The tuition is currently estimated at $17K per year (vs Lakeside's main campus cost of $32K per year).  This cost will make the school more affordable to families looking for a private school and also reflects a no frills school model. They do not anticipate the micro school will pull from the current Lakeside population, but will draw in a new group of students seeking out this style of learning experience at a lower price point.  What is a no frills model? No athletics (students will be able to participate at their local public school), PE classes or art electives.  

    The micro school will integrate the city into the curriculum including required internships. The core curriculum for each grade will be signature to Lakeside and also revolve around a singular learning concept for each grade incorporating history, English and math.  The school will teach wellness and art appreciation with the goal of utilizing the city and neighborhood resources. Spanish language will be the only foreign language option.  They may also utilize the growing online program, Global Online Academy, to add additional course offerings geared toward the independent student.

    I am looking forward to following the development of Lakeside's micro school and will continue to see how other Seattle area schools move forward and introduce new learning models.
     
    It is already application time for independent schools for the 2017-18 school year and I am in the middle of touring many of them.  I have 12 tours scheduled over the next month and I am always happy to talk to families about the Seattle independent school scene. 

     

    Racial diversity and Seattle area schools

    Racially diverse schools and communities are top of mind for many of my client families moving from outside of the Seattle area.  Many families are coming from international schools, large metropolitan areas (like Boston, NYC) and have questions about Seattle area public schools with regards to race and family income. 

    I find many families unfamiliar with Seattle view it as a very homogeneous city and are surprised when they see how diverse many of the schools are with regard to race and income.  I also assist families coming from smaller school districts and city suburbs and their children have not been in a racially diverse school and they have questions about how schools in the Seattle area "look and feel" compared to their current district. 

    Seattle no longer buses students outside of their neighborhood schools and schools reflect the population of the neighborhood. The Eastside (Bellevue, Issaquah, Kirkland) never bussed outside of area and their schools racial make up has changed along with the changing population following the tech industry. 

    Recently, The Seattle Times published this very informative article about race and our public schools andincluded an interactive tool to view your school or target school and look up the diversity index score for any school in King or Snohomish County.

    http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/data/west-seattles-sanislo-elementary-most-racially-diverse-public-school-in-the-state/?utm_source=referral&utm_medium=mobile-app&utm_campaign=ios

    I am available to discuss these statistics and specific schools assisting you in finding the right fit schools for your children.