Coe Elementary School principal David Elliott speaks during the curriculum meeting for the new Queen Anne Elementary School. The new school, located in the former Old Hay building, was to have a Montessori curriculum. But parents have expressed dissent and now a design team is working on alternatives. Elliott has been appointed the new principal of Queen Anne Elementary.
Coe Elementary School principal David Elliott speaks during the curriculum meeting for the new Queen Anne Elementary School. The new school, located in the former Old Hay building, was to have a Montessori curriculum. But parents have expressed dissent and now a design team is working on alternatives. Elliott has been appointed the new principal of Queen Anne Elementary.
Though Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson announced Queen Anne Elementary would have a Montessori program a couple weeks ago-a decision that caught many by surprise-that decision is no longer final.

At a Monday night meeting, the QA Elementary Design Team informed community members and parents that the program for the school could still change. And since Goodloe-Johnson's decision two weeks ago, the Design Team was presented with an entirely new possibility to relay to the community-opening the school next year without a definitive program in place.

The question posed by the design team was: Would you be willing to attend a school in which the curriculum is not designed yet and be willing to be a part of picking and developing that curriculum in the first year?

The school district will also consider Montessori, a language immersion program and other program options, such as an expeditionary or dual-model curriculum, the design team said.

The newest option in the mix, an option curriculum to be determined during the first year of operation, seemed to add to parents' confusion about what QA Elementary will offer, many calling it "unnerving" or too "wishy-washy."

Though the most vocal attendees at Monday's meeting didn't favor Montessori-a couple of parents said they'd be interested if they knew the program was going to be anything but Montessori-many comments and questions centered on not knowing what any of these programs meant. Others pointed out that some of the program options could co-exist and compliment each other, including a Montessori-International option.

"I don't think the options have been fully described to anyone. There needs to be an education process," said Coe parent Peter Duncan. "I don't feel like I have a decision to make. Everything's so up in the air...it makes it very difficult to commit to anything."

To help gauge the community's preference, the design team will be distributing a curriculum survey until Feb. 13. Results will be collected and analyzed in the last two weeks of February to inform the final decision before enrollment applications are due March 31. The QA Elementary open house is March 6.

Current Coe Elementary principal David Elliott, who will move to QA Elementary next school year, also joined the design team to help answer questions from about 50 parents and community members. But there were far too many questions and not enough answers to go around.

Even though Elliott doesn't know what kind of school he plans to lead, his leadership seems to be lending the new school credibility and may be a key factor in drawing QA and Magnolia parents to the school, even while it has no decisive curriculum.

Though he would prefer something more clearly defined, Coe parent Eric Sanderson said he has a lot of faith in Elliott's capabilities. Other parents expressed similar excitement about Elliott, noting they would likely not consider the school under a different principal.

As for the open-ended curriculum option, Elliott said, "I wake up in a cold sweat thinking, 'Is there any possibility that this is going to work? While it excites me tremendously I also think it would be terrifying to have a child in this situation and have to make the decision."

If the survey comes back and not enough parents are willing to take the chance on QA Elementary without a predetermined program, the district will lay out concrete options to choose from-though what those might be isn't entirely certain either.

Apart from questions about program options, parents questioned how QA Elementary will succeed at relieving capacity in the QA/Magnolia cluster if no geographical preference is given since the option school is by definition an all-city draw. The first year's enrollment will be based purely on a lottery system, with the second year of enrollment based on sibling, geography and lottery tiebreakers.

Transportation to QA Elementary, however, will be provided only to students within the McClure reference area. QA Elementary will open with six classrooms and its student population is projected to grow to 350 students within the first five years.

The design team plans to take all the questions to the district and disperse information to the community as it comes. As answers are discovered, the design team will post them to its jargon group, groups.google.com/group/QAElementary. The design team also encourages residents to send questions, comments and concerns to them directly, rather than to the district, at QAElementary@googlegroups.com.