Dear Bellevue School District Community,
What an amazing start to the 2023-24 school year. On the first day of school, I hopped on the school bus to pick up students near Crossroads and drop them off at Stevenson Elementary. I ate breakfast with students, including one who was so excited to show me her brand-new Little Mermaid backpack. Stevenson (along with Lake Hills and Sherwood Forest) is able to provide free breakfast and lunch for every student for the next three years thanks to new state funding rules. After breakfast, I walked over to Odle Middle School and tried my best to help a group of 6th graders open their lockers for the first time. It was a wonderful first day of school as the superintendent. And, looking at pictures from all the other schools and seeing the bubbles, red carpets, pompoms, bands, mascots, parent volunteers, I hope your kids had an amazing first day (and first week) of school as well!
The Best Schools in the Nation
If you are new to the Bellevue School District, I want to extend a special welcome to you. We are so happy to have you joining our district family. Those who already have kids here know this — you are a part of a public school system with a legacy of educational excellence that has the best schools not just in Washington State but in the nation. In the latest US News and World Report high school ranking, every one of our high schools is ranked in the top 4% in the state, top 7% in the nation, earning the designation: US News Best High Schools. This honor reflects the hard work and determination of our students, the excellence of our teachers, the system-wide excellence of our staff, and the unwavering support from our families and community.
Supporting Student Mental Health and Wellness
A key aspect of the excellence of the Bellevue School District is our commitment to the flourishing of the whole child. With Mental Health Assistance Team (MHAT) specialists providing on-site support at every secondary school — two at each comprehensive high school and one at each choice school and middle school — we are continuing to expand our MHAT staffing at the elementary level. This is on top at least one counselor already at every school. We also have amazing partnerships with community providers such as Youth Eastside Services. Knowing that we still have growing needs for mental health services, this year, we are kicking off a partnership with Care Solace to provide free mental health coordination for students, staff, and their families. At no cost to you, Care Solace will quickly and confidentially find available mental health and substance use providers matched to your needs.
A District that Innovates
BSD has one of the most innovative approaches to mental health supports for students. But innovation does not stop there. This year and in the years to come, innovation will be a hallmark of our district. This fall, we launched the state’s first public Arabic Language Program at Ardmore Elementary at grades K, 1 and 2. We also launched Arabic as a language offering for our secondary students through Bellevue Digital Discovery (now a K–12 state-wide online learning provider!). We have 80+ kids from every middle and high school going into school libraries during a specific class period, putting on headphones, overlaying an Arabic keyboard on their laptop, and taking Arabic as a language online with a BSD teacher and classmates from around the district. Building on the strength of our current language offerings, Arabic is the first of the new languages that we are hoping to bring to Bellevue over the next few years that reflect and honor the vast diversity of our community.
Our Special Education Assistive Technology Specialists are bringing the latest technological innovations to our students with disabilities to enhance student ability to communicate and be “creators of their future world.” We are starting innovative high school courses every year based on student interests, including aviation, astronomy, culinary arts and bio tech at Sammamish High School. And we are opening a district-wide Robotics Center (with a Stemnasium) this October in partnership with the Bellevue Schools Foundation and the Bellevue Alliance to support robotics and STEM education. Bottom line — our job as a district is to continue to innovate and stay future-focused to set the right conditions for our students to get inspired, explore career opportunities of the future, and build on their dreams, passions and talents.
My Commitment to This District
In my first year as the superintendent here in Bellevue, I want the Bellevue community to know that I am personally and deeply invested in the thriving of our community and kids. The Bellevue School District was instrumental in nurturing me and my family going on five generations and giving us the opportunity to flourish (watch my story as shared on King 5 and KUOW). My commitment to you is to provide that same opportunity and support for every single child and every single family here in the Bellevue School District.
Thank you all for YOUR support of our amazing schools and school district. I’m looking forward to a great year ahead together.
Dr. Kelly Aramaki
Have a question, idea, concern, or suggestion? Contact me: email@example.com
Q&A with the Superintendent
The following are answers to frequently asked questions from the community.
Q: Why don’t we offer more DISTRICT TRANSPORTATION for our secondary choice schools and high schools?
A: Bellevue has long partnered with Metro Transit to provide transportation to and from high schools and choice schools. Where there are no Metro options, we offer district transportation. The challenge post-pandemic has been two-fold: Metro Transit cut a number of routes during COVID due to driver shortages and low ridership and is slowly rebuilding, and we have also struggled with driver shortages. We are currently 12 bus drivers short. Fortunately, we can cover all elementary and middle school routes but may experience service disruptions if bus drivers get sick. If you still need support with coordinating transportation for your child, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Even if we cannot offer exactly what you want, our transportation department always prioritizes service and support and will do what we can with the resources available.
Q: Why does WINTER BREAK start on a Wednesday this year?
A: The district calendar is created in partnership with the Bellevue Education Association as a legally required negotiation topic. Together, we consider a number of factors, including cultural calendar events, community and family travel patterns (including the fact that many of our families travel oversees during the summer), etc. For the next three years, the following factors impact our calendar: (1) starting school right after Labor Day to minimize student absences due to summer travel, (2) ending by June 18 so we aren’t going too late into the summer, (3) maintaining winter, mid-winter, and spring breaks, and (4) maintaining October and March professional development days for teachers. Due to these factors, winter break had to be shortened by two days.
Q: What’s next for addressing our ENROLLMENT DECLINE particularly at middle school?
A: Although the trend may not be evident in every school, enrollment in Bellevue is declining, primarily due to declining birth rates regionally and high housing costs. To illustrate, each grade level at high school has about 1,600 students districtwide (E.g., 1,600 students in 9th grade, 1,600 students in 10th grade, etc.). Each grade level at middle school has about 1,400 students. Each grade level at elementary school has about 1,100-1,200 students; our current kindergarten has just over 1,100 students which aligns with our declining enrollment trends. Having right-sized the number of elementary schools this past year to accommodate these lower numbers, there will be a school board study session after the board meeting on September 21 to discuss the community engagement process and timeline to study middle school enrollment and potential middle school consolidation. We will also be asking for community members (students, staff, families) to serve on the Superintendent Community Advisory Council to advise on middle school enrollment and potential consolidation. By the end of September, we are aiming to post two demographer studies of our middle school enrollment as well as the ways in which we will engage our community in the process. More information will be coming out in the upcoming weeks. Learn more on the Middle School Enrollment and Potential Consolidation webpage.