Middle school students walk in hallway toward school doors

This communication was sent to most impacted families first — rising middle and current middle school families and staff. It will be shared with all BSD families through the BSD News and Events e-newsletter.

Dear Bellevue School District Community:

Exciting and innovative things are happening in the Bellevue School District. Our schools continue to rank among the best in the nation. And our students continue to demonstrate such incredible character and determination and perform at inspiring levels in academics, athletics, technology, music, the arts and more.

As I look to the future of a district thriving and innovating, one of my most important responsibilities as superintendent right now is to ensure expert and efficient management of our resources so that we can continue to provide the opportunities and supports that our students deserve.

The Challenge We’re Facing

Enrollment is declining in Bellevue, with declining birth rates as the key driver. This is true not just in Bellevue but in King County and across the state. As a result, with elementary schools dropping from highs of 600 students to between 300 and 400 students, we consolidated two elementary schools in the 2022-2023 school year. These smaller cohorts are now entering middle school. This year, we have over 1,900 empty seats at the middle school level; we’re at about 66% capacity this year, which means that our middle schools are only 2/3 full. As this trend continues, in 5 years, we’re expecting to go up to 2,700 empty seats at the middle school level, putting us at 55% capacity (just a little over half full). If not addressed, this will translate into fewer course offerings, clubs, and activities, reduced student supports such as counseling and academic intervention, and greater resource strain at the elementary and high school levels. The data tables below show how birth rates within the Bellevue School District boundaries have steadily declined over the past 10 years as have the birth rates in King County and across Washington state.

Alternative text: Line graph of Bellevue SD Birth Rates showing downward trend 2014-2022.
Alternative text: Line graph of King County Birth Rates showing downward trend 2016-2022.
Alternative text: Line graph of WA State Birth Rates showing downward trend 2016-2022.

The Community Engagement Plan, Timeline and Communications Plan

Built on feedback from our community and a shared commitment by myself and the school board, we are making significant changes to the process to study potential middle school consolidation compared to last year. Details can be found on our Middle School Consolidation Study webpages, but here are the key enhancements for this year’s process (solidified at a school board study session on Sept. 21, 2023):

An Improved Community Engagement Process

We are committed to “radical inclusion” of our community throughout the process. We are forming a 2023-24 Superintendent Community Advisory Council — a team of diverse community members (students, staff, families, community members) that will drive the middle school consolidation study process and ensure we are following through with our commitments to the community. We will host community forums at each middle school where all are invited with translation support; we will improve how we structure these meetings to enhance our ability to hear each other’s perspectives. In addition, we will schedule targeted, equitable outreach — in collaboration with community partners — to smaller groups of families, students, and staff whose programs are impacted or who are part of a group that has been historically marginalized or underserved in our education system. There will be opportunities for our community to give feedback through other means such as surveys and by email ([email protected]). These changes are part of our broader district initiative launched this year to strengthen equitable decision-making processes district-wide.

A Clearer, Extended Timeline

We are committed to communicating a timeline for this process that is both longer in duration than last year and mapped out from the very beginning. The timeline emphasizes community engagement, building in community input at the beginning to articulate our priorities and then again after a formal recommendation is shared with the community.

Improved Communications

We are committed to improving communication throughout this process. We have a designated website that holds the timeline, updates, opportunities to give input, and the sharing back of the input and feedback we are hearing from our community. Based on feedback, we will be sharing two demographer reports which will be posted to the website as well by October 20. We will have updates twice a month that will go out through the BSD News and Events e-newsletter and be posted to the district website in case you need to go back and find it. We will also send additional communication through school communication channels.

One Proposal v. Multiple

The final adjustment this year based on feedback from last year is that once we engage with the community in the first round of engagement, I will present the community with a single proposal regarding consolidation developed from community input on which the community will be asked to give feedback. Last year, we had multiple schools that were under consideration for consolidation, which many felt led to unintended competition between schools.

Final Thoughts

On Thursday, October 12, we will be sharing dates for community engagement. Then, by October 20, we will be sharing results from two different demographers.

Although I fully anticipate there will be challenging conversations ahead this year, I also know that we are a strong community who ultimately cares for our students above everything else and will be able to work through this together. Once we go through the tough work to “right size” our schools to match our new enrollment reality, we will be poised to continue to offer the very best for our kids now and into the next decade.

Thank you for leaning in and engaging in the challenges with me. Thank you in advance for your participation in the strengthening of our overall system. I cherish the support you all extend to your children’s schools and to our school district, and I look forward to leading well with you.

If you have questions about middle school consolidation, please email [email protected] or visit our Middle School Consolidation Study website.


Dr. Kelly Aramaki, Superintendent

The Bellevue School District acknowledges that we learn, work, live and gather on the Indigenous Land of the Coast Salish peoples, specifically the Duwamish and Snoqualmie Tribes. We thank these caretakers of this land, who have lived and continue to live here, since time immemorial.