Initial Assessment and Recommendations
February 1997
Prepared Under a Grant from the State of Washington administered by Washington State's Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development for the:

City of Burien, Washington
City of Des Moines, Washington
City of Federal Way, Washington
City of Normandy Park, Washington
Highline School District
Highline Community Hospital

Prepared by:
Helmuth, Obata + Kassabaum, Inc. - Dallas, Texas
Raytheon Infrastructure Services, Inc. - Denver and Philadelphia

In Association With:
Thomas/Lane & Associates, Inc. - Seattle, Washington
Michael J. McCormick, AICP - Olympia, Washington

Originally converted to HTML without change by RCAA volunteers for
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Section 9


The Third Runway and related Airport facilities will impact Highline School District's public schools in numerous ways. Environmental and transportation impacts during construction will include the movement of construction vehicles over the road system contained within the District, and will likely affect the movement, scheduling and possibly safety of school busses. After construction, environmental Impacts will mainly 6e generated by noise from the growth of aircraft operations associated with the Third Runway and related Airport facilities which allow Sea-Tac International Airport to exceed its ASV of 380,000 operations.

The impacts of noise on the ability of teachers to teach and students to learn is documented in a variety. of ways. A Highline School District study of noise impacts on classroom performance was conducted at Sunset junior High School, located about six blocks from the end of one of Sea-Tac International Airport's runways, in 1973 (Aircraft Noise Study.- Remedial Construction/Schools, Highline School District, 1973). Four classrooms were selected, two adjacent rooms on the junior high school's first floor and two on its second floor, where each of the classrooms was estimated to experience five or more minutes of high level aircraft noise per 50-minute classroom period. One of the first floor rooms and one of the second classrooms was insulated while the other two roams were not. Students in all four classrooms were given a math test which evaluated their "concentration and attention-to-task." As shown in Table 9.12, the test scores of students in the insulated classrooms where aircraft noise had been attenuated appear to be significantly higher than the scores of students in the non insulated classrooms. (The measured statistical significance of the difference in test scores between the insulated and non-insulated classrooms was not reported.)

TABLE 9.12
Math Test Scores of Students in Insulated and Non-Insulated Classrooms


First-floor classrooms75.664.2
Second-floor classrooms75.957.6

Additional information on the importance of attenuating aircraft noise for learning comes from the experience of classroom teachers. The Highline News recently reported a teacher at Cedarhurst Elementary School as follows (Steffens, "No Peace for Students", 23 October 1996):

"I just stop class completely when there's a plane going over. Students just stop themselves and took at me and wait until the [aircraft] noise is gone."

A Seattle Times supplement designed to be "a comprehensive guide to public and private high schools in the greater Seattle area" contained the following statement as part of its evaluation of the Highline School District ("Guide to High Schools". 20 November 1996):

"A Perennial challenge to the District has been its proximity to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Some classrooms lie directly beneath the flight path of roaring jets, which disrupts classes, assemblies and outdoor physical education.... Now, with plans for the Third Runway in .the works, school officials worry about the problems worsening."

As discussed previously, the growth of operations at Sea-Tac International Airport after its 380,000 ASV capacity has been reached around the Year 2000, will mean that the value of residential properties surrounding the Airport will not appreciate as fast as they otherwise would have. The market adjustment to such a relative decline in residential prop" values will be an alteration in land uses away from owner occupied homes toward renter occupied homes. Since renters have a profile that is younger, more mobile and lower income than owners, a higher proportion of students attending District schools will require enhanced educational services if the District is to maintain the educational outputs (graduation levels, Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS) scores, SAT scores, college admission rates) that it achieved in the Past.

Whether measured by student test score, educational attainment, or post-school earnings, a wide spread professional consensus exists that the educational attainment of parents, the existence of single parent-headed households, female labor force participation, child poverty,, and low household income are important influences on the quality of student outcome (Hanushek, 1996). Consequently, if the District is to maintain its historic quality of educational; outcomes, it will have to compensate for the demographic changes associated Mth increased renter-occupied housing by providing additional resources per student.

At the same time, the Highline School District will find itself under increased financial pressure as a result of construction of the Third Runway and related Airport facilities. Under Washington State law, State resources are distributed through funding formulas that, when combined with local and Federal resources, equalize educational opportunities throughout the State. Local property tax levies to support schools are determined by local School District needs and the resulting tax rates are submitted for approval to local District voters. The relative reduction in residential property values caused by the Third Runway and related Airport facilities will mean that higher tax rates will be required to generate the same level of resources; and the higher the rates, the more difficulty the District will have in obtaining voter approval.

Thus, at the same time the District's shifting demographic profile will require additional resources to prevent education outcomes from falling, declining relative property values will make it increasingly difficult to obtain voter approval for needed revenues. Both sides of the interaction between District needs for additional resources and voter resistance to approving school levies are traceable to the expansion of aircraft operations at Sea-Tac International Airport made possible by the Third Runway and related Airport facilities, and constitute the socioeconomic impacts investigated in this section.

Impacts on School Age Children Living Under the Third Runway's
Approach/Departure Flight Tract

The Third Runway will be to the west of Sea-Tac International Airport's existing 16R/34L runway. The school children most affected consequently will live in areas served by the following elementary schools:

Beverly Park at Glendale
Des Moines
North Hill
Southern Heights

The characteristics of-students attending these schools are shown in Table 9.13. All of the Third Runway impacted elementary schools had a higher percentage of non-white students in 1993 than the District average, but they had few other similarities. Three of the seven schools (North Hill, Southern Heights, and Olympic) had a higher percentage of students enrolled in special education classes/programs. Three (Beverly Park, North Hill and Olympic) had a larger percentage enrolled in ESL classes. Four (Beverly Park. Sunnydale, Cedarhurst and Olympic) had a larger percentage than the District average receiving free/reduced cost lunches; but only two (Cedarhurst and Beverly Hills) were below the District average percent of students living in two-parent households.

In terms of their fourth grade Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS) test scores compared to the entire District, the six impacted schools were mixed in their relative standings. (North Hill Elementary only has grades K through 3, and consequently does not report CTBS scores.) Beverly Park and Cedarhurst both had scores below the District average in all three test components: reading, math and language. Des Moines had test scores above the District average in all three test components. The remaining three elementary schools were above the District average in at least one of the components and below it in at least another.

In summary, children living in the elementary school service areas immediately west of Sea-Tac International Airport's existing boundaries will be the group most directly impacted by the westerly shift of the' Airport's approach/departure flight tracks that results from construction of the Third Runway and related Airport facilities. As property values in these areas exhibit a relative decline caused by the growth of Airport operations and at increasing number of single-family residences shift from owner occupancy to renter occupancy, the number of students amying at school with educational deficits will likely rise. To maintain the quality of educational outcome in the District, classrooms and curriculum will have to be enriched.

Highline High School lies immediately to the west of Sea-Tac International Airport's existing boundaries and it also will be significantly impacted by the Third Runway.

TABLE 9.13
Student Characteristics at Third Runway Impacted Elementary Schools

With Two

District Average 1990/1991 N/A N/A N/A 27.0% 65.0%
1993 21.3% 8.9% 4.1% 35.0% 57.0%
Cedarhurst 1990/1991 27.4% 8.0% 9.0% 21.0% 70.0%
Cedarhurst 1993 37.3% 7.0% 10.0% 39.0% 56.0%
Beverly Park 1990/1991 18.1% 10.0% 0.0% 28.0% 53.0%
Beverly Park 1993 26.4% 8.0% 0.0% 44.0% 51.0%
Des Moines 1990/1991 24.6% 5.0% 8.0% 23.0% 69.0%
Des Moines 1993 24.5% 2.0% 0.0% 24.0% 58.0%
North Hill 1990/1991 23.4% 9.0% 16.0% 27.0% 70.0%
North Hill 1993 23.1% 10.0% 12.0% 34.0% 68.0%
Olympic 1990/1991 31.5% 14.0% 20.0% 40.0% 73.0%
Olympic 1993 28.4% 30.0% 16.0% 51.0% 64.0%
Southern Heights 1990 22.2% 7.0% 0.0% 27.0% 71.0%
Southern Heights (1991) 1993 24.4% 13.0% 0.0% 31.0% 63.0%
Sunnydale 1990 14.7% 3.0% 0.0% 19.0% 54.0%
Sunnydale (1991) 1993 33.5% 3.0% 0.0% 43.0% 61.0%

(1) 1990 data = percent non-white, percent with free/reduced lunch, percent living with two parents. 1991 data = percent special education classes/programs, percent in ESL classes
(2) North Hill has grades K-3 only; Olympic has grades 4-6.
Source: Highline School District, 1993-94.

TABLE 9.14
Student Characteristics at Highline High School

Student Characteristic
High School

Non-white students25.8 %21.3 %
Special education/program students 6.0%8.9 %
ESL students 6.0 %4.1 %
Free/reduced lunch students17.0 % %35.0%
Living with two parents students54.0% 57.0 %

Source: Highline School District, 1993-94.

Importance of Elementary School Impacted Children

The seven elementary schools which will be most impacted by the Third Runway had a combined enrollment in 1993 of 2,807 students, and represented almost one-third (29.5%) of the District's total elementary school enrolled children. Students from Des Moines and Olympic elementary schools matriculate to Pacific Middle School and go on to Rainier High School. Students at Sunnydale and Cedarhurst elementary schools matriculate to Sylvester Middle School and than go on to Highline High School. Students from Beverly Park and Southern Heights elementary schools matriculate to Cascade Middle School and than to Evergreen High School.

Thus, the socio-economic impact of the Third Runway on the demographic profile of enrolled students in elementary schools immediately to the west of the Airport's current boundary will be spread from the seven directly impacted schools to the entire District school system. (Only Chinook Middle School and Tyee High School, both located on the east side of the Airport, will likely not be affected by induced demographic shift attributable to the Third Runway and related Airport facilities.)

Effect of Increased Operations on School Children

The educational performance of children attending school in the Highline School District will be affected by the Third Runway and related Airport facilities in different ways, These include demographic factors, economic factors and psychological factors. None of these factors was considered in the Port of Seattle's Master Plan Update EIS, as a result the information available about these factors only allows for informed speculation and analysis-based judgments about likely impacts. Additional research should be conducted on each of these factors to determine its statistical significance and magnitude.

Demographic Factors. Demographic factors have already been discussed as an outcome of the land use changes resulting from the growth of operations after the Year 2000 when the Third Runway and related Airport facilities become operational. The increased proportion of rental housing units in the District will produce a resident population that is younger, more, mobile and lower income than today's. Given the established correlation between income and educational attainment, it also is likely that the District's future population will have attained lower educational levels than today's population if the Third Runway and related Airport facilities are built.

Economic Factors. Economic factors adversely impacting the Highline School District will primarily be the reduction in residential property values that will require higher special levy rates. For example, the District's most recent special levy rate was 3.015 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Each million dollars of residential property therefore generates $3,015 of special levy revenue. Assume property values in equivalent areas in King County increase at a rate of 1% per year on average but as a result of increased Sea-Tac International Airport operation property values in the District's residential housing stock increase at only two-thirds of a percent per year. The results of this example are shown in Table 9.15 and Figure 9.07.

TABLE 9.15
Illustrative Impact of Airport on Highline School District Revenues

YearProperty Assessments
Without Airport
(assumed 1.005 per year
property value growth)
Property Assessments
With Airport
(assumed 0.67% per year
property value growth)

1995 $1,000,000 $1,000,000
2000 $1,051,010 $1,033,781
2005 $1,104,622 $1,068,703
2010 $1,160,969 $1,104,804
2015 $1,220,190 $1,142,125
2020 $1,282,432 $1,180,707

In the above illustrative example, the decline in residential property values between 1995 and the Year 2000 are attributed to a growth of enplanements within the Airport's existing ASV capacity limit. The relative property value declines after the Year 2000, however, are attributed to construction of the Third Runway and related Airport facilities. In the illustrative example, the School District would have had to increase its levy rate in 2020 from $3.015 to $3.275 per $1,000 of assessed residential property value to equalize the two revenue streams.

Local home owners faced with a relative decline in the value of their property would be asked to approve higher special school levy rates than would otherwise be necessary, and the ability of the District to get voter approval would almost certainly become more difficult. At the same time, the District would be faced with a need to increase expenditures per student in order to maintain the quality of its educational outcomes, it would face growing voter resistance to raising levy rates.

The resulting financial squeeze will be a major economic impact on the School District that results from construction of the Third Runway and related Airport facilities.

The calculation of probable, rather than illustrative, economic impacts on the School District requires a research effort not possible within the resources available under the current Sea-Tac International Airport Impact Mitigation Study. The illustrative differential of one-third of a percent per year in the growth of residential property values with and without the Third Runway appears low on the basis of the property value finding reported previously, and the entire topic of economic impacts of the Third Runway and related Airport facilities on the School District (a topic which was not addressed at all in the EIS) needs additional research.

Psychological Factors. Psychological factors impacting the School District's children as a result of the Third Runway could come from several sources. The interruption of classroom teaching by aircraft noise could increase stress on students in affected classrooms. Also, student learning could be impaired in affected west-side elementary schools; and after matriculating to the middle schools in the District these students may suffer the psychological stress associated with an Inability to educationally perform with grade-level peers. Additional psychological impacts may be the consequence of living in neighborhoods where household turnover is high and interpersonal relationships are unstable; or from living in households with only one parent and/or which is under severe economic and financial pressure,

The current study was not able to investigate the psychological factors, but the association of such factors with the types of demographic shifts that will be accentuated by construction of the Third Runway and related Airport facilities is highly probable and warrants further research and analysis.

The Need for Additional School Services/Facilities

The noise impacts on the seven elementary schools and high school immediately to the west of Sea-Tac International Airport caused by the increase in approaching/departing aircraft after the Year, 2000, and which are attributable to the Third Runway, related Airport facilities, and expansion of the Airport's ASV capacity, will require remodeling, rebuilding, or other structural alterations.

The mitigation of the Third Runway impacts are over and above the structural requirements needed to attenuate noise at such schools as Hilltop, Riverton Heights, Midway and Parkside Elementary Schools, Pacific Middle School and Mount Rainier High School that were caused by the second runway and have still not been fully addressed (Highline School District, November, 1992; and Heigh, 24 August 1994). These noise induced structural impacts are analyzed and their mitigation requirements presented in the environmental part of this Sea-Tac International Airport Impact Mitigation Study.

The optimum methods of enriching the classroom learning experience as a way to mitigate the District's demographic shift caused by the Increase in approaching/departing aircraft after the Year 2000 attributable to the Third Runway, related Airport facilities, and expansion of the Airport's ASV capacity will require additional analysis. Quantitative research needs to be conducted on the affects of the population's shifting demographic profile on students' classroom performance. After which. appropriate mitigation policies need to be formulated by educational professionals within the District. Some of these policies will likely include reduced student/teacher ratios, increased teacher support staff in classrooms, creation of enriched curricula, and use of additional teaching materials. Regardless of which or how many of these types of mitigated actions will be determined to be appropriate for maintaining the Highline School District's traditional quality of education outcomes, it is evident that the District will require additional resources to mitigate the socioeconomic impacts of the Third Runway and related Airport facilities.

Go to Sections 9.12 - 9.15