Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Assignment Plan: Looking for Ideas/Thoughts

Okay, so by my reckoning the District is likely to start community meetings for the new Assignment plan by January/Feb/March. (They need it - finished - by October/November next year to use it for starting enrollment in Jan. 2009.) One thing to fight for is community meetings that are NOT all in one week and NOT all during the week. It needs to be drawn out, over several weeks or a couple of months, to give the most people the awareness of them and the ability to get to them. (When closure and consolidation did Saturday meetings they were well-attended and it speaks to the fact that not all parents have the energy or time to go on a weeknight.)

So, thinking about it here are some of the major problems (that mostly would be there whether we have a choice system or a more neighborhood system);

Boundaries: likely to be THE number one issue (after the ever-present equity issue but that's more problematic). How do we figure out how to draw these? For example, looking at a map with the middle schools, it seems to me to make sense to draw them vertically (silo-like) in the north end (everything east of 65th goes to Eckstein), every school east of Greenwood goes to Hamilton and everything west of Greenwood goes to Whitman. However, it makes less sense to do that south of the ship canal, so we perhaps go horizontal there.

The major problem with boundaries is capacity. Even the district has a hard time figuring this one out. The problem is programs. Some programs need more space and thereby reduce regular class capacity. So it would make sense for the academic side to figure out what programs go where (or stay where they are or move to serve a larger group of students or are installed because of lack of availability in an area). That would give a clearer capacity number. Then, you draw the boundaries.

Also, for popular schools, you create a cap. I don't want to hear how many kids were crammed into Eckstein in the '70s or that we can just drag more portables in. It doesn't serve anyone - kids, teachers or staff - when resources are stretched (because the district isn't going to offer more to a larger school - their projected high school size of 1000-1600 doesn't offer the 1600+ school more). Whitman has been quietly pulling back on its size so it can be done.

Also, once you determine program placement and sizes for each school, is that enough for each area created? Whether its elementary or middle or high, do we have enough capacity for the number of students in each area? The district has got to answer that question as well. Area is key because right now, we have enough capacity for high school but it's really on paper because Magnolia/Queen Anne doesn't have enough and the SE does.

And, if an elementary cluster has enough but one reference school has more kids than it can support, what do you tell those parents? First choice at any other school in the cluster (which might displace other reference kids) ?

Then there's tiebreakers. Is the district going to try a socio-economic one? That's legal and might help retain some diversity. Where would it figure in the line-up order?

Breaking it down, you have elementary, middle and high school enrollment. I believe they may be retaining the reference school to cluster to region to all-city draw methodology but don't quote me. This, of course, doesn't mean every level because, for example, high school is currently all-city draw.

Elementary is the least problematic and there are good elementaries in every region. That said, there are programs people want like John Stanford. It's quite an anomaly because it is definitely a speciality program and yet it functions as a neighborhood school. However, TOPS, another speciality program, is classified as alternative and an all-city draw and yet its neighborhood, Eastlake , didn't get the preference as a neighborhood school. The rule should be one or another. Every neighborhood HAS to have a reference elementary school (except maybe downtown - the district isn't interested at this time and that's another story).

One caveat; demographics. The district hasn't got a stellar record at its projections. (It said the SE would have more kids coming in and that didn't happen. That said, they have many students in that area either not enrolling or enrolling to schools in the north.). But, according to the latest data, the elementary populations are growing in the North/NE. Is there space in most of the schools? No, in the NE just at Northgate, Olympic Hills and Rogers. But that does no good if the kids live in other northern neighborhoods. (Elementary is where most people want their kids close to them.)

There was an opportunity to address this and, oddly, the district even says this but staff didn't recommend it to the Board very strongly. According to the district, it's suggested that each BEX contain elementary/middle/high school to either keep up on rundown schools OR solve a problem like capacity (meaning, rebuilding a school to a larger size). But this last BEX; only middle and high schools. So there's this North elementary capacity problem going to happen in the next 3-5 years (during which an elementary like, say, Laurelhurst or Wedgwood or McGilvra, could have been rebuilt to help the problem) but that's not going to happen. There's always reopening Sandpoint but it's not in a really great condition but we can make do if it's all we have.

Well, at least by the time those elementary kids get to high school, Hale and Roosevelt will be newish and Ingraham will be brand-newish.

For middle and high school the equity issues loom large. There are clearly better (and by perception, safer) middle and high schools. The SE initiative is getting underway but it would take at least 2 years to see progress. I can't see telling these families that they are stuck where they are in terms of school choice.

Middle school. Sigh, the black hole. I am disturbed to see the district is saying a middle school should be 900-1000 which flies in the face of rational thought. One, it's a tender yet volatile age and very troubling for parents. That's a big size for that age. I can't see where say, a 600-800 kid school couldn't have the volume to offer enough offerings to please parents and kids. I get where a K-8 of 500 or less has that problem but not a 600-800 middle school. And yet, that's the size they are putting forth. Two, parents seem to want a smaller size school but I don't see it in the district's thinking. If this matters to you, act now, get a group of parents together and fight for it. Otherwise, no crying about large middle schools.

High School. I think this situation is improving but Cleveland and Rainier Beach are problematic. I think that many people, but not necessarily the neighborhood, would have felt progress would have been made more quickly (or dramatically) had TAF been allowed into RBHS. I wish the whole thing had been handled better but again, that's water under the bridge.
What I think I hear from the district is assigning a high school where each high school have some number of "open choice" seats. How many? Unknown. What about transportation (that is one reason to change the assignment plan to pull back on transportation and its costs)? I would prefer that it happen only at high schools with speciality programs. One, because it seems less complicated. Two, because it seems fairer. You would have kids trying to get into a school because of an interest in a specific program that school has (IB or biotech) rather than just trying to get in. Or, in the case of the jazz bands at Roosevelt/Garfield, an open audition selection process (that's what happens if you are in the school, you have to audition).

You also have the problem of Queen Anne/Magnolia area and no high school. You can't continue to have people clawing to get into Ballard, Center School is fighting to be an all-city draw without the use of the distance tiebreaker (they want more diversity) and where can we locate a comprehensive high school? It has to be solved.

Alternatives. Very problematic for two reasons. One, the transportation costs are unreal (especially for Summit and AS I and AAA, all-city draws). It would make sense to make all alternatives regional except Summit. They would have to survive or not on their region. BUT, the second problem is that these aren't cookie-cutter schools. They all have been designed with specific focuses. So how fair is it to say you can only go to the alternative in your region? (But it's better than no alternatives at all.) And three, location. The SW only has one K-8 and one alternative (rolled into one) in Pathfinder. Is that fair to that region when the NE has more? And speaking of...

K-8's. Many people like the idea of K-8 but how many do we need? Many are alternatives. Is that enough or do we need more K-8s like Blaine or Madrona?

I wish the district would resist the pressure to change the plan now. I think some of it is self-driven - they want to save money on transportation. But it would certainly make sense to wait and see how closures play out as well as the SE initiative.

Feedback?

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Community meetings regarding the assignment plan are not starting, they are continuing from last spring. There have been four meetings this fall. You can suggest a Saturday meeting at the new assignment plan web site. http://www.seattleschools.org/area/newassign/index.html.

Also in regards to timing: As per the supers latest plan, beginning in Sept 2009, the assignment plan only implements "Designated grade levels of students….based on new assignment plan" and then “Continued work toward full implementation" will begin. Which I read as 2010 for full implementation. Personally, I think this gives the district plenty of time as the known issues have clearly been put out on the table now for sometime now. As one of the Magnolia parents who has attended many community meetings and now is getting ready to tour many highschools and then claw our way into Ballard I can tell you we are all very very tired!

98112 said...

Are they still planning to do High School first? Is that what "designated grade levels" is all about? Or are the grade levels now open to discussion too?

As the mother of an '09 Kindergartner, equidistant between 3 different elementary schools, I'm getting very nervous about the amout of uncertaintly here...

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think they should do elementary first and I believe they know that because it's the logical place to start. That's where the increases are likely to occur (at least in the north) and it would set into motion possible feeder patterns.

The first writer is correct about meetings already occurring. I meant meetings with a real plan, tentative boundaries, etc.

Charlie Mas said...

There hasn't been anything new from the District to discuss for some time and we aren't likely to see anything new from the District until January or February.

Without hearing anything from the District, it's a bit like tennis for one. You can send in comments and ideas, but there is no response, no interaction or engagement outside of a meeting.

Anonymous said...

More K-8 schools would be good. The APP community has been calling for a K-8 alternative (to unload Washington Middle School without breaking up the program) for years now.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I am a bit surprised that more people (given some of the passionate responses in the past) haven't given any ideas or opinions.

The District is going to come to the table with a plan and it will likely have few variations. I just thought it would be good to hash out ideas/solutions that get to the Super and new Board BEFORE any plan is presented.

It is fine to wait for community meetings but experiences says that's late to be starting discussions.

Charlie Mas said...

It is very possible, in fact likely, that members of the public HAVE been sending in ideas and opinions using the email address for that purpose. We just can't tell.

And if you have sent anything to that email address, as I have, it was a pretty dissatisfying and discouraging experience. Your message goes into the ether and you have no sense that it landed anywhere. You get a sort of generic automated (I HOPE it's automated) response.

The thing about sharing ideas is that it requires feedback. You don't know if you idea was accepted or rejected. You don't know if it needs to be changed a little bit so it can work and you don't know if the people on the other end are able to see the small modification that will make it work.

Without the feedback, it is nearly inhuman to continue to submit ideas. Submit too many ideas, and it is difficult - even for me - not to feel like a crank who should be ignored.

When it comes to student assignment, there aren't many small ideas - they are mostly big ones. For example, the suggestion that TOPS be re-defined as a reference area neighborhood school. That's a big deal because it has repurcussions and consequences for Montlake, Stevens, TT Minor and Lowell, not to mention the range and depth of alternative school choices for students in that part of the city.

Any idea about school assignment would have a domino effect and require all sorts of changes in ever-widening circles.

Here's an example:
An APP 1-8, such as the one mentioned in the previous post, would need a building, suitable in location, design, and capacity. And what building would that be? Let's say - just for the purposes of providing an example - that Meany is suggested.

This suggestion relocates about 900 students from Lowell and Washington to Meany.

And what would become of the students and programs now at Meany? They would have to go somewhere else. The Meany students from the Central Region (about 240 of them) could easily fit into Washington into the space vacated by APP (about 420 students). The Meany students from other regions would have to make other choices.

Now another 470 students have been relocated, running total: 1370.

Repurposing Meany in this way would leave Central region students without a choice of two middle schools like the choice that every other reference area allows. But that might be okay if, in the new assignment plan, every other student was allocated only one reference area middle school.

Many of the out-of-area students at Meany are from the Southeast Region. Would these students enroll at Mercer or Aki Kurose instead? Nevermind the capacity numbers in the Facilities Master Plan, the education director for Middle Schools says that both of those buildings are full. So some sort of capital investment would be necessary to find room for 200+ students there. It is also possible that some additional programs would have to be added to those schools to make the change a net positive for those students.

Now this suggestion has relocated nearly 1400 students, re-formatted middle school choice, and required capital expenditures and the development of new programs at Mercer and Aki. That's a ripple effect.

Would the suggestion "Create an APP 1-8" require all of these additional ideas - where it would go, where those students would go, and how this could be made a net positive for everyone impacted - or could it be submitted in just those few words? Would resolving all of these ripple effects be a necessary part of the idea submission?

I think an exchange of ideas requires interaction - a conversation. The best method for that is real-time and face-to-face. It is discouraging to write out an idea, resolve all of the ripple effects, and to get back nothing more than a generic automated response.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Maybe Charlie you missed my point. I meant that we hash out ideas - like yours - here on this blog and see what we come up with. All of us are on the ground receptors of what is happening in our schools and could add to the conversation as well as point out ripple effects.

The TOPS example is a good one. Why, when Latona became John Stanford, did JS stay a neighborhood reference school but when TOPS moved into its building, Eastlake residents did get it as their reference school? They have none and I can't believe this still goes on (yes, I know they are allotted a few seats but it should be their neighborhood school).

You are right, Charlie; nothing exists in a vacuum so it's important to see the larger picture in what can happen in the district if you move something. That's one reason I wrote this post because there are so many intertwined elements and concerns that HAVE to be addressed.

maureen said...

Part of the reason I haven't posted on this subject was that every idea I have leads to a thread that turns into a web that snowballs into a mess much less elegant than what Charlie laid out in his APP K-8 scenario (and, to be honest, that wasn't very elegant!).

My efforts to formulate small self contained elements come across (to me) as oversimplified and open to misunderstanding and criticism.

I keep checking this thread to see what other people post (maybe so I can criticize their oversimplified arguments?!).

Charlie Mas said...

Okay, here's an idea. For the purposes of identification, for further discussion, we'll call this idea: Lincoln High

I think that the District would like to create reference areas for all elementary, middle, and high schools and offer all students guaranteed access to their reference area schools.

The reference area for each school will have to be right-sized to the capacity of the neighborhood program in the building. The maximum size of each building's the neighborhood program will be the building's optimal capacity (not every body that can be crammed into it) less the space needed for special programs: Special Ed, bilingual, advanced learning, or, at the high school level, special occupational and instructional programs.

In addition, 10% of the general education space in each building should be reserved for out-of-area students who choose the building.

When the neighborhood capacity for the high schools are determined, my calculations indicate that the District will have a severe shortage of high school space in Magnolia, Queen Anne, and North Capitol Hill.

Therefore, I propose the establishment of a new comprehensive high school at Lincoln to provide the needed capacity.

I further propose that the District move high school APP from Garfield to this new school.

I further propose that the Secondary B.O.C. be co-located at this site. The Secondary B.O.C. would remain a separate entity within the building with its own autonomous leadership. The two schools would share resources only so much as they choose.

I think these changes would provide a number of benefits:

* Added capacity where needed.
* Puts two all-City draw programs in a central location with excellent transportation access.
* Relieves the pressure on Garfield
* The presence of APP at the new school would provide a draw for families interested in challenging academics who might be reluctant to choose a new school.
* The presence of the B.O.C. at the new school would provide a draw for families interested in opportunities for international education who might be reluctant to choose a new school.

Negatives:
* Lincoln is not exactly in the neighborhoods that need the additional capacity. But it is the closest appropriate building. When Fremont students enroll at Lincoln, it will allow Magnolia students to enroll at Ballard.
* There will be concern that without APP Garfield will no longer offer challenging coursework for the remaining students who want it. That is partly up to the school - they will offer the advanced classes that they want to offer. The District could also mandate that every high school offer certain classes as a minimum.
*The Secondary B.O.C. students are primarily from south of the Ship Canal, so their school should be located there. Perhaps, but there are no suitable buildings available south of the Ship Canal.
* Lincoln would no longer be available for use as an interim site. True, but Wilson-Pacific is available for use as an interim site for north-end middle and high schools undergoing renovation. While some might say that Wilson-Pacific is not in usable condition, I would say that the District should therefore put it into usable condition. What is the point of having the building if it cannot be used? While there will be costs associated with this work, it would be money well spent and it will be a cheap way to create the needed high school capacity. It will be much cheaper than buying land and building a new high school from scratch at Interbay or in South Lake Union.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's another idea:

Move Summit K-12 to the John Marshall building.

I think these changes would provide a number of benefits:

* Puts an all-City draw program in a central location with excellent transportation access.
* Opens up Jane Addams building to be re-purposed.

Negatives:
* Summit community would have to see the move as a net positive. If it is packaged correctly, they will.
* The John Marshall building doesn't have playfields - but Greenlake park is practically across the street.
* Some would say that it is inherently racist for any predominantly White community to move into the John Marshall building, displacing the predominantly minority programs now there. I think that's simply faulty thinking and we should not let the fear of accusations of racism prevent us from making reasonable choices about the efficient use of space.
* John Marshall is not exactly in "move-in" condition. In addition, freeway noise makes it difficult to conduct lessons in a number of the classrooms. Then fix it. There is no point in having buildings we cannot use. If freeway noise is a problem, then get the D.O.T. to provide noise mitigation.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's another idea.

If Summit K-12 moves out of Jane Addams to a more central location, then re-purpose the Jane Addams building as a K-8.

I think these changes would provide a number of benefits:
* People seem to like K-8s
* This would provide a local middle school option to students in this part of the district who have difficulty gaining access to Eckstein.
* This would provide needed elementary and middle school capacity in the Northeast part of the district. The John Rogers building could remain open or the John Rogers program could move into the Jane Addams space.
* This would relieve the overcrowding pressure on Eckstein.
* This would eliminate the urgency of the needed repairs for the John Rogers building.

Negatives:

* The Rogers community would have to see the move as a net positive. If it is packaged correctly, they will.
(I really had to stretch to think of some more)
* This would put younger students directly in close proximity to a high school. This hasn't proven to be a problem in other places where it is done (New School-Dunlap/Rainier Beach, Denny/Sealth, Salmon Bay/Ballard, Summit/Hale)
* The District would not be able to use the vacant Jane Addams building as an interim site. They don't need it.

98112 said...

Here's something small and (i think) simple that I would like to see retained from the current plan.

Under the current plan, your chances of getting into a school are the same whether you choose it as your first choice or your 5th. You are not penalized for applying to a program that you may or may not get into.

In the discussion of the new plan, one thing I keep hearing about the reference school is that you're guaranteed a place if it's your first choice. You should be guaranteed a place period.

Say for example that Stevens is your reference school, but you put your choices as McGilvra, TOPS, Montlake and then Stevens. You don't get into McGilvra, TOPS or Montlake. You should still get into Stevens because it's your reference school, and it shouldn't matter that it was your 4th choice.

Why? Well, two reasons. One is that this system is a lot easier to understand. I'm guessing it's easier to model too. The other is that loosing your spot at your neighborhood school makes the risk too high for many families that might be served better in an alternative school.

98112 said...

I should add that the increased risk to choosing another school means that our alternative schools will be filled, not with the kids for whom that alternative is the best fit, but with the kids whose neighborhood school is sub-par. That doesn't serve the neighborhood, because it draws off the better students. It doesn't serve the alternative because it fills the building with people who don't want alternative eduction, they want high quality general education.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay, so some feedback:

"In addition, 10% of the general education space in each building should be reserved for out-of-area students who choose the building."

At every building, Charlie? I think you'd have some really angry parents. Of course, maybe one general rule would work better than exceptions for special programs. It's something to ponder.

Lincoln idea; well, I have advocated all along that using Lincoln as an interim is sad because it could have so many long-term uses for schools/programs that need space NOW. The Facilities staff would push back hard on this one except for the fact that in the last Facilities Master Plan they said Hale and Ingraham could stay at their schools while they are being rebuilt. The consultants helping on the closure and consolidation said they were puzzled over the district holding on to these buildings because many schools throughout the country just don't do it that way. Am I saying it is necessarily the best thing to build at a school with students there? No, but do you put progress on hold for rebuilding (progress being a home for other schools and programs that need it).

And I agree that we don't have the time or the money to go finding land and creating a new high school for Queen Anne/Magnolia. They need someplace to call home now.

Summit K-12. Sigh. This is hard because I like the program but I also see that need for that building to be fully utilized and that elementary/middle school capacity is needed for the north end. I had thought maybe to move them to the old Phinney Ridge building which is also somewhat centrally located. It does - I believe - have a playground. (Facilities staff would tell you - as they did me when I suggested Lincoln for Summit - that a school HAS to have a playground on its grounds (even though Wallingford playground is also very close). I wonder if there is any law concerning playgrounds and elementary schools.

With Charlie's ideas you create neighborhood feeder patterns. In Wallingford, you'd get John Stanford, Hamilton and maybe Lincoln (because of the presence of the BOC kids it might help the international language programs at those other schoools) and in the north, a K-8 with Hale right across the street.

Oh, and speaking of Hale, they really need someone in the district to tell them that Hale cannot be rebuilt at such a huge cost for 1100 students. It's not fair to Roosevelt and it's not fair to taxpayers. If it's being built to 1400, then 1400 kids it is.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's an idea:

Re-purpose either Seward or Lowell as a neighborhood school.

Let's start with the Seward option.

Seward, if reclassified as a neighborhood school, would remain a K-8. It would provide needed elementary capacity for Eastlake and North Capitol Hill. It would allow for the closure of the small Montlake building. It would also allow for the closure of another elementary school in the Central Cluster. Leschi is looking pretty vulnerable standing there half empty. Madrona would also be an easy choice as it would provide a tailor-made new location for The Option Program. Madrona is built as a K-8 with a similar vintage.

I know that Montlake has strong defenders, but I wonder if they are devoted to the learning community of teachers, students, and families or if they are devoted to the building. If it is the learning community, then they should be okay with its relocation.

The irony, of course, is that if Seward were a neighborhood school, it is likely that few of the families living near Montlake would be in the school's reference area. The borders would probably be re-drawn to put everything east of 15th in the Stevens reference area. The Seward reference area would be the west side of the current Montlake area and the west side of the current Stevens area.

According to folks at the District, the Montlake building is just too small to meet the economic efficiency demands of public K-12 education in today's Washington state.

So what's the tragedy? Your kids are guaranteed a seat at Stevens. How is that bad?

Positives:

* People like K-8s
* Provides needed elementary capacity in Eastlake and North Capitol Hill
* Provides school buildings of a cost effective size

Negatives:
* Provokes two communities with political punch: TOPS and Montlake.
* Where will TOPS go? Where can we relocate a 500+ student K-8? There are a couple of possibilities: Meany (if APP moves out of Washington), John Marshall, Leschi (if it is re-purposed), Madrona (if it is re-purposed)

This might make excellent sense on paper, but I fear that the political (human) negatives are too great to overcome. This leads to the Lowell option.

Lowell isn't as attractive as a neighborhood school as Seward - and I mean that literally. While the building has been good enough for the APP community (who would meet in a warehouse, an airplane hangar or an open field if they had to), it isn't up to Standard for use as a neighborhood school. Lowell has, reportedly, about $6 million in backlog maintenance and repair. That puts it third on the list for elementary schools, behind only Broadview/Thomson and Van Asselt.

Lowell is as big as Seward, over 70,000 square feet, so it could also provide the needed capacity for the area. The Eastlake families won't be as happy with the location. The current Montlake families will find themselves, as with the Seward option, in the Stevens reference area. It would, of course, allow for the closure of another Central Cluster school - in this case TT Minor looks most likely.

The Lowell option is easier than the Seward option for three reasons:

1. The APP community is MUCH less likely than TOPS to balk at getting moved - so long as the program is kept intact. Try to break it up and there will be blood.

2. This would allow the special education students at Lowell to remain in that building because it will provide them with access to general education peers and the least restrictive environment (as required by federal law).

3. The second school to close - after Montlake - would pretty clearly be TT Minor. The staff signalled heavily (they did everything but rent billboards) that that school was their choice for closure in Phase II.

So where would elementary APP go? There are some options. One is a 1-8 at Meany as described in an earlier post. There are other options as well. The District could form two 1-8 APP/Spectrum schools of about 900 students each - Wilson-Pacific in the north-end and Meany in the south end. There are other options besides these. Believe it or not, this is a detail which could be worked out with the community. The APP community is not devoted to their buildings the way that other communities are. APP is, however, devoted to the community.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's another idea:

Re-classify John Stanford International School as an alternative school and re-open McDonald as a neighborhood school.

JSIS is different enough from traditional education to be regarded as alternative. Immersion language programs should be more equitably accessible. Changing the assignment status of the school would open it to a broader draw. The families in that area, however, will need a reference area school if JSIS isn't it anymore. McDonald is nearby and available.

Positives:
* Provides more equitable access to immersion language program
* Provides additional elementary capacity in the north-end

Negatives:
* McDonald will need some fixing up.
* Some other programs had their sights set on McDonald.

An alternative, of course, would be to keep Latona as a neighborhood school and to move the language immersion program to McDonald.

Charlie Mas said...

So what are some of the APP options?

Lowell is overcrowded and the special education students are getting re-located out of a school that was, to a significant extent, built for them. The school has a LOT of capital improvements to meet the needs of the low-incidence special education students enrolled there. Even the playground structure is wheelchair accessible.

The principal at Washington wants half of the APP students out of his building to ease overcrowding.

Garfield has a waitlist, but the principal there doesn't think that any APP students have to leave.

The program has grown, in part due to changes in the eligibility criteria determined by the District. In part in response to perceived lack of rigor in general education and Spectrum programs elsewhere in the District. In part due to outreach efforts by the District.

The options include:
1) revising the eligibility criteria to restrict access to the program.
2) reconfiguring the program placement.

Let's consider the reconfiguration.

Ms Santorno has spoken, in principle, as being in favor of schools that are for APP and Spectrum students. This presents the possibility of having two advanced learning 1-8 schools - one in the north and one in the south. Each school would have an enrollment of about 900, about half APP and about half Spectrum.

The north one could be at Wilson-Pacific. While it is too far north for an all-city draw, it isn't too far north for a half-city draw. Adding an APP/Spectrum school in the north-end would provided needed elementary and middle school capacity there.

The South one could be at Meany, presuming that the Meany students are relocated to Washington. There are more APP and Spectrum students at Washington (600) than total students at Meany (470). The switch would reduce the enrollment at Washington by 130 students to the target enrollment of 900. Of those 900, 300 or more are from outside the reference area. The District could make Washington even smaller if they wanted to. This option would draw all of the elementary Spectrum students from south of the Ship Canal and provide them with a real self-contained option. Something few of them have.

While this would seem unfair to the Central Region middle school students, restricting them to a single middle school choice while other students have two regional choices, it is likely to come in an environment in which every student has only one reference middle school.

Another option would be for APP to form a 1-4 (enrollment of about 340) at one location and a 5-8 (enrollment of about 550) at another. These could be McDonald and John Marshall. If it were John Marshall, then the building would have room for a 300 student general education program which would provide needed middle school capacity in the north-end. Of course, this is the very idea that sparked cries of racism two years ago.

Another option is to keep things pretty much as they are. The Special Education students would have to leave Lowell and, to relieve overcrowding at Washington, the Central Region Spectrum program could be relocated intact to Meany. Meany certainly has the room for them, and I have every confidence that the Meany staff and administration could provide the challenge and rigor that Spectrum students need. I wonder if there is data available on where these students live. Meany may be closer to many of their homes. At Meany, perhaps the program would not be capped at 180.

I'm sure that you folks have other ideas for reconfiguring APP.

Charlie Mas said...

Mel, who would the angry parents be? Certainly not neighborhood families who were denied access to the school since every student in the reference area would be guaranteed access.

Perhaps those who fall just outside the boundary for a school they personally regard as their neighborhood school? They will still have guaranteed access to a near-by school and the opportunity to get one of the seats at their preferred school which were set aside for out-of-area students.

Who would be angry? The folks who find themselves on the Hale side of the Hale/Roosevelt line? They would still have a chance to get one of the 10% seats at Roosevelt. Perhaps it would appease them to know that Hale would be required to offer a specific catalog of classes that included a number of AP courses. What if Hale changed to meet the needs of the students who enrolled? Why do people regard that as unlikely?

There would be similar situations all over the District. People just on the Madrona side of the McGilvra line, people just on the B side of the A line. The fact is that we already have that situation today. There are already people just on the other side of the line at every over-subscribed school in the District. The amount of anger won't change with this, just the specific people who are angry.

wendy said...

One of the questions that keeps coming up at our school, is whether the new assignment plan will move kids who are already in a school. Parents are particularly worried about splitting up siblings, remembering the reassignment proposal in May of 2005.

I would be surprised to see that come up again, but am I too optimistic?

Melissa Westbrook said...

You are talking about grandfathering which I know is part of the staff's thought process. My impression is they will grandfather anyone already in the building which means that students who are enrolled (whether or not they are now eligible to be there) can stay. However, I don't know if transportation will be covered beyond a year and I don't know if the sibling preference will kick in (probably is my thought).

It's a good question to bring up at any community meeting. The devil is in the details so don't accept a yes, the student would be grandfathered. Ask about transportation, sibs, etc.

98112 said...

We'll call this idea, for the same of a short name, Seattle High School.

I'd like to see a High School, or even better, a 6-12 school, DOWNTOWN. Downtown is the one location that has equitable Metro bus access to all parts of the city.

I'd like it to have a highly rigorous program, including IB, opt-in Honors classes similar to those in the Shoreline district, and high quality general ed classes. Since it would be centrally located, in the one area that has equitable Metro bus access to all parts of the city, it would also be a good place to locate all-city-draw alternative programs.

I know we don't have any buildings downtown. I would suggest leasing several floors of an office building, or getting someone from the business community to donate space. UW owns land downtown, perhaps something could be worked out with them. So does the city. Perhaps we could trade land in another area for land or floorspace downtown.

What about PE? There's a very nice YMCA downtown, perhaps they'd be willing to partner with the school district. It's pretty empty during the day except for lunch time.

98112 said...

Charlie,
You mentioned something called "The Options Program" in one of your posts. What's that? Where can I find out more about it.

Roy Smith said...

TOPS stands for "The Options Program at Seward". That might be "The Options Program" that Charlie is referring to.

98126 said...

Just an idea, but there is a LOT of content in this posting and suggest we tackle one topic at a time:
* Tie Breakers - what criteria, if any? why or why not? I happen to favor a ratio socioeconomic status / test score. In other words, if you live in a poor part of town with poor test scores you should be given higher priority in a tiebreaker scenario.
* Alternatives - should we use the same rules as everyone, who decides whether a school should be an all-city draw? based on what criteria?
* K-8 - again same questions
* Middle Schools being too big - this is a HUGE problem and one reason why I keep my son at Pathfinder no matter how much he screams about losing his friends to Madison. I'm lucky to have that option.