Sunday, October 07, 2007

Future Closures

At the end of the October 3 School Board meeting, President Chow riffed for a while about how the District is going to have to close more schools because it is so expensive to operate elementary schools with enrollments under 250 or 300. She rambled on about it for about two minutes and then adjourned the meeting.

Where is everyone's thinking on this?


Anonymous said...

I know I'm being lazy and you can all blast me for it by telling me where to find this info, but how many schools are this small right now?

Anonymous said...

About 2/3 of the north end schools don't hold more than about 300 students. Very few of the north end elementary schools have been rebuilt.

Anonymous said...

I agree that elementary schools of 200-300 students don't make sense.

But, 2/3 of north end schools can't hold more than 300? I don't know which these are, since the one's I'm aware of (View Ridge, Bryant, for example) certainly have that capacity.

Anonymous said...

It's futile. Chow must be delirious. More than 2/3 of the north end schools capacity are under 300, and most are full to the brim (look at the SPS website for a list of schools and remember to look at schools in the North, North East and North West clusters).

It's just babble. But of course that is what Director Chow is good at.

Eric B said...

I hope that this doesn't come up again right now. School closures seems to cause everything else to be put on hold. It also generates huge negative publicity, which harms schools. While there are probably some schools that should be closed or consolidated, doesn't it make more sense to wait for the school assignment plan to play itself out first? Why would Director Chow bring this up at this point?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I could probably go look this up but yes, many schools are small buildings and thus have small populations (but no, 2/3 of north end schools aren't less than 300).

I don't know what Cheryl is talking about but she does like to ramble. I personally would be opposed to any more closures until (1) a new assignment plan comes into play (for at least two years so we can see how it plays out) and (2) until we see the effects/benefits to the initial school closures. It is a serious subject and no one to be tossed around lightly. There is no way to know, for example, how transportation costs are going down because of a new assignment plan, Metro for high schools and closed schools.

Roy Smith said...

I have yet to be convinced that larger schools are more cost effective at educating students.

It might be that bigger schools cost less per student to operate. However, there is a fair bit of academic research that supports the concept that smaller schools may be more effective academically.

Schools (large or small) should be closed or reformed if they are failing to produce educated students. Closing a small but successful school simply because it is small is penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Charlie Mas said...

The Student Assignment Plan is already on an ambitious schedule if it is to come to a vote by the Board in May, 2008. Adding closures to that mix would bring everything crashing down to a dead stop and preclude any decisions before May 2009. The battles will be horrible, particularly for Board members who haven't been through it before.

That's the downside of doing them together.

On the other hand, imagine that you go through a long, slogging battle over the boundary lines for your elementary school reference area, only to have the District target the school for closure the following year.

That's the downside of doing them one after the other, but it's not a pretty image either.

At the Board meeting, Director DeBell announced his conclusion that the ten smallest elementary schools - all with enrollments under 300 - cost 20% more per student to operate than the ten largest buildings. He said that this was money that he would rather see spent in the classroom. He named a few of the schools. I believe they include: Cooper, Montlake, McGilvra, Northgate, Olympic Hills, Roxhill, B. F. Day, Leschi and Greenlake.

A few of these schools can't be any bigger because their buildings won't accomodate growth. If this is such a crisis, and so critical to the investment in academics, then shouldn't these buildings be the ones rebuilt with BEX III money? Let's make them big enough to be economical. Of course, some of these buildings cannot be made any bigger because they are on a small footprint. What then? Closure? Is it to be a strictly economic formula?

What do people want? What information do people need to make a fully informed choice?

demographic growth said...

North end schools in large majority are at capacity. Look at the District demographics on the website for more info about expected growth- N end school reference areas by and large are expected to see quite a bit of growth. And there are very few schools in the District with 200-300 students. Most are over 300. I haven't counted up in N end, but anecdotally, I only know of one up N below 300. Since the area is expecting it appears on average 20% growth, it makes no sense to shut a school there.

The real issue is market share. If SPS concentrates on marketing itself, we will stop seeing steady declines in market share. Remember, every student attending SPS is worth over $4,000 and up to over $8,000 (from the state). Instead of closing schools at all, we need to work on bringing back the kids who have left or who are in the process of thinking about kindergarten. If Dr. G-J reads the CAICEE report she will have a good place to start.

Dan Dempsey said...

For the long haul, it appears this is more about centalized control. The larger the school the more removed from parental activism it may become. Neighborhoods that build community are hard to Autocratically Control. It gets messy.

This board has shown little willingness to publicly reason with real data.

Data driven decision making is a popular mantra taken from the book of how to fool the public. Say it but don't do it.

By making buildings multi-use with senior centers and day-care etc. if they have extra capacity, a significant positive change in both culture and finance can occur.

Small schools that are near each other can share a principal greatly reducing cost.

Remember any talk about closings is very premature until Tom Ahearne and the NEWS law suit concludes.

I wish these folks would spend some time on School Board Policies D43, D44, D45, as these would have an impact on student learning.

Is it ever possible to get this district to focus on what impacts student learning right NOW? and could be corrected at minimal expense.

It appears that our schools are viewed as factories by many.


Anonymous said...

Closing schools in the North end?? They are full to capacity. Where in the heck would these kids go.

Not to mention the projected growth in the North end.

Perhaps, you could look at making some schools larger, or expanding them to K-8's to relieve Eckstein (Hopefully Eckstein is big enough for everybody), but closing them??? Pay no attention to Director Chow, she has obviously not done any research at all. There are many schools in the north end in the 300 capacity range.....for you folks who can only think of one, let me add to your list.

AEII - 285
Sacajewea - 250
AS1- 285
BF Day - 258
Northgate - 212
Olympic HIlls - 211
North Beach - 282
ohn Rogers - 288
Greenwood - 241
Greenlake - 252

That's 10 schools to close, serving over 2500 students. Where ya gonna put them Cheryl???

Anonymous said...

I don't think there should be ANY talk of closing North End schools until expansions are made at other North End Schools. Otherwise there is no room for them. This is why Sacajawea was never closed.

Here is a link (sorry, have to cut and paste) of an article in the PI from last March. Here is a quote from the article (it is one of several recommendations made by the school board's property manager:

Before 2030, renovate and expand Bagley, North Beach, Olympic Hills, Rogers and View Ridge Elementary schools to hold at least 535 students each, to prepare for an expected influx of students in the North End.

This is to have room for anticipated growth in the North - not to take in closed schools. I don't think Cheryl is unaware of capacity issues in the North, she needs to be more clear.

Anonymous said...

sorry I don't know how to post links on this blog. The above link should end .html at the end (delete the .1)

Beth Bakeman said...

You can find enrollment data page at 2007-2008 P223 Monthly Enrollment Counts

You can find capacity data from January 2005 at Utilization Rate Analysis. I'm not sure where (if) more recent data is posted.

Dan Dempsey said...

Anon at 12:08 PM said:

" Pay no attention to Director Chow, she has obviously not done any research at all. "

Ms. Chow still gets to vote. Being uniformed has seldom stopped any board member from voting.

Charlie Mas said...

Using the October 1 counts, these were the elementary buildings with fewer than 300 students (in reserve enrollment order):

School. . . . . . . .Enrollment
Olympic Hills . . . .205
AS#1 (Pinehurst). . .210
Montlake. . . . . . .234
TT Minor. . . . . . .235
Leschi. . . . . . . .236
Hawthorne . . . . . .238
Roxhill . . . . . . .243
Northgate . . . . . .252
McGilvra. . . . . . .253
B F Day . . . . . . .262
Green Lake. . . . . .263
West Seattle. . . . .263
Cooper. . . . . . . .268
Greenwood . . . . . .276
John Rogers . . . . .291
Gatewood. . . . . . .292
Thurgood Marshall . .292

Of these schools, a few are at least 75% full. These include John Rogers, McGilvra, Montlake, Green Lake, Northgate, Gatewood, Greenwood, and AS#1 (Pinehurst). Thurgood Marshall is about 70% full. All of the others are at least one-third empty. Here at the small schools with the lowest utilizations:

Leschi: 55.5%
Hawthorne: 55.6%
Olympic Hills: 57.7%
Cooper: 58.11%
B F Day: 59.0%
TT Minor: 60.6
West Seattle: 62.0%
Roxhill: 62.3%

Anonymous said...

My thinking on this is that one board member's ill-timed comment has sent you all in a tizzy.

Melissa Westbrook said...

She's the president of the School Board. No one is in a tizzy; we're having a discussion of possible ideas why she might have brought it up.

Charlie Mas said...

Before you dismiss it as an "ill-timed comment", I suggest you listen to the last fifteen minutes of discussion at that evening's Board meeting. It is available online from The Seattle Channel.

President Chow was grimly serious, and she was deliberately and intentionally warning people in very clear language that more closures were coming.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't it always the plan that there would be more closures. As schools were removed (often with very good reason) last time, it was often stated that those geographies would need to be revisited.

Charlie - I get what you are saying about the difficultes of dealing with both school closures and assigment plans seperately and together, but I hope it can be a matter of priorities. The assignment plan must be changed because it is failing some students. Once we have a good plan it place, it will become more clear which areas have excess capacity and closures can occur then.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if this is somehow meant to sabotage the Superintendant's rollout of new policies? School closures have a way of sucking all the oxygen out of the debate for any other issues.

Also, I can't help noticing that the potential "kill list" includes some of the better schools in the district. Start closing them willy-nilly, and you could end up driving a lot of families out of the public schools entirely.

Anonymous said...

Well, this isn't anyone's potential kill list, is it? It is just a list of smaller capacity schools which are underenrolled. And it looks like people are coming up with different lists.

For example, the first poster had Sacajewa at 250 (capacity or enrollment, I'm not sure which). The doc beth pointed to had an enrollment at 283 (just about at capacity). But Charlie didn't even have it on his list of schools that are under 300.

I think Sacajewa is an excellent school with wonderful programs, but it is in a small building. Would it really save the district money to build a larger school and combine the populations?

Beth Bakeman said...

Just to clarify for the previous Anonymous (and others) who might be confused. The enrollment numbers can and do exceed capacity numbers when portables are used. And what the district states as the capacity can differ from what the school principal determines is the capacity.

So, for example, the earlier commenter who mentioned Sacajawea at 250 was a little bit, but not a lot, under the official district capacity listed as 274 without portables. But with portables included the district lists Sacajawea as having a capacity of 293.

And enrollment data varies from year to year. So while the October 2004 enrollment data for Sacajawea was listed as 287, the Sacajawea enrollment this year (as of October)is 325 (both according to Charlie and the data I pointed to in an earlier comment.

So I don't think people are using separate lists. Instead, I think the data from the district can be confusing.

And I completely agree that this discussion is not about which schools could/should be closed. But I do think it is helpful that everyone have access to data in case a defense against more elementary school closures is needed.

Charlie Mas said...

Yes, people should have access to data in case a defense against more elementary school closures is needed. And people should have access to the data if they need to make a case in favor of elementary school closures.

There is over-capacity in some areas. There may be a number of ways to address that over-capacity - increasing enrollment leaps to mind - and among those is capacity reduction: school closure and consolidation.

The people who are saying these things are not evil or stupid. They have a legitimate point and they can support it with logic and facts. It does not serve you well to plug your ears and say "na, na, na" while they make their case. Just as it isn't a good idea for them to do that to the opponents of closures.

Charlie Mas said...

Here are mistakes that I have made in the past that I will try to eschew in the present and future.

In the past, at this point, I would begin spinning out ideas for how the District could consolidate schools and move programs to reduce capacity with the least fuss and the best long-term results.

This was a mistake because no one without a huge bias really wants to discuss these ideas. The only respondents were people who wanted to crush my head because it contained a flimsy little idea for relocating their child's classroom from Building A to Building B.

I don't write with empathy because I don't share the same frame of reference as other folks. My family doesn't have any devotion to a building in our neighborhood; our allegience is to a program. We don't care where they put the program - we will show up wherever they put it, so long as it is good. So I don't have an appreciation for the worship of bricks and mortar so prevalent among other families. When people say to me "Yeah, well what if they moved YOUR child's school a mile down the road?" I calmly respond "I would send my child to school a mile down the road. It's no big deal." I just don't have the same skin in the game.

It was also a mistake because it is FAR too early to try to influence anyone's thinking on these matters. In fact, the very fact that I write and discuss an idea in this sort of forum could disqualify it for serious consideration when the decision time comes. The early discussion gives the opponents of that view an opportunity to organize and those making the decision don't want to appear to be under my influence. It's not me personally - they don't want to appear to be under anyone's influence (I think).

So I will forego my usual habit of re-arranging the District like a Tangram. Disappointed fans can watch last season's episodes on DVD.

Anonymous said...


However, you do care very much about the potential of splitting your program (as evidenced by other threads).

I think that there are far fewer parents concerned about their school moving, than are worried about their program merging into another program or, potentially, being split in some way.

Charlie Mas said...

"Kill list"?

Director DeBell seems to have a kill list.

I think these schools should definitely consider themselves at risk:

Working against it: Low enrollment: 236. Low utilization: 55.5% A lot of open seats at Thurgood Marshall and elsewhere in the neighborhood. A Spectrum program that is at risk of getting yanked for low enrollment and horrible performance.
Working for it: nice, new building, close to affluent neighborhood (if it can attract enrollment from there), tough location for a magnet program

Working against it: Low enrollment: 238. Low utilization: 55.6%
Working for it: building in good condition, District just closed Whitworth immediately to the south of Hawthorne.

Olympic Hills
Working against it: Low enrollment: 205. Two oh five! That is very close to the Mendoza line. Low utilization: 57.7%. poor building condition "enrollment growth: declining rapidly"
Working for it: Not very close to other schools. Not many empty seats at Northgate or Rogers - but watch out if either of those schools are rebuilt larger or if Rogers moves into Jane Addams as a K-8.

Working against it: Low enrollment: 268, Low utilization: 58.11%, has been on the closure list before.
Working for it: Has gotten off the closure list before. Not very close to other schools. Fairmount Park recently closed. great building

B F Day
Working against it: Low enrollment: 262, low utilization: 59.0% It is in the north-end and therefore politically correct to close. Fellow small school Green Lake is nearby - if one is expanded the other could be closed
Working for it: near JSIS, if that school is declared alternative, the District will need B F Day for neighborhood kids. Nice building

TT Minor
Working against it: low enrollment: 235, low utilization: 60.6%, the staff were clearly gunning for TT Minor in Phase II, not many M L King students chose it in the consolidation, open seats at Thurgood Marshall and Leschi, the possibility of Lowell becoming a neighborhood school, poor building
Working for it: is that community still inflamed over closures?

Low enrollment: low utilization: 62.3%, was on the closure list in Phase II, lots of open seats at nearby schools, an area where the District is on record as wanting to close a school, not a great building
Working for it: the same reasons that got the Superintendent to take it off the Phase II list

Here are a couple schools that are not out of the woods:

TOPS could find itself relocated to one of the buildings listed above so the Seward building could be used as a neighborhood school. On the other hand, TOPS could just lose the alternative school status

Montlake could find itself relocated into Seward if Seward is repurposed as a neighborhood school, or its reference area redefined into Stevens (and Stevens into Lowell) if Lowell is repurposed as a neighborhood school. The problem here is that the building just can't be rebuilt larger. It's not about the school (the teachers, staff, students and community); it's about the building.

Summit, possibly relocated into a more central building and Jane Addams re-purposed.

Rogers could find itself changed to a K-8 and moved to Jane Addams if Summit were re-located.

AS#1, possibly relocated into a bigger building more appropriate for a K-8 (Jane Addams? Olympic Hills? Rogers?)and Pinehurst closed

I think a different Board, one with Sherry Carr instead of Darlene Flynn and Peter Maier instead of Sally Soriano, would be a lot more likely to move forward and move forward more quickly with closures.

I'm not suggesting any of these schools will be closed that any of them will be threatened with closure (more than they already are), or that any of these things will happen. Nor am I predicting any of these things. Cheryl Chow issued a vague warning; I'm being more specific. I'm advising some communities that they should not be taken by surprise if their name appears on a list.

I would encourage the people from those communities to consider whether their children (and others) could not be better served in some other circumstance than the current one. There is no reason to react by digging in your heels and vowing death before displacement. What are your children missing at their current school? Is the change in distance really that insurmountable? What opportunities would your child gain?

And NO isn't your only option as a response. You could suggest alternatives. I don't necessarily mean throwing someone else under the bus, but what if your school were rebuilt bigger? What if your school started to offer some sort of program that is in demand? What if your school started some enrollment campaign to build up your numbers? There are proactive and positive things you can do. Look there first.

Charlie Mas said...

Anonymous at 5:18 -

The APP Advisory Committee never offered an opinion either for or against the split. The community's only concern was program quality. Legitimate concerns about the likely negative impacts of the split on program quality were never addressed by the District at any time.

I know how, at a distance, things get reduced to bumper sticker slogans, but up close they are much more grey than black and white.

Anonymous said...

"What if your school started to offer some sort of program that is in demand? What if your school started some enrollment campaign to build up your numbers? There are proactive and positive things you can do. Look there first."

I love this Charlie!! If we all started thinking pro actvely and positively, we COULD make progress, and maybe even be satisfied.

We went from a small elementary school to a much larger elementary school. We found that there are so so much more resources for us at the larger school. They include, but are certainly not limited to..

Science lab with dedicated science teacher. Science fair. We had none of this at our smaller school

Fantastic after school program (not day care, but true after school class offerings). No after school classes at our smaller school.

On site tutoring. None offered at the smaller school.

full time nurse at larger school. Nurse only came two days a week at smaller school, which means we saw many more cases of lice, and no nurse to help with injuries three days a week.

full time librarian, and much much larger library. Many more books to choose from.

much bigger social group at the larger child has many more children to play with.

Recess and lunch is broken down by grades k/1, 2/3, 4/5 , opposed to the smaller school which had all children k-5 goring to lunch and recess together (many issues with this).

Math club, so 4th and 5th graders can have advanced math after school. Most kids take advantage of this, and do very very well in competitions. No math club in our smaller school.

Many clubs to participate in including chess, math and art.

BTW, the smaller school was a fairly high performing school. They just could not possibly offer what a larger school offers.

Anonymous said...


I wasn't talking about the APP Advisory committe. Rather, I was thinking of your comments in July "As with the elementary program, the community does not want the cohort split, for reasons of community, reasons of academic effectiveness, and others."

Regarding your previous post on this thread, I just think it is unfair to talk about these school changes as moving an entire program a mile down the road. I know that some parents WOULD have problems with that, but that is almost never what is suggested. Instead, it almost always involves splitting communities. Which many parents have problems with.

Charlie Mas said...

I think that the District, the Board at least, was very intent, in the Phase I closures, on keeping communities intact as much as possible. The Phase I closures, the ones that arose from the public process designed by the Board, that met the closure criteria set by the Board, and the ones that were approved by the Board, featured very little community splitting.

There was room for all of the students and teachers at M L King at T T Minor. That community could have moved intact. They didn't. I have heard that most of them chose Madrona. This was a deal that was supposedly arranged by the communities, but I guess most of them didn't really want it.

The Viewlands community could have remained pretty much intact and all gone together to Broadview-Thomson. That community didn't have to split.

The Fairmount Park community could have remained intact and all gone together to High Point. That community didn't have to split. They did, though. It appears that only about two-thirds of them are at West Seattle Elementary.

Similarly, the Whitworth students could have remained together and all gone to Dearborn Park and the Rainier View students could have remained together and gone to Emerson.

Consolidation doesn't have to include splitting communities if the communities WANT to stay together. I think it is inaccurate and misleading to write that "it almost always involves splitting communities."

Anonymous said...

After the last round of closures, class sizes at my child's elementary school swelled to 29, 30 and even 31 for kindergarten, first, and second grade. Class size matters, at this young age and, especially with such mixed populations in these classrooms!! (i.e. special ed, combined grades, second language learners, etc) I wish that we could focus on the small picture (the individual classrooms) before making decisions on closures.

Charlie Mas said...

Anonymous at 11:37 raises what, I believe is an absolutely critical question:

Will our kids be better off for the consolidation?

Not if class sizes balloon as they did this year. I thought consolidation was supposed to put more dollars in the classroom - a statement which usually translates directly into smaller class sizes. Did we get smallar class sizes? I believe the answer to that one is "Hell No".

So those claims have, so far, proven false.

I bet savvy people could have gotten some sort of class size guarantee out of the District at the time of the Closure vote. I would certainly recommend that people get some sort of guarantees regarding class sizes and other forms of funding from the District in this round of closures. Don't rely on the Weighted Staffing Standards to reduce class sizes - they won't. Even if teachers are funded at 23:1, that doesn't mean class sizes of 23. The money for art, music and P.E. teachers needs to come out of that as well. Class sizes, particularly at smaller schools, could be higher.

Dan Dempsey said...

Class size is not a priority.

Spending $4.2 million on academic coaches for teachers is where some of the money goes.


Anonymous said...

A poster above stated:
“I agree that elementary schools of 200-300 students don't make sense.”

I disagree- as apparently does the "cost effective" "client driven" private sector.

It has been a while since I did the math, but in 2005/06 the average Seattle PRIVATE school had just 220 students - 13,229 students divided by 60 schools.


The median Seattle private school had 166 students (or 205 if the smallest 19 schools are not included. )

Only 16 private schools were larger than 270 – and most all of these were private HIGH schools.

So how does the private school achieve small schools and classrooms at an average tuition of who knows between $7,000 to $15,000? Cheaper teachers? Transportation paid directly by parents? Avoiding expensive students with special needs?

My take? Perhaps there are facets about smaller schools that some children, parents, and teachers appreciate. Perhaps some of us would trade the fancier computer lab and library for the smaller school where the principal knows every student’s name.

1033 at Bishop Blanchet High School
753 at Lakeside School
662 at Seattle Prep/Matteo Ricci College
638 at Holy Names Academy
595 at St. Joseph School
533 at Assumption-St. Bridget School
513 at The Bush School
509 at Seattle Academy of Arts/Sciences
481 at Holy Rosary Elementary
480 at O'Dea High School
457 at University Preparatory
434 at Northwest School
376 at St. John School
350 at Villa Academy
308 at Seattle Country Day School
295 at Our Lady of Fatima School
220 at St. Matthew School
217 at Our Lady of Guadalupe School
217 at Seattle Waldorf School
215 at St. Anne School
205 at Holy Family School
204 at Bertschi School
203 at St. Catherine School
199 at St. Paul School
190 at St. Therese School
189 at Hope Lutheran School
178 at St. George School
177 at Our Lady of the Lake School
168 at Meridian School
167 at Seattle Hebrew Academy
164 at Pacific Crest Schools
162 at St. Alphonsus School
151 at St. Benedict School
127 at Epiphany School
123 at St. Edward School
120 at Amazing Grace Christian School
112 at Seattle Girls School
112 at Fairview Christian School
106 at Seattle Jewish Community School
106 at West Seattle Montessori School
101 at West Seattle Christian School
87 at Westside School
82 at Billings Middle School
64 at Spruce Street School
53 at Perkins School
50 at Concordia Lutheran School
46 at Islamic School of Seattle
44 at Lake Washington Girls Middle School
39 at Hazel Wolf High School
32 at First Place
32 at Puget Sound Community School
31 at Dartmoor School
31 at Seattle Urban Academy
29 at The Clearwater School
22 at Matheia School
18 at Seattle Lutheran High School
8 at Educational Advancement Academy
8 at Learning Way School
3 at Alcuin School
0 at Happy Medium School

13,229 Total 2005-06 Private School Students divided by
60 Private Schools
= 220 average school size for all 60 private schools or
= 166 median school size for all 60 private schools

12,550 Total Students in 41 larger private schools divided by
41 larger Private Schools
= 306 average school size for 41 larger private schools or
=205 median school size for 41 larger private schools