There was a post under Beth's thread "Middle School and Enrollment Discussions" and one reader, Old Salt, had posted about the Bryant meeting. I thought I might add my impressions/information.
It was kind of amazing because I got there at 6:45 (and we started right at 7:00 - the Bryant principal is by the book on meetings, good for her). In that period of time (there were maybe 5 people when I got there), the room filled. I'd estimate that there were at least 60 people there.
Representing the staff were Don Kennedy, COO, Tracy Libros, Enrollment and Planning, Rachel Cassidy, Enrollment and Planning. Harium Martin-Morris and Sherry Carr were in attendance. In addition to the Bryant principals, the principals of Thornton Creek, Wedgwood and one other area school (I'm sorry; somehow my notes don't reflect who it was).
The principal, Linda Robinson, stressed that the over-subscription problem (for awhile they kept referring to it as as over-capacity problem which is the opposite but Harim spoke up). Lauren, a parent at Bryant, zipped through a presentation that was somewhat confusing (you know when someone is in the know and doesn't remember that everyone isn't starting from the same place so it seems confusing? That's what happened and it made me realize that I may do that to others on this blog sometimes. Sorry, I'll try not to do that in the future.)
She said the issues about capacity were:
-overcrowding in the kindergartens
-the enrollment model is not designed for over-subscription
-two overlapping assignment processes (reference and distance)
View Ridge, Laurelhurst, Wedgwood and John Rodgers have all been asked to add a kindergarten class.
Don Kennedy said that he and his wife had bought a house (in South Carolina when their kids were small) with the idea of where they would attend school so he understood why people were unhappy. He said that the north end is going to experience some growth over the next 5 years to upwards of 600 kids in elementary. There was more increase in the NW than the NE but NE enrollment is climbing. He said that Courtney Jones, another Planning and Enrollment person, was going through the schools in the NE, looking at spaces to see if more children could be placed in certain schools.
People wanted to know who would get in that added class first. Tracy, ever calm, said that it would go to those on the waitlist for whatever school was chosen. That didn't make many people happy because of course it is now "Who has the golden ticket?"
He stated that they would be, by April 29th, adding one more kindergarten class in the NE but they didn't know the location yet. He said it would be on the website by the end of the day on that date. He said that he was forming a project team to work on a capacity plan, that he wanted input and that by late summer they would have a plan to implement in the fall. He gave no specifics.
(Unfortunately, Mr. Kennedy didn't outline the plan getting to the assignment plan but he told me the money was coming from the BEX III Technology fund. I have no idea when they might have public meetings on what this plan should look like but I hope at least by fall. If we have the time, we should have lots of meetings. Maybe every PTA could put this on the agenda for at least one meeting next year and then report back to the district.)
I wouldn't quite call things tense but you could sense the frustration. Several people interrupted
to ask questions (which did get answered but the principal asked people to wait). One question was about putting the class at AE II (now Thornton Creek; the answer was no because it was an alternative school) or reopening Sand Point elementary ( Some suggested they could grow a school there starting with 4-5 kindergarten classes like at New School. This is pretty unlikely but who knows down the line, maybe.)
Rachel Cassidy said there is growth in the north end enrollment (above the ship canal). She said there has been an increase in demand with more families choosing this area. She said the target class size under the new staffing formula decreased K size from 25 to 23. She said that there were more bilingual seats set aside at Bryant than previously (10 instead of 2). From her sheet:
"Target kindergarten class size at Bryant was decreased from 25 to 23 this year reducing total kindergarten capacity by 6. Class size at Sacajawea increased from 24 to 25; at all other schools it is the same or less than in 2007."
Now before you ask (howl, express surprise), the answer to your question is that, obviously, each school is being allowed to set their class size (upward only to contract size) by the principal. Someone raised the question of why Bryant couldn't add on 2-3 kids per kindergarten class to help those kids who got mandatory assignments (it seems mostly to John Rodgers). The silence, especially from Ms. Robinson, was deafening.
People asked if the demographics couldn't be tracked better by using housing sales. Rachel sidestepped that (I think because they generally don't ask how old you are and how many kids you have when you buy a house.) But staff said they had done a demographic survey and did work with the county demographer (there is no city demographer any more).
Her sheet said that middle and high school enrollments would increased as these larger elementary cohorts move through the grades. (Which would point to the need for another middle school as there is no more space at Eckstein or Hamilton and that Hale is likely to have to grow as Roosevelt has no more space.)
Rachel did mention (and I think people were surprised to hear) that most people don't go to their reference school throughout the district (although that is not the case for Bryant).
They then had each table talk among themselves and then write one burning question. My table had a couple who had listed 5 schools, got none of them and got assigned John Rodgers which is 4 miles from their house. Another mom, with a child at Thorton Creek, said that her neighbors had warned her they live in a no-man's land where they could never get into Bryant. This mom, Kellie Larue, explained later on how this had occurred. She said that when University Heights was closed, Bryant and other schools absorbed those kids. Because of rising enrollments, it created a situation where if you live on the outer edge of the reference area, you would never get into Bryant.
One question was what programs could be eliminated to create room at schools. People were puzzled and then aghast when this person suggested getting rid of art, music and PE. Ms. Robinson explained those were part of teachers' PCP contract and could not be eliminated.
One mom stood up and calmly stated that she did not believe that nothing could be done. She challenged the staff to take "exceptional moves" for this unique problem (although Don Kennedy had said this was not the only area that has capacity problems). Unfortunately, there really wasn't a good answer except that no, they can't. I was surprised (and told this to the mom after the meeting) that neither of the Board members spoke up because the assignment plan (and any changes to it even if short-term) are under the Board's control. It's not like the staff couldn't go to the Board and ask but the Board would likely have to vote it in. (Charlie, am I right here?)
One father said that he understood that the assignment plan was going to be changed in the future but how would that help now? And, of course, there is no answer for that.
People asked about how the waitlists worked and Tracy pointed out that the assignment plan had been tweaked about 10 years ago so that people would not game the system. John Miner, the principal at Thorton Creek, asked if the lottery system couldn't be helped so that people don't get mandatory assignments.
I think people were largely unsatisfied. The added kindergarten class with the unknown location probably depressed people more because it's like "Will it be the school I'm waitlisted for? Nah." Did the district know this was coming? Yes but you have the problem of schools wanting, because parents want, smaller kindergarten sizes and yet you have people who can't get into an elementary school anywhere near their home. One mom at my table asked me about portables but I said that unless the principal asked for it, I doubt the district would just put them at a school.
Would it be better to overfill those kindergartens and make some people happy or keep them smaller which is probably the better academic atmosphere for kindergarten? I don't think opening Sand Point is the way to go; I believe there is still room at John Rodgers. It seems like John Rodgers is not very popular but I'm not sure how many kids who are in that reference area go there.