Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School
School Use Advisory Committee Third Meeting
Date: Thursday, September 11, 2008
Time:7 PM - 9:00 PM
Location: Madrona Elementary School, Cafeteria (1121 33rd Avenue)
Here is your chance to provide public comment to the advisory committee which will identify uses and recommend criteria for the establishment of non-school uses for Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School, 3201 East Republican Street, to the Director of the Department of Neighborhoods. Seattle Public Schools wants to consider MLK Schools for possible non-school uses that are consistent with the underlying zoning (SF 5000).
The Committee will gather and evaluate public comment to establish criteria of non-school uses of the building and grounds, which are compatible with the surrounding community, zoned Single Family 5000. The Land Use Code requires a minimum of
three public meetings. The committee can recommend any relevant conditions for permitted uses to be applied for granting these changes to minimize its impacts on the surrounding neighborhood. Should you have any questions please contact Thao Tran at the Department of Neighborhoods at 206-684-0209 or at email@example.com.
Accommodations for person with disabilities will be provided upon request. Please contact Thao Tran immediately upon receipt of this agenda to make arrangements.
I know the neighborhood is eager to convert the building to a community center, which would certainly better than other options. (I hope to never hear an advertisement for the "MLK Elementary Condominiums, featuring original chalkboards.") But before the city moves forward on this idea, are we sure we don't need more elementary school space in the central cluster?
I understand how SPS could argue the need to close the school given the dwindling enrollment. And yet, there’s a huge growing issue about elementary school capacity not keeping up with demand (look what's happening in the north right now with kindergarten overcrowding). In the central cluster, Montlake, McGilvra, and Stevens are all above capacity and still there is more demand. The district has had poor luck trying to assign the excess capacity to other schools (losing many to alternative or private schools), but that doesn't mean they should give up -- the demand has not gone away. And once we give up school buildings, they are not easy to get back.
A Seattle public schools alum and fellow board member of Community & Parents for Public Schools, Kim Gould, suggested to me the following idea which I think SPS should strongly consider:
There’s always talk about “replicating” programs, but we all know that is easier said than done. What if we made MLK an feeder school for an existing program (or multiple programs)? For instance, what if using MLK allowed McGilvra to admit another 150 kids? McGilvra would be the SAME program – same principal, same PTA, same curriculum, etc… but maybe 4th and 5th graders all move together to MLK (almost like an "annex"), so everyone would still have everything great there is about McGilvra. I haven't worked out the numbers, but perhaps we could even do it for more than one school – e.g. Montlake 4-5 graders go there also, and there’s a shared vice principal, more kids to bond with, ability to offer some pre-middle school honors courses, etc. There are issues around transportation, but I believe the benefits all outweigh the costs, and it would be a way to get more families back into SPS (e.g. all those north capitol hill folks who live near TOPS and can’t get into Montlake).
Back when my wife went through Seattle public schools, the district used to do things like this to manage crowding. When she went to Montlake, the school only went to 4th grade, they used Madrona for 5th & 6th grade, and Meany Middle School was only 7th & 8th. Why not try out creative solutions like this again?
Unfortunately, this idea has yet to gain any traction. I'm unable to attend the MLK meeting on Thursday, and this could be the last chance to make the case for SPS to retain use of MLK. Anybody else think this is an idea worth pursuing?