School Board members there: Harium Martin-Morris, Cheryl Chow, Steve Sundquist, Michael de Bell and Peter Maier. There were a couple of legislators (and candidates) including Senator Ed Murray and Rep. Jamie Peterson along with Gerry Pollet, a candidate for the 46th district.
We were told that this meeting was only for a short-term solution(s) for the 2009-2010 school year. They explained why we were at this time and place (not enough capacity in NE/NW) and basically said the 10-year demographic projections from 1999 were not right. (What they didn't say is that they knew, at least 2 years ago, that they were wrong and did nothing to try to right this ship. Why not is a mystery.)
Tracy Libros, the Enrollment Manager, said that there will be space for every student in each geographic cluster for next year (meaning, space at some school but maybe not near the student).
Kathy Johnson is the Capacity Planning Project Manager and said Phase Two of this project will start in January 2009.
They explained that capacity planning affects or is affected by:
- assignment plan
- safety net planning
- Special Ed, Advanced learning, bilingual, etc.
- BTA (the maintenance workhorse levy for all non-building items like roofs, HVAC, etc. coming up in Feb. 2010)
They handed out several documents, most of them confusing. It's just so sad that nothing can be clearly written in this district. Some were labeled and some weren't. A green sheet with info on closed buildings had no capacity numbers with them. There was a Frequently Asked Questions sheet which I believe may be online. The map they handed out had a couple of oddities (New School at Columbia and Garfield still at Lincoln).
Here is a link to the website for Capacity Planning and Management.
Here's what our choices were for a short-term solution:
- conduct space efficiency evaluations
- create new classrooms within existing buildings (Blaine, Broadview-Thompson, Day and Sacajawea)
- minor modifications to the current assignment plan (meaning, they have space in faraway schools and would provide transportation to them)
- consider some program placements
- add portables
What the district considered but rejects on their own:
- consolidate under capacity schools, repurpose or change status to a reference area school (can't do because this would require the Board to act by November 12th - why they believe the Board, if so moved, would be unable to do this, I don't know)
- open a closed building (two have occupancy permits - Marshall and Viewlands. Cedar Park, Sandpoint, McDonald and Magnolia do not. Sandpoint and Cedar Park have tenants. So, if they have tenants, isn't that occupancy? And, the City might be willing to expedite permits; has the district asked? Nope, because they don't want to do this one.)
- modify the assignment plan tiebreakers to alternative schools (can't do it because the system can't take it - really "there are issues technologically that prohibit making this change with the current assignment plan."
Candidate Pollet had these ideas on his handout:
- modifying a few spaces or reopen Sand Point (which he points out is not being fully used)
- using North Seattle CC space for middle or high school students, freeing up other space (this was Harium's idea which I don't fully understand)
- getting the State Legislature to immediately step in to provide school construction funds for short term expansion (good luck with that one)
- asking the District and City to have a task force which includes parents to advise on options and offer additional proposals (I'd agree)
- What has taken some of us years to get, most people have caught on to quickly. Meaning, why accept at face value what the district says can and cannot be done? Most groups rejected any short-term solutions without a long-term vision.
- Maybe start at Sand Point in stages; maybe Summit as well since they have space
- rent space somewhere for a new school
- almost 80% of people raised their hands when it was asked, "How many of you have children under 5?"
- More half-day kindergarten to allow more children in
- Summit certainly took it on the chin as table after table seemed to think they could be easily moved or "changed".
Parents want to be part of this process and if these numbers are any evidence, it's Parent Power in action. I warned my table (a delightful group of parents with Michael de Bell and Senator Murray joining us) that they had to put the pressure on the School Board and it had to be sustained. Senator Murray offered that he was somewhat baffled at the length of time the district thought it would take to reopen a building. He offered to help if he could.
Part of the problem of reopening buildings is their condition. Look at Viewlands and it hasn't been closed a year. And, the district is WAY behind on basic maintenance. However, the Facilities department has been known to exaggerate so I don't know if their numbers are totally valid.
Where to find this money? Take it from an BEX project? Wait for the next BTA, hope that it passes (lots of hard feelings out there about Sealth/Denny and Ingraham) and use that money (thus putting off other projects needing to be done)?
A little sensitivity (plus some history) is needed when talking about Summit which is an obvious target. I get that they don't fill their school and that the need is right in our faces. But Summit is a school of over 500 students with a dedicated staff who deserve a little respect and not being swept away like so much dust.
So what to do? I have no great solutions. Maybe we can hash it out here. My belief is a co-sharing at Summit might work or Summit could be moved to co-house with Hamilton at Lincoln for next year (with Lincoln becoming its permanent home) or the district could start up a school in the unused part of Sand Point as they gradually move the tenants out.
P.S. I'm not back to blog continuously but this meeting was near my house so I attended it.