Here is my account of the Board work session on capacity issues in the north end which was held on Wednesday, October 1st, 2008. Please note, this is not verbatim.
All the Board members were present as was the Superintendent who did the overview sections of the presentation. Also at the table were Tracy Libros, head of Enrollment, and Kathy Johnson, from Facilities who the Phase I Manager (there are going to be two phases for this process; one started already and Phase II in January).
Here is a link to the district webpage on this subject. Here is the link to the PowerPoint given by staff to the district. No handouts were available for the public but here is a link. (And, they seated the Board members in a u-shape around the screen so it was difficult for the audience to see the screen - the Board had handouts.)
Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson said the goal of the meeting was to get a clear indication from the School Board on what measures to take for the school year 2009-2010 on the issue of lack of capacity in the north end elementaries.
The timeline is as follows:
-Oct 1 - Staff presentation to Board
-Oct 8 - Send draft recommendations to Board Executive Committee and Program Placement Committee
-Oct15 - Introduce at Board meeting draft recommendations to current Assignment Plan (an annual review) and capacity adjustments needing Board approval
-Oct 15-Nov 12 - Public comment (it is not known how this will be carried out; there was no discussion)
-Nov 12 - Board action on recommendations and capacity adjustments needing Board approval
-Dec - Superintendent action on other recommendations
Tracy Libros went over the capacity challenges which have been presented at the community meetings. They include:
-overall decline in K-12 enrollment in the past 10 years by 2280 students
-shortage of seats for 2009-2010
-however, kindergarten is trending up the last 5 years; last year's K was 3,160 and this year's K was even higher (preliminary as final numbers were due on Oct. 1) by another 190 students
-of note, she said that the preliminary numbers show a higher than expected enrollment in Rainier Beach HS, Aki Kurose and Cleveland and it was encouraging to see
There is a chart in the presentation which shows the numbers needed for North, NE, NW and Queen Anne/Magnolia. They range from 12-17 next year for the North to 4-6 in QA/Magnolia.
Kathy Johnson then went over the potential solutions but said "there could be solutions we haven't thought of yet". She stressed that the short-term solutions would be part of a long term plan (this was said repeatedly; they obviously heard parents at the meetings). She said that Sand Point, Old Hay and Magnolia schools were all ideas heard for reusing buildings and that repurposing Jane Addams was yet another idea.
Director Carr asked if they had considered the impact of developments in the north-end and Tracy said yes. (I will say that this question got raised, repeatedly and with great suspicion, because parents in the southend (both southeast and West Seattle) could not believe that with all their developments, especially in public housing, that school enrollments would not go up. I take the impact of developments with a grain of salt given the outcomes in the southend. However, the wild card is what impact a new assignment plan would have if suddenly hundreds of southend kids stayed in the south.)
Kathy explained that the Jane Addams building could hold 823 and the Summit program has 527 students. She said Pinehurst (where AS#1 is) holds 282 and has 160 students. She said the Board could choose to close or relocate one or both programs.
(There is some irony here given that it was suggested in Phase II of Closure and Consolidations that because of these under-capacity programs that AS#1 join Summit at Jane Addams and that was largely rejected. More by AS#1 than Summit but, as we see, the proposal went nowhere.)
Kathy said that Blaine K-8 could be repurposed for a K-5 which would solve their capacity problems in QA/Magnolia but the 6-8 graders would have to go somewhere. She said it would help McClure Middle School to take those students (they are underenrolled) but that McClure did not have the capacity for all these students and that it would eliminate a traditional K-8 in that area.
(Michael asked if Blaine were reconfigured, what that might do to plans to renovate it? Kathy said that would be considered.)
Another proposal was to create new classrooms at Broadview-Thompson, Blaine, Sacajawea and perhaps other schools. She said it would create 10-12 permanent classrooms but that funds would have to redirected from other projects to do so.
Another proposal was to tweak the assignment plan so that out of cluster students could have access to B.F. Day, Green Lake, Olympic Hills and one other (can't read my writing) with transportation.
(This was not of interest to Board members. As well, most parents at the community meeting I attended also had little interest. It is basically putting their child on a bus to a faraway school. Director Martin-Morris asked if the ancient VAX system used for assignments could do this and Tracy said yes.)
Another proposal is to relocate programs. This also has a tepid response probably because people fear any relocation of Special Ed or bilingual programs and because it is vague (what programs moving to what schools?).
Bring on portables. Again, not much interest in terms of creating classroom space because of the fear of them becoming permanent and the cost for high-quality ones (which, again, would take funds from other projects and could impact playgrounds). There was some interest if it was to help a school that is maxed out and have a portable not as a classroom but perhaps as a place for conferences or counseling or volunteers; activities whose space may have gotten pushed aside to create new classrooms for students. Harium expressed concern over using portables to create more classrooms because a school isn't just a classroom but also has other resources that get stressed like the cafeteria and the library.
Then there were some questions.
Steve Sundquist: repurposing/program relocation question - can this be done in the time required? Dr. G-J said it would be tight be could be done.
Director Bass: do these enrollment numbers include southend kids in northend schools? Tracy said yes.
Director DeBell cautioned against calling this enrollment rise a "bubble" because it could be a new demographic. (I told my table at Roosevelt this as well based on anecdotal stories of people who are coming to Roosevelt who were at private schools and the reality that a trending down economy -okay, tanking-may mean fewer people who can afford private schools.)
Michael also said that there is community interest in using Old Hay but it has a program there (the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center) and Jane Addams but it has Summit there.
Dr. G-J said the Secondary BOC could be a conversation after an on-going audit of the bilingual programs is finished. It was noted that a search for a better place for Secondary BOC has been going on for quite awhile and that money ($14M) that they were to receive for whereever they would be relocated had gone to finish Garfield.
President Chow noted that the most immediate need is the the NE/NW rather than QA/Magnolia.
Steve stated that repurposing Jane Addams was a community generated solution and had it been looked at? Dr. G-J said yes.
Harium and Dr. G-J had a bit of an interchange because he asked what it would take to get things done sooner and she said there are 27 parts (!) to the Strategic Plan and this was only one of them and staff could only do so much. Don Kennedy (COO/CFO) added that people working on the VAX migration are also involved in this work so they are stretched thin.
Dr. G-J said staff recommendations are yes to creating new classrooms and minor assignment plan tweaks but no to portables (unless it was to stabilize a school, not add classrooms) and possible relocations.
Dr. G-J again stated staff wanted direction from the Board. (Minor note: I realize that the Board has been following this issue - although how strongly by how many members I don't know - but this is the first time they have seen this stuff in a presentation. I find it odd that the Board is supposed to give direction right away. Most people need to actually process the information first.)
Steve: in general, the smallest number of moves to get it done
Peter: repurposing of Jane Addams and Pinehurst - he said there is "lots of potential". He said Jane Addams could be a K-8 and that the community could help plan the school. He said perhaps they could start next year with 2 classrooms of K-1 and grow the school.
(What I found disturbing about his comments were not the substance but that he named neither Summit nor AS#1 as the programs in those buildings. As well, he said he needed to find out more about AS#1. Both these programs are in his district; you'd think he would have a little more compassion.)
He also said he was less inclined to repurpose Blaine and lose a K-8. He said the transportation idea was interesting but would not want to bring another long-term cost to the transportation budget. He said he wouldn't rule out portables but that they were not high on his list.
Michael spoke at length. He said portables are a last resort. He said relocation of programs should be for efficiency. He said that he felt the transportation tweak to the assignment plan is against the direction they are trying to go for the assignment plan.
He said that creating new classrooms had to be looked at through the Facilities Master Plan (which is, after all, the plan for facilities). He said he was supportive of repurposing buildings but there had to be a connection between a short-term and long-term plan. He said they needed to engage the communities in those buildings. He said there needed the Jane Addams building for a K-8 because there was no K-8 in that region (which isn't true because AS#1 is a K-8 - he had mentioned other K-8 before, both alternative and traditional so I don't know why this slipped his mind).
He said they could explore a co-location at Old Hay with Secondary BOC and bring some classes of John Hay (with a waitlist) over. He said the old Board had made a commitment to Secondary BOC and that they (the Board) needed to firm that up. He also stated that he wouldn't want to change Blaine from K-8 to K-5 because the architecture of the building was that it was built as a middle school. He expanded on that saying that Old Hay was built as an elementary but was being used as a middle/high school when those students there needed a building for the ages that they are.
Sherry said her views were similar to Steve's and that they needed to be strategic in adding classrooms. She said efficiency evaluations are a good idea. She liked the idea of moving Summit but not so much #AS 1. She did say that she did not want to create a whole new type of school at Summit but build on what they had already been doing. I would assume this means no new math/science based school but K-8 international school or K-8 arts school (a la JSIS or TOPS).
She said that any movement of programs especially Special Ed needed attention.
Mary Bass, as the longest serving Board member, had more visionary remarks. She said that the district doesn't stop at the Montlake cut and reminded Board members that they need to think of the whole district. (She is right on this point; a plan has to take into account the ripple effects, of which there are always, in the district.) She said she needed more time to think about the presentation.
Harium stated he felt two things: one, that Old Hay could have better use to support the growth in that area and two, that Jane Addams needed to be repurposed. But he wanted to see the costs for changing anything.
Cheryl (another person who has been in and around this district for decades) had some visionary remarks as well. She said that because of busing and then because of program placements that a generation of south end students had come north. She said that it is important to not forget that this occurred and that the Board had to think from a district level.
I feel that it was a good presentation with a couple of issues. One, parents at the Roosevelt meeting really wanted to hear about the idea of repurposing Sandpoint. There was not one word here about that except to name it as an idea. Staff is firmly against this one and so there was no discussion.
Also there are many parents throughout the region(s) who stand ready to help and yet there wasn't much discussion of that nor how public comments would be given to these ideas. This presentation was different in many ways from the community meetings on the subject.
It seems clear that Jane Addams will be repurposed but there was no discussion or even ideas of where Summit might go. It seems program placements might help the problem but again, there were no specifics. Most of the Board members seemed to be against portables, assignment plan tweaks or building new classrooms.