Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Floored

First, a quick thanks to Beth Bakeman for allowing me to join the Seattle Public Schools community blog. As I mentioned over on my recently-shuttered Chalkboard blog (aren’t closures all the rage these days?), I’m excited to join a vibrant online community focused on our schools.

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When it comes to Thornton Creek’s proposed move to the Jane Addams building, ends up we can’t trust the ground beneath our feet.

Or rather, the ground poses a snarl for the possible move.

I learned at a school meeting last night that the Decatur building (Thornton Creek’s current home) and Jane Addams building (Summit’s current abode) are both due to get new floors over the summer 2009.

According to Thornton Creek’s principal, in order for the district to replace the floors, staff will have about 24 hours from that last dismissal bell to vacate the building for the summer. And because Jane Addams is getting a floor makeover, too, it means that theoretically, Thornton Creek won’t be able to access that building until the third week of August.

Talk about hitting the ground (shiny! brand-spanking-new!) running with a newly-expanded program to include middle school. And if Summit is given a decent new home in a central location, they will face their own move-out predicament.

I imagine many similar wrinkles exist in the proposed school juggles. Seemingly little things that have the potential to derail the best intentions (unless those design teams have hovercraft-powered vehicles to use for building planning and moving). Of course, those new floors could be delayed by a year…or ten.

The closure/consolidation timeline doesn’t offer much room for error. There’s been a lot of talk about the big picture problems around the proposed plan, but what about the smaller stuff? What kinks do you see in the plan?

14 comments:

uxolo said...

Make-up days for snow days could lengthen the school year and shorten the renovation and moving plans.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Hi Denise...
Sorry to hear about the shuttering of Chalkboard; I checked the site a couple of times a week. Glad to have you on board here.

Beth Bakeman said...

Welcome, Denise! Glad to have you as a contributor on this blog.

Charlie Mas said...

There's no telling how the neighborhood reference areas will be redrawn when the Board finally gets around to writing the new student assignment plan that was originally due last spring.

However, it is very unlikely that the new Lowell reference area will encompass much of the Montlake reference area in 2010, and probably not the eastern part, the blocks immediately around the school, where most of the Montlake students live.

A critical element of the new assignment plan will be the District's assurance - if not guarantee - that families will be able to enroll their children at their neighborhood reference school. If Montlake is closed, a lot of the Montlake reference area - particularly the eastern part - will be in the new redrawn reference area for Stevens.

Will the District be able to assure those current Montlake students who are moved to Lowell in 2009 and find themselves in the new Stevens reference area with the new assignment plan, that they can enroll at Stevens in 2010 if they so choose? Stevens is already full. It is unlikely that many Stevens students will elect to leave in 2010. Will there be room for about 100 Montlake-Lowell-Stevens students at Stevens? Will they be able to enroll at their neighborhood reference area school?

I don't think so. Closing Montlake will force the District to renege on their promise of access to your reference school - this failure to fulfill a commitment will come in one of the communities that really needs that guarantee. This predictable failure will significantly detract from the new assignment plan's success, the District's credibility as an institution and the credibility of the Board and the Superintendent as individuals.

TechyMom said...

Charlie,
hmmm... that's interesting. I had been assuming that the reference area guarentee would only apply to K, 6th and 9th graders entering a new school, and that others would be grandfathered at their old school without such a guarentee. That seems an awful lot easier to manage. Has the district said one way or the other?

Meg said...

It's hard to move away from the massive flaws in the proposal as a whole. The overall plan involves forcing 5,046 kids to move(approximately. I could be off a little on the EBOC program enrollment at Thurgood Marshall) around the city. 8 buildings will be closed. Yes, this depends which "preferred" version you calculate, but even so.

By contrast, in the last round of closures (no picnic), of the 5 elementaries that closed, 743 kids were forced to moved. It sucked for them, but just based on the closure criteria before specific closures were proposed, they did have an idea it was coming. It would be easy to go off track here about criteria and the application of them, but my point is more that the logistics of moving a little over 5,000 kids around the city is going to have many more unexpected roadblocks like new floors being installed preventing move-in (and thus, move-in being on a severely shortened timeline, which almost always involved substantially increased expense).

I know I sound like a broken record when I say "in the last round," but it's relevant (well, I think the recent history here is relevant). The last round was NOT (for good reason) highly praised. Even so, the city-wide disruption was much smaller (there was more than the 743 in 5 elementaries, but I've had trouble digging up data on the enrollment of other closed schools). Most of the closed schools were not particularly wealthy. Even so, an average of 15.1% of kids forced to move left the district entirely. If the rate stayed the same (instead of going up due to increased overall turmoil), that would be 767 kids leaving the district due to closures. Lost students are lost allotment revenue. 767 is a middle school of kids leaving the district. It's more than 1% of all enrollment.

And also, the noose may be tightening on the assignment plan, but in the last round, only 51% of kids went where the district planned for them to. A more restrictive assignment plan may result in a higher rate of district departure.

In the Montlake-Lowell-Marshall plan, both buildings will be overfilled, instantly. APP kids are given a guaranteed spot if they sign up on time; this will mean that Montlake and Marshall neighborhood kids will be pushed out as a result, in addition to the EBOC kids being removed from Marshall to make way for APP.

It's been little discussed that SBOC has a contract with the district that says the district will either 1) move them into a recently renovated building or 2) renovate a building before moving SBOC in. Now, the superintendent has blithely rescinded points of the contract that don't suit her, so maybe they'll reneg on this, as well, but it looks like it could be up to $10M. I recognize that this is capital fund money rather than operating expenses, but right now, in this district, that's a LOT of money.

The CAC facilities assessment notes that educational instruction would be hampered if Hamilton is pushed up to its supposed capacity (and they cite a number lower than is on the facilities plan). And yet... Hamilton will be pushed up to capacity.

I know I've been a little scattered in pointing out some of the flaws that have not been addressed or discussed in the proposals or by the Superintendent, but ultimately, very few of the proposals have merits that make real sense.

The board, in October, gave the superintendent an accelerated timeline for all of this due to the financial crisis. Data strongly indicated that she is using that timeline not to address the financial crisis and excess seat capacity, as she was asked to, but to forward her own agenda.

TechyMom said...

I should clarify...

I had been assuming that the reference area guarentee would only apply to K, 6 and 9 THE FIRST YEAR. It would continue to apply to those same classes as they moved up the grades, but would not apply to the classes that were assigned via the old system.

I suppose it would also work to not grandfather the kids who are already in a building, but I doubt that would fly. It also seems like a very bad idea.

If you don't do one of those two things, the schools that are currently popular would be completely swamped with transfers from the reference area, combined with the kids who are already sitting there.

TechyMom said...

The Word Verification I had to fill in to make that last post was "seastost" Profetic?

Sahila said...

I am just amazed at ow SPS manages to forget/overlook its own promises to the various communities being shuffled around here...

There's the promise to SBOC about the quality of whatever building they will be going to...

There's the promise the District made to AS#1 to give them the Pinehurst building in perpetuity, as the sweetener for moving them out to the north end, from Bailey Gaezert (sp?) in the inner city...

And then there's the apparent memory loss about its own policy documents that commit it to alternative education and small schools and alternative assessment, when its now closing or moving and mega/uber merging non-traditional programmes all over the city....

Who holds SPS accountable to its commitments and promises?

SE Mom said...

What I heard from district staff and Tracy Libros at the new assignment plan meeting I attended, was that they had not officially determined what grades they would be starting with for 2010/2011 assignments. They mentioned 9th grade as likely and maybe 6th grade also.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Meg, I haven't forgotten about the district's promises to SBOC and have said so repeatedly. On BEX II, they were listed for $14M (and that got turned over to the never-ending Garfield project). The Superintendent cannot, herself, rescind the promises made by Board vote. The Board went over that document that they reference and I sensed some unease with undoing something voted on a scant two years ago (and that something the staff recommended two years ago has now changed).

I am going to keep on this because of the unfairness of the situation.

It will be interesting to see what happens with BEX money and the upcoming BTA levy because (1) Pathfinder, if moved, has to have lockers and science labs for the middle schoolers (2)updates may be needed at Lowell if they keep it up and running (3)and TC - Denise referenced floors - I wonder what else Addams might need?

Meg said...

Melissa- sorry if I sounded like I was chiding you. It's a little hard not to get strident and shrill when one attempts to follow any single proposal thread.

Beth Bakeman said...

Mel, you said "Pathfinder, if moved, has to have lockers and science labs for the middle schoolers."

While I agree that's absolutely desirable, we have had grades 6-8 at Pathfinder without these things since 1999.

Melissa Westbrook said...

True Beth and that's probably because they are in portables. But with the Science WASL breathing hard down the necks of the district, they can no longer NOT have science labs for middle schoolers and then expect them to pass the test. That's been my understanding and I am saddened that it hasn't been the case for Pathfinder. (The lockers seem less important although if the school says you can't carry your backpack around - as some middle schools do - then you need a locker.)