Sunday, December 14, 2008

North, Northeast, & Northwest Closures & Capacity Issues

I appreciated having one combined thread last week to address the "Potential Final Recommendations" presented last Tuesday, but with the upcoming Hearings this week, I think it's time to split out some of the clusters into separate threads. At Katie's request (on a previous thread), I'm starting with North and Northeast clusters where the overall capacity issues combined with the proposed closures create a confusing situation. And even though NW isn't specifically affected by the closure proposal, I'm including NW here because some of the kids who go to AS#1 and Summit (and probably Thornton Creek) are from the NW cluster.

1) I absolutely agree with Katie that Summit should be moved somewhere central (probably Meany) because 1) it would help with N & NE cluster capacity issues; and 2) I don't want to see the number and variety of alternative seats in the district reduced so drastically without a through program review and a clear plan.

2) Thornton Creek needs lots of support to successfully expand in both size and grade band. I don't think the Thornton Creek staff request to expand one grade at a time is feasible, given the current capacity issues and proposed cloures, although I certainly understand why that would be desirable. Pathfinder changed from K-5 to K-8 in one year with virtually no funding and support and the 6-8 grades put in portables across the parking lot from the school, where they remain 9 years later. (see Pathfinder School History for details) Thornton Creek should work to avoid a repeat of that history.

The recent closure proposal has caused questioning of our district leadership about whether or not they support alternative schools. I laughed out loud when Carla Santorno said that some alternative programs benefited from the proposed closures, citing the move of Nova to a "better" building (which is not what that school community wants) and the move and expansion of Thornton Creek. I have news for Carla, being asked to move, expand grade-bands quickly, and welcome many incoming families from a school like AS#1 that has a different educational philosophy is not a desirable situation! I hope Thornton Creek K-8 thrives, and a I believe it can, but only with a ton of hard work by staff and parents, and some luck.

3) And what about the new K-5 school at Decatur? How is the district going to set up a successful new neighborhood school quickly? Will hiring start earlier this year? And what can other schools in the cluster do to support it?

4) The north-end middle school situation and discussion that has emerged on this blog goes far beyond my knowledge, so I'll just mention that Hamilton is affected by the current APP middle-school split proposal.

So what is your take? Have any ideas better than the ones proposed by the district emerged this week during discussions? And do you think the Board and district staff are hearing them?

27 comments:

North-end Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seattle Mom said...

As a northend parent who values diversity in advanced learning, I have real concerns that splitting APP at Washington Middle School by residence address creates a genuine risk of segregating the program even more than it has been.

Keeping APP together at Washington Middle School is the best way to provide EQUITABLE advanced learning services, in the current Seattle Central Area location.

APP kids benefit from learning TOGETHER from a variety of backgrounds throughout the city.

Likewise the original plan to move the central area Meany students to Hamilton would preserve Hamilton's currently diverse student body and provide new learning opportunities for those kids, without adding the complexity of another parallel, independently-run APP program, just as Hamilton International is beginning to establish itself in the new building.

I don't want my child in an even-more-white APP program for middle school. I witnessed efforts to diversify APP over the past years and I believe that splitting APP at Washington would be a definite step backward. I would be concerned the southend APP branch would be neglected by the district and after several years would dwindle away or become watered down. Having the split would make for fewer APP kids in the WMS building which would increase the risk of them being bullied by the general ed kids, particularly students of color who may be taunted for "acting white" for being "too smart." Would parents of minority kids stop enrolling them for APP out of concern for this? Would bright kids from south seattle lose access to the advanced learning they need? After years of witnessing Seattle Public Schools neglect of central, S, SE clusters, especially the inconsistent quality of Spectrum, and reluctance of parents there to enroll in those programs for these reasons, I am concerned this might happen.

Let's WAIT UNTIL THE ENROLLMENT PLAN IS FINALIZED NEXT YEAR before we approve ANY of these drastic and ill-thought-out changes to our Seattle Public Schools!

North-end Mom said...

Melissa and Charlie,
I respect your opinions, but I find that I have to speak out about your suggestions to create a "blended" alternative K-8 at the Jane Addams building (on another thread).

I live a few blocks from the Jane Addams building. Like many of my friends and neighbors, we've wished for the day that it would be used more efficiently, and more appropriately. Summit is a wonderful program, but as an all-city draw, they should have a central location, and they were not filling the building. Moreover, their program was not seen as academically strong enough for many of us to see it as a viable option for middle school.

Kids on my block are currently assigned to Hamilton, which is a fine school, but it is a very long bus ride away, so Shoreline and/or private schools are sometimes seen as our only middle school options. I realize our middle school assignment may change, but that is our current reality.

As I see it, the main reasons why Thornton Creek was chosen to be relocated to the Jane Addams building were because:

1) Moving Thornton Creek from its current Decatur site would open up much-needed elementary school seats in the NE cluster.

2) Thornton Creek is a strong program, with proven high academic standards, and consistently has wait-lists at the elementary school level. It is viewed as a program that would be a sucess if grown CAREFULLY to a K-8, as long as it is allowed to keep the integrity of its rigorous ELOB learning model.

3) It's program is mainstream enough to appeal to a subset of families who may wish to chose Thornton Creek as a middle school for their child now enrolled in general education schools, thus providing relief for the overcrowding at Eckstein (Charlie, spare me your lectures on north end middle school over-crowding, please...let's agree to disagree on that point).

4) It was cheaper than starting a new program, such as a general education math/science K-8 (which was something desired by many from the surrounding community), from scratch.

It is a STRONG program, therefore it has a good chance of success!

Summit was not able to fill the Jane Addams building. AS-1 has not been able fill the Pinehurst building. That is partly why these programs are in jeopardy.

Merging (or as you say, "blending")Summit and AS-1 with Thornton Creek is a bad idea on so many levels. As many have pointed out, they are radically different programs. I strongly feel that any attempt to change Thornton Creek's already strong academic program and standards would lead to the failure of the K-8.

We simply can't afford to have a failed program in that building. It is too valuable of a building to waste on such an experiment.

I have had the opportunity to interact with members of both the Thornton Creek and Summit communities recently. When the topic of the program at the new K-8 came up (during different conversations), Thornton Creek parents were quick to point out that their program would be similar to that of a math/science magnet school, because of their rigorous standards. In a separate meeting, Summit parents said that they found the concept of magnet schools "appalling." SPS is proposing to throw together vastly different learning philosophies, and I imagine it gets much more complex with AS-1 in the mix.

Thornton Creek has a learning model that works and works well. It is in high demand, and kids are obviously learning well. Why should it have to change?

Summit should also be able to continue on their own arts-focused course, since that works for them. As an all-city draw, they should have a central location. Period.

I honestly don't have an answer for AS-1. I believe they should stay open to meet the needs of capacity, but I feel they need to do a much better job of holding their school accountable for its academic progress.

If there is no other choice but to close one or both programs, then I feel it is still important for Thornton Creek to be the main program at the K-8, and for Thornton Creek to keep the integrity of their program. If, after learning about the ELOB model former Summit and AS-1 families want to pursue that learning model, then great! I'm sure those families will add a lot to the school, as would any other families who would choose that learning model for their children if it was available as an elementary or middle school option.

So, yes, I'm sure you will accuse me of looking at this through too narrow of a scope, but am I? Yes, it is in my neighborhood, so I am concerned. We are all concerned in the NE, because all of our schools are full, beyond even their "planning capacities." I want a successful program at Jane Addams, not a mis-matched, thrown together dysfunctional mess. I want the building to be used efficiently and effectively. A well-planned mushroom K-8 allows for that. I want the proposals for the NE cluster to help balance capacity, not ignore it (which is what will happens if the Jane Addams building becomes the home for the displaced Summit and AS-1 students).

If the Thornton Creek expansion is not a doable proposal, as Thornton Creek staff are indicating, then perhaps it is time to revist other options, such as a general education K-8.

My son doesn't enter middle school until 2011, so if your predictions are correct, we will have the honor of being assigned to the much-coveted, over-crowded Eckstein. Though in all honesty, a high-performing K-8 (math-science, perhaps) just down the street would be much more appealing to our family than Eckstein (no legacy issues in our lineage).

Sahila said...

Summit families must be livid... in working on material for AS#1's public meeting last night, I compared building scores around the city...Summit's (Jane Addams) score was amongst the lowest... yet they're being chucked out of their building and probably being disbanded as a programme, to give the space to another school - where is the money coming from that wasnt available to upgrade it for Summit 9and give it a chance to boost its enrolment numbers), but will be available to house all its new incumbents???

And did you know that Salmon Bay's building scores were lower than many of the other schools on the closure list??? And they too are underenrolled, according to SPS figures...

Go check the figures, and while you're at it, also check the AYP/NCLB stats - interesting to see that schools faring worse than those on the closure list (including Franklin and Ingraham high schools) are not being touched...

If this is about capacity and saving on capital expenditure and programme success, these closure lists are bogus...

Melissa Westbrook said...

North-End Mom, please go back and read what I wrote. I said Charlie made good points but at no time did I say the word "blended" or agreed that the schools should blend. I said that the staff/parents at AS#1 and/or Summit might be able to offer advice on middle school. (Charlie and I may sound similar themes or agree with each sometimes but we are not of the same mind on all things.) What I said was that:

-the district has decided Addams will be a K-8 for TC which is now K-5. The district offers that AS#1 and Summit K-12 close. So your idea that TC will "grow" to K-8 may be off because where will all those middle school AS#1 and Summit middle school students go? Eckstein? Salmon Bay? (They might actually negotiate an "in" for enrollment at Salmon Bay - who knows?) It seems that TC will have to start at K-8 or the district has create another capacity problem. You can't provide relief to Eckstein if you are slowly growing TC to a K-8.

Agreed. Summit should go to Meany and be given the chance to grow (and I believe it would). Nova should stay put and SBOC should actually get their $14M and we should take a closed building, renovate it and that's their new home (how about Columbia building?). South Lake was totally rebuilt for $14M and it could be done for SBOC.

I think the district is moving waaay too fast on APP. If they feel they must split it, start at elementary and work that out first. See what you need to do and learn from it. It is too much, too fast to do it from grades 1-8 and too much room for error (or even disaster). Hamilton, in the fall, will just be going into its second year in Lincoln and will possibly have a new program in APP in the building, will then be part of a new assignment plan and then move again in fall 2010 into their new building? I'm with Charlie - bring on the superhero design team that will make all that happen smoothly.

emma said...

Summit was an unpopular program in the NE. Not enough families were choosing the program, and the building had excess capacity in a cluster where every other school not only filled their building, but added classrooms, have large wait lists and are forced to turn kids away.

Sahila, as sad as it is, it is time for Summit to go.

This is about making capacity in the north end.

It was a logical move to put a popular program like TC in the Adams building where they can grow and fill the building. And make Decatur a traditional K-5.

I don't think the merger of AS1, Summit and TC is a good idea, and I do not think it will work. But moving TC as a stand alone program into Adams is a good idea, as is a new elementary in the Decatur building.

AS1 should stay open, not because the program warrants being salvaged, but because capacity in the north is so tight - there is nowhere else for the AS1 students to go.

Summit should move to a more central location where access will be equitable for kids from all over the city. If it continues to be unpopular and lose enrollment after the move, then it should be closed, and/or reinvented.

North-end Mom said...

Melissa,
Yes, now it does seem that Thornton Creek has been given the enormous task of taking on expansion to a K-8 from day one of the re-location, IF it is charged with taking on the displaced Summit middle school students.

Ideally, if Thornton Creek were allowed to roll up to a mushroom K-8, with a small elementary school (300-ish) and larger middle school(assuming Summit has a good home, and AS-1 does not close), the roll-up would be complete before the bulk of the current NE elementary school capacity crunch starts to hit middle school, in 2013. This would definitely provide relief to Eckstein at a time when relief would be much-needed.

By keeping the elementary school small, approximately the same size that Thornton Creek currently is, more middle school homerooms could be accomodated in the Jane Addams building, which translates to more relief at Eckstein.

So, for many reasons, it would be a wonderful thing for Summit to have a home in a central location, as well as for AS-1/Pinehurst to remain open.

north seattle mom said...

Unfortunately, I think the North issues make the entire process of "balancing capacity" much more complex for everyone. It would be really wonderful if the excess capacity were distributed evenly throughout the district because then we could talk about a fair distribution of the closure pain.

However, 20 schools were closed in the North end in the 80s leaving the North end with simply a smaller number of buildings. That combined with a high density housing boom has created a whole lot of little bodies trying to get into too few buildings. It is really easy to talk about quality and equity and everything else like that. However, there are simply too many students vying for too few spaces in this part of town.

Closing any school at this point in the North end, even one as ineffective as AS1 is just inappropriate in the extreme, because there is no where to place them.

Elizabeth said...

I am a Thornton Creek parent chiming in for the first time today.

Beth says in the original post "Thornton Creek needs lots of support to successfully expand in both size and grade band."

Does anyone really think Thornton Creek has much hope of getting that support?

As far as I have heard, there is no district money available for either the physical building or the training of new teachers in the ELOB methods. I'm sure many of you have noticed that this is not a good time to be raising lots of money quickly. The time frame is likely too short to apply for grants.

Pulling this off in such a short time would require a enormous amount of work. I'm reasonably confident that TC can field enough skilled parent effort to do those things parents can do. We have enough involved parents that after the most active burn themselves out (and believe me, they will burn out), we should still have a decent volunteer base.

When I think of the additional work the staff would be taking on, I blanch. Do we really want to ask that most of them to take on a half time job for free? Does everyone understand that if we do this against the staff's wishes and on such a compressed time frame that we're going to loose some wonderful teachers to burnout?

I think the district has a beautiful fantasy that Thornton Creek is so resourceful it can weather whatever adversity comes its way. Thanks for the vote of confidence, but let's be reasonable.

The proposal as it stands will kill Thornton Creek.

Charlie Mas said...

The capacity management plan for the north simply does not work unless the District can find an acceptable location for Summit.

I propose Lincoln.

Lincoln is big enough that Summit can be there and the District can continue to use the rest of the building as an interim site.

Lincoln is centrally located and close to transportation for an all-city draw.

Lincoln has performance spaces suitable for Summit.

Lincoln could have a North Cluster draw so there will continue to be an alternative school option for families in the north cluster.

Eventually, the District may place a comprehensive high school at Lincoln as well. Summit could co-locate with that high school.

Roy Smith said...

Harium has posted at least twice on his blog that he does not support closing AS#1 due to the capacity issues in the NE. I wonder, does he have any support in that position from the other board members?

Charlie Mas said...

The point I raised regarding the idea of a "blended" alternative program in the Jane Addams building wasn't so much a recommendation as a question.

Really, read the original and see if it wasn't primarily a question or a prediction rather than some kind of recommendation.

Surely if the students, families, and potentially staff from AS#1, Summit, and Thornton Creek all appear at Jane Addams in the fall they will all bring with them some elements of the culture of their previous school. That's just the way people are. Culture is the stuff you do when you don't even realize that you're doing stuff.

I know that the resulting school is supposed to be Thornton Creek. I presume that it will be a lot like Thornton Creek is now, but there can be no denying that it will reflect elements of the other schools as a continuing legacy. This will be particularly true in the grades 6-8 where the only previous experience was at the other schools.

I extended the question further by asking if the District could not have put the three schools together and called the result by any of the three schools' names. The answer to that one appears to be "No." Because Thornton Creek has a very specific brand of pedagogy, ELOP, and because this style will be practised across all classes, there can be no question that the continuing school will be Thorton Creek and no other. Okay. I asked my question and I got my answer. Thanks.

North-end Mom said...

Charlie,
Yes, Lincoln sounds like a good home for Summit, and I saw on Harium's blog that you have submitted this idea to the capacity@ email box. I hope they take it under consideration.

I know that Hamilton is currently housed in Lincoln until their building remodel is complete. This won't be until at least 2010(?). I believe there are other programs currently in Lincoln, as well (maybe not?). Do you know if there is enough room for the Summit program to be housed in Lincoln for the next school year (2009-10) and beyond? Is there room for them to be co-housed with Hamilton before Hamilton moves out? Thank you!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Lincoln is large; it fit Roosevelt for its rebuild and Garfield for its. Yes, it could fit Summit while Hamilton is there. A comprehensive high school (from 800-1000) could fit there and hold Summit as well. The blah, blah, blah from district staff is that Summit couldn't go to Lincoln because...there is no playground. Well, there wasn't at RBHS but they were going to put them there. It could be worked out.

north seattle mom said...

Charlie -- I completely get your musings on the proposal for the Jane Addams building. It would be really lovely, if there could be a SUCCESSFUL democratic, arts-based, expeditionary learning school. But come on what are the odds that a plan like that could be pulled off in a good budget climate? Now what shot does that plan have in this climate?

Everyone seems to agree that putting half of APP in a blended school is going to be challenging and we have two examples what that works at Washington and Garfield. Blending three alternative programs. We don't have time for that type of experiment. We over enrolled now.

This whole plan is just too convoluted.

North-end Mom said...

Melissa,
I did some googling and found this document, an outline of a proposal (looks like an old proposal?) for a community school at Lincoln. It has 2010 facilities update written on the top of the document. Is this something that is still being considered?

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/facilities/FMP/FMP_AppendixE.pdf

The performance hall and little theater at Lincoln sound excellent for Summit.

North-end Mom said...

Sorry, the above link was cut off:

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/facilities/
FMP/FMP_AppendixE.pdf

Maureen said...

JSIS was at Lincoln not that long ago. What did they do for a playground?

Charlie Mas said...

And Madrona K-8 was at Lincoln before Roosevelt was there.

As Melissa wrote, the capacity of Lincoln is about 1600, so there is room for the 725 Hamilton students and the 532 Summit students next year. No problem.

And don't worry about how these cultures will all be brought together, there will a Design Team.

These Design Teams are like superheroes. They can do anything. No matter the question - where will we find the resouces, how can we be assured of program quality, what personnel will be hired - the answer is that the Design Team will deliver the solution. They're like the Super Friends or something.

Who are these Design Teams?
What is the extent of their authority?
What is the scope of their charge?
Will they stay around to enforce their designs or to alter them in the face of unexpected results?

If the Design Team tells the principals at Hamilton and Washington that they have to offer Integrated Math 3, then do they really have to? What if they don't?

If the Design Team tells a former AS#1 teacher at Thorton Creek that he or she has to get with the ELOP program, then do they? What if they don't?

The answer to a lot of questions has been "Design Team", but there are no answers to questions about the Design Teams.

TechyMom said...

This might be a crazy idea, but... Would Summit fit at Hale, co-housed with the current program? There's a playground that's just right for them across the street at their old building. Perhaps they could figure out a way to share the performing arts spaces with Thornton Creek.

Charlie Mas said...

I think the District's goal is to fill Hale.

Central Mom said...

I'm hearing the idea of Summit as a K-8 moved to Meany as one option (via the KUOW school closure program right now). Charlie's idea about Lincoln sounds much better. Why put another K-8 right next to Madrona, which already has capacity, and in the same cluster as TOPS, which is already a multi-cluster draw. Odd proposal.

Megan Mc said...

AS#1 had a great turn out. We had speakers right up until 8:30 and the cafeteria was full. We served dinner cooked by AS#1 students and faculty and donated by local businesses. Parents, students, alumni, teachers, and community members all stated their support for keeping the AS#1 program in the Pinehurst building. There was no one there who spoke in favor of closing the building. The transcript will be posted on the capacity management site tomorrow. Speakers focused on the capacity issue, the need to preserve AS#1's unique program, and the lack of money saved by closing Pinehurst ($130,000 a year according to the district in 2006).

adhoc said...

I think all city draw programs should be located in central locations. Since the entire district is their neighborhood then these schools should be located where the entire city has equitable access to them. Personally I think it would be ideal to have all of the all city draw schools in the Central cluster, but I know that logistically that is not possible. So Lincoln would work as an alternate and would certainly better than their previous far north location at Jane Adamms.

TechyMom said...

I'd be OK with Summit at Meany, though I'd prefer to keep it K-12rather than K-8. Madrona and Summit are vastly different programs, with different draw areas, and would attract different students. The only similarity is the grade levels. You might even get some TOPS overflow at Summit if it were nearby, since it offers a more well-rounded program than many of the other Central schools. Also, since we're closing a middle school, it seems like a good idea to have some extra K-8 seats to take some of those kids.

I'd put Summit (K-12 or K-8) at Meany with SBOC, and leave Nova where it is. Nova likes its building, and as Charlie has pointed out, its cost per student is actually quite low.

Central Mom said...

Good point on the middle school seats. However, Summit didn't pull families into the NE cluster. Would they entice local families in the Central cluster? Hard to tell. A really strong offering at Lowell has more opportunity to succeed, IMHO. Both for the south end of the Central Cluster and for giving families at the north end of the cluster another look at public vs. private.

TechyMom said...

I'm not sure you have to have only one or the other, especially since Summit is all-city. I'd like a strong traditional (or language immersion) program at Lowell, and a not-full alternative program nearby. Maybe that's too many seats, maybe not. Wouldn't it be nice to have a few choices of well-rounded programs without huge waiting lists?

Putting Summit at Lincoln or Marshall or Madrona or AAA would be OK with me too, but I haven't heard anyone from the district say that would be OK with them. I just want Summit to land somewhere, so it can pull kids out of the North End, and because I think it's kind of a neat program. It seems to have the best chance of landing safely at Meany, since that was listed as an option on the Dec 9 proposal.