Sunday, December 14, 2008

South & Southeast Clusters Closures & Consolidation

Unlike the last round of closures that had lots of South and Southeast schools involved in the proposals, this round has relatively few.

The Rainier Beach/Aki Kurose proposal for co-location I believe has merit. There is some research that 6-12 schools can be good for helping students otherwise at risk of dropping out reach graduation. Rainier Beach staff and teachers seem to be working very hard to improve the academics and keep a small community-school environment where the teachers know everybody. I believe a 6-12 configuration would address the concerns about the building capacity and allow those teachers to continue their good work, while also bringing Aki Kurose, a school that needs to be restructured according to NCLB, into a school that is on the upswing.

I'm surprised that the African American Academy closure proposal is not receiving more opposition than it is. We may still hear more, but from what I have read and heard from south end parents and activists, some people believe that AAA has been unsuccessful and dysfunctional, which makes it hard for those same people to advocate for keeping the school open.

The fate of Hawthorne is very much up-in-the-air due to the multiple proposals for APP and SBOC. This level of uncertainty must be very difficult for that school community.

Does anybody know if there is opposition in the Van Asselt community to the proposed move? And what any concerns/issues may be related to the move?

2 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

As I project forward into the new assignment plan, it appears that the Beacon Hill, Kimball, and Muir reference areas will become part of the reference area for Mercer Middle School instead of Washington. This will relieve the overcrowding at Washington and right-size its reference area. Without this shift in middle school reference area, the south-end APP students could not remain at Washington.

While Mercer might be a better location for south-end middle school APP, I can see that it would be too much change all at once than either the District or the impacted communities could manage.

The Mercer reference area will probably also include Maple, Hawthorne and Dearborn Park - essentially the South Cluster.

Speaking of the South Cluster, the original plan removed 250 seats from the cluster's capacity with APP students at Hawthorne. I think we should restore that plan. This is inextricably tied to the capacity management in the Central cluster, where, following the closure of TT Minor the District wanted to remove another 250 seats. With the re-purposing of Lowell, that number is boosted to 450 seats. Closing Montlake won't do it and is a bad idea besides. A better way to eliminate 450 neighborhood seats from the Central Cluster would be to re-purpose Thurgood Marshall as the AAA but cut down to a K-5.

I think the idea of moving Aki Kurose in with Rainier Beach High School is a bad idea primarily because it constrains the enrollment of these schools at the exact same moment that the District is pursuing a high profile effort to increase their enrollment. Talk about driving with one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake.

A better idea - one which I have put forward in the past - would be to close Aki Kurose and open a new middle school at South Shore with a capacity of 1,000.

This would put the south-end middle school across the street from Rainier Beach High School - close enough for cooperation, coordination, and occasional shared facilities but with separation for safety and management.

The New School would then move into the AAA building which is configured for a K-8. Putting Van Asselt in there as a K-5 would be a shameful waste of a building configured as a K-8.

I have already mentioned the idea of relocating the AAA as a K-5 to Thurgood Marshall. This would preserve an element of the school and it would elminate the requisite number of seats from the Central Cluster following the decision to keep Lowell open.

What then, with Van Asselt? One option, of course, is to leave it be. I'm intrigued, however, with the idea of moving it to Aki and expanding it, one grade per year, to a K-8. This would provide a traditional K-8 option in that part of the District. I know that The New School and ORCA are K-8s and that they are close by, but neither of them are reference area schools. The new reference area would be extended north while Brighton's reference area is shifted south a bit and the Wing Luke extends west. It may just be easier, however, to leave Van Asselt in place for now. It keeps us from trying to do too much at once and gives time to plan and reconfigure the building.

Beth Bakeman said...

Any report from the Van Asselt hearing tonight?