This district certainly keeps it interesting. When I talked about moving Montlake and issues with Center School, I had no idea (or belief that they would EVER see the light of day). Boy, was I surprised.
Some of the morning newspaper comments seem to think there was a lot of pressure on the Board by school groups. Anyone around for the last round of closures? I was and this is tame by comparison (although we haven't been to the Public Hearings yet which reminds me of another post to set up so that we have someone go to each one and report back; I'm going to Mann/Nova). I don't think the changes are due to pressure from outside so much as pressure and careful questioning by the Board to staff. The Board is doing a mostly great job in careful going through the process and asking the right questions.
So this discussion of North End Middle School Capacity just came out of left field (I mean the minute Charlie and I saw Jon Hafacre, principal at Washington, we knew something was up.)and I think this was a little last minute to throw this into the mix. Will we see Garfield next? I do think putting half of APP at Hamilton will attract more NE parents. I see Charlie's point about Washington still being too large and possibly not having enough space for the Meany students.
Van Asselt. This one still seems weird to me but the reason is because - wait for it - their building is so bad. Van Asselt has nearly 500 students which is more than I had thought so maybe they could fill AAA's nearly 640 seats (especially if some AAA students stay). Maybe it will expand to a K-8 because, honestly, what a waste of a K-8 building if not. But then you have not one but two K-8s within a mile of each other (New School and Van Asselt plus Dunlap in their backyard). And, if they move Aki into RBHS, as I think the final list will be, you'll have tons of middle school choices. But is this what is needed?
I will take this moment to say (and I pondered if I would say it but when one Board member said to me last night, "Oh Melissa, it's just water under the bridge", it sealed the deal)... I told you so. I got taken to the woodshed for saying NOT to build a new building for New School but to move/close AAA and let New School have their newish K-8 building. So now we are facing down ALL this capacity in one little 1.5 mile area. And, New School (which briefly appeared on the list as a possible location for a yet-unnamed elementary school) is now gone from the list. But is New School really going to be a 1,000 seat pre-K-8 school (because they are building it to that size in case someday they want it to be a just a middle school)? Seriously, that's one big school with a lot of little kids.
Thorton Creek. The issue here seems to be that, across the board and district, people are worried that between Thorton Creek's population AND Summit's K-8 population AND AS#1's K-8 population, all these sources of students might almost fill the school outright (or nearly). While TC's old site is to be a new elementary, have we really helped capacity issues in this area? The district is promising a push for the closed schools' students and so it is a matter of what those parents decide. Harium Martin-Morris called it an "uber-alternative school" with no growth potential. Peter Maier said maybe they shouldn't make the decision on AS#1 yet and see what Summit parents do. (Which seems unfair to AS#1's community because the district could leave them twisting in the wind only to come back next year and close them.) Director Bass jumped in and said ALL the schools under consideration would like to stay open another year as well. She seems to favor an assignment plan before closures but her's is a voice in the wind. Dr. G-J said they can't give schools time to grow and we need to make decisions now.
Also, it doesn't mention Spectrum in the plans for the new elementary at Decater (just "accelerated learning opportunities").
Pathfinder/Cooper. Again, I told you so. If the district had moved or closed AAA and moved New School into AAA, then the funds for New School would have gone to Pathfinder which is in a much worse building than South Shore (where New School was located). Now, the district admits that the Mann building (Nova) is the worst and so are Montlake and Genesee Hill. I knew this and told people this and yet, New School got the funds and not Pathfinder.
And where do we find ourselves now? Rousting either Cooper or Arbor Heights both of which, arguably, have some good points to support saving their programs. This DIDN'T have to happen and yet here we are. "Water under the bridge" indeed; sorry, we need to examine what happens so we don't do it again in the future.
I think Cooper is gone because Pathfinder's building is so poor. The Board is likely to "lift the restrictions of the Student Assignment Plan to allow for hte assignment of Cooper students to W.S North or South". There was discussion on this point because the document made it sound like it happened but has not. There will also be more transportation costs to use Cooper because of the scattering of their population (although I am told that Cooper has a wonderful garden and with Pathfinder's outdoor focus some Cooper students may just stay there). There will have to be funds for this effort because Cooper doesn't have lockers or science labs which are needed for middle school students from Pathfinder.
Montlake/Hamilton. A whole lot of moving around here. Michael De Bell worries about cluster capacity if they close 2 schools in one cluster with no excess capacity around. Sherry asked about public hearing for schools new to the list and was told that it was thought out and there was time for hearings for all these schools.
The district did address that they will have to make this work. All of it. The co-housing, the loss of Washington's music program to half of APP students, etc. Staff spoke over and over about "design teams" - who will be on these teams? Who has the time for all this and really, where are the resources? I don't know.
I do think that the Central area APP students need to go to Lowell (and oddly are placed at Marshall).
Nova/SBOC. Lots of discussion here because of a past Board decision (from 2006) which stated that SBOC should be free-standing in a renovated (to be renovated building). Dr. G-J obviously need the Board to amend this action but I don't know - the Board seems to be pondering this issue.
Previously, staff from Transportation had presented numbers about costs. Summit's and AS#1's is very high. But when we got to this part, it was asked what would happen if Summit moved to Meany and he said the costs would go higher! Now, in the first list they said that Summit's population is fluid so there was no way to know where students would come from and yet they say here that the transportation costs would go higher. I'm not buying this line.
Nova and SBOC still wouldn't fill Meany and neither is going to grow a whole lot. (By the way, Mary Bass admirably spoke up for Meany saying they had good things going on.) I think the Board is still wondering if Summit might be a better fit here (possibly with Nova if Summit were reduced to K-8).
Also, SBOC is owed somewhere between $11-14M from BEX II and whereever they go, they deserve that money.
Summit. So Summit may be gone baby gone. I just can't believe that there is no place for them. Mary Bass raised the issue of why the district managed to get the Special Ed, Bilingual and Advance Learning (albeit partial) audits done but not an Alternative Schools audit so we know what is working? No really good answer on this one from staff. Horribly, here's part of what staff said about where Summit students could go, "Reassign Summit 9-12 students to comprehensive high schools." Isn't the reason they go to Summit is NOT to be a comprehensive high school?" Staff didn't even suggest they go to Nova!
Mary Bass asked about transportation"hubs" to save transportation dollars. Staff said there were two pilot programs going on in West Seattle at Highland Park (which, ironically, Summit is part of) and 2 routes for Lowell students which save money and time on the bus. Good to hear about these new ideas and plans.
Update: I forgot to mention that it came out that the district actually makes money from transporting APP kids (because of the federal dollars).
Center School/Rainier Beach. Way out of left field but here it is. I do not understand discontinuing Center's program - if you have to move them, move them intact. Center would add an interesting option to this area of the city and their arts success might help Beach. They are right about getting the diversity that lead to Center asking to be not assigned as a reference school. I think the other options, subletting the space or using for homeschooling resources is based on the belief they can't get out of the lease but that was neither mentioned or verified.
I think moving Aki to Beach is a better idea but again, we are creating a lot of middle school seats in one small area. Will they all fill?
I was surprised to hear no real questions on this and then realized that moving Center School seems to be a non-starter to Board members. That said, they cannot continue to justify the costs of leasing space and closing buildings. Something has to change or they will look foolish to the public. DeBell said he didn't think this idea had been "vetted enough". He also said he wants to see a definitive minimum size for a comprehensive high school (which I think is in the Facilities Master Plan).
When questions came up, there was the issue of staff mentioning joining Cleveland and RBHS in some configuration at either building. Holly Ferguson mentioned something (and I think it was a slip because it was neither noted or discussed before) about Mercer moving to Cleveland and Cleveland's program ending and students going to RBHS). Dr. G-J mentioned a planning document for high schools and a steering committee something I hadn't heard about but will check into.
I wish they would leave Nova where they are, crummy building and all. They love it there. Co-join Center and Summit at Meany (that would fill the building) and give Secondary BOC their own home (maybe at AAA and Van Asselt shares with New School).
(I'm going to be very lazy here and not proofread. My apologies for any spelling, grammar, etc. errors.)