Here are links to various information/newstories:
from the district website, the news release
from the PI
from the Times
From the PI:
"Closing schools is the hardest decision I've faced as a director in this school district," said board Vice President Michael DeBell.
"I don't enter it lightly; on the other hand, I can't continue to keep 9,000 or more empty seats warm, dry, safe, supervised, clean and reasonably well maintained ... that's a loss of resources."
And this passage echos what I have heard about the average kindergarten size in the NE:
"The board also heard testimony from teachers, including Laurelhurst Elementary teacher Lisa Beneson, who said her full-day kindergarten class has 30 students this year.
"I cannot be the teacher I wish to be when I'm spread so thin," she said."
From the Times article:
"Goodloe-Johnson said she views the discussion as an opportunity to take a big-picture look at the district, at a time when it is discussing revamping special-education and other programs, and approving a new plan for how it assigns students to schools.
"Although it's emotional, although it's hard ... the timing is going to help us be comprehensive," she said.
Her intention, she said, is to be able to tell parents what they'd gain if their schools were to be closed or moved."
(Just to interject here, the CAC wanted and told the Board that staff needed to be able to show parents how they were gaining something by their schools closing. They did not do a good enough job in doing that and I felt very saddened by it. I had expected, for example, when the BEX list came out that I would see receiving schools having upgrades made to them because of the influx of students from closing schools but that didn't happen. It would be interesting to find parents whose schools closed and asked them how they feel today.)
Also from the Times article:
"A majority of board members opposed the staff proposal for Northeast Seattle — to put a regular middle school in the building that now houses the alternative school Summit K-12. Those board members said they'd prefer a K-8 program.
Some also noted that using the Summit K-12 site, which has about 30 classrooms, would preclude the need to look at moving Alternative School No. 1, which the staff also recommended."
The principal from Coe, David Elliott, came forward to explain what he and his fellow principals in QA/Magnolia thought they could do which is to take rooms being used for PCP time and turn them into classrooms. As well, there could be upgrades made to Blaine to add classrooms.
(I digress here but Director Maier asked if Blaine wasn't scheduled for a remodel at some point. The answer from Facilities staff was yes. He then said, "I wouldn't want to build at Blaine and then tear down something if a later project occurs." Michael DeBell echoed this sentiment. Unfortunately, gentlemen, you already approved just such an action when you approved Denny/Sealth. We are now tearing apart tennis courts and a baseball field that are about 5 years old. Additionally, you will likely find work done previously at Sealth being torn into because of the Denny/Sealth project. Where was this concern then?)
(I have to make a correction here because I had previously said the "north" had a K-8 in AS#1. But that's the "North" as an area but the "NE" as an area has none (although AE #2, now Thorton Creek, has the space and has said, in the past, that they were interested).
Much of the discussion centered around what to do about capacity issues in elementary and middle school in the N/NE. Indeed, to me, there seems to be a done deal here - Summit is moving and if I were that community, I would move in order to save my school. Staff seems hell bent on closing the program. In the PowerPoint they mention:
"Close Summit through attrition and start a new K-8 by growing the program gradually."
You mean, don't allow Summit to enroll anyone new and let it die in place as a new program builds around it. There was no mention of this option by the Board - they ignored it - but there it is in black and white.
There was some discussion of moving AS#1 and using that building as an elementary but the Board did not seem interested in that move.
Cheryl asked about an academic view about K-8 and Carla Santorno told the Board what she told the CAC a couple of years back. Namely, that there is no clear up or down to either K-8 versus 6-8; they each had drawbacks and pluses. But, the staff made clear that at this time, K-8s are more expensive for the district to run and that is why they recommended that Jane Addams become a middle school.
Sherry Carr asked where would students come to fill up a new middle school (at roughly 850 students)? She said she could see some from Eckstein (under a new assignment plan) plus some from Whitman but not enough to fill the space. However, Pat Sanders, a staff member, stated (and we know from discussion on this blog that it seems true) that many people leave SPS at 5th grade and go to private or to another district (Shoreline).
Dr. Goodloe-Johnson said that it would create a middle school in an area of the city that has none. Indeed, students have to travel fairly far (either to Eckstein or Hamilton) to get to a middle school. She also said that several of the K-8s already perceive that they don't get the money they need to address the span of grades that they serve. They may be smaller, she said, but they have more student needs to address.
But Directors Martin-Morris and DeBell seem to favor the K-8 plan. However, I will point out (and I plan to impress this upon the directors if they don't get it), by creating a K-8 in that location AND saying it is for capacity needs (both elementary and middle school), they are saying that under a new assignment plan ALL "traditional" K-8s (that includes Madrona, Blaine, Broadview-Thompson and New School) would be assigned as reference schools. (This is true right now except that it is likely to be easier to get into a K-5 now than under a new plan.)
That means in some parts of the City, you will be assigned to a K-8 whether that would be your choice or not. But, under a new plan, especially in the NE where the reference areas are likely to fill a school, people may be stuck with a K-8.
I personally would not like that. I would like the choice between a K-8 and a K-5 as my child starts school. But I'm not in this situation anymore so I'd like to hear what others think on this issue. How would you feel if your reference elementary school was a K-8 and your choice of a K-5 was likely to be far away, if any? What if that K-8 was 850 students (which would be about the size - if the goal is to fill the building's capacity - of a new K-8 at Jane Addams)?
I favor a 6-8 at Addams (if a home for Summit is found) because I believe Eckstein should be smaller, that a new middle school where there currently is none would fill AND that you would be able to create a stronger middle school program than at a K-8. Here's an example. Eckstein has a stellar music program. To get people to want to go to a new middle school, the district might offer to help a new middle school by "lending" the music director to the new middle school to consult. A strong middle school music program at Jane Addams would then feed into the developing music program at Hale making their program stronger (and therefore, Hale a more attractive draw). This is unlikely to happen at a K-8 where, again, the funds would be lower and it would be more difficult to have a large program. (Although, if you filled Jane Addams as a K-8 at 850 students that would be one heck of a large K-8 - Broadview-Thompson is the largest now at 671 although I believe New School is being built to house 700-800.)
But how to solve the capacity problem without a K-8? Well, I have some thoughts on that but I'll need to do some more investigating. Staff did have some ideas like adding classrooms (a la Blaine at Broadview-Thompson, Rodgers or Sacajawea and/or adding portables). I will stick in here that the idea of reopening Sand Point NEVER came up despite the fact that it was the #1 idea at the Roosevelt meeting. I asked Director Martin-Morris about it and he said it just wasn't possible (permitting, etc.) but I told him that by both staff and the Board not even mentioning it, it makes it look like any new ideas generated by parents/public are brushed aside.
From the PI article:
District staff members also offered their recommendations Wednesday for short-term solutions to ease overcrowding in North Seattle in the 2009-10 school year. Several options were on the table. The staff recommendations included:
The staff removed an unpopular recommendation that would have moved Alternative School No. 1 out of the Pinehurst building in northeast Seattle.
During a board work session before the evening meeting, board members said creating a K-8 in the Addams building in northeast Seattle would provide enough seats to ease overcrowding.
- Director Maier, despite AE#1 and Summit being in his area, seems devoid of concern for them. I spoke to one Summit mom after the Board meeting who said he said told Summit parents that Summit was a "failing" program and seemed to not get their concerns about being included in discussions. Directors Sundquist and DeBell both expressed concerns about due diligence over the movement or closure of any programs.
- Director Bass was largely silent. She did speak up and say that the district "doesn't stop at the Montlake cut". I think she feels a lot of time is being taken up on this capacity issue and not thinking as a district as a whole.
- Reading the news articles it seems that neither the Board nor staff are offering any other ideas about how to save money except to close schools. Odd.
- There does seems to be a tension between the Board thinking a K-8 is a better idea and the staff thinking a middle school is a better idea for Jane Addams.