Friday, June 26, 2009

Eight Closed Buildings - What Will the District Use Them For?

I just saw this article in the Seattle PI. Not sure what to think but wanted to pass it along. A couple of these buildings were in the last closures and others are closed as of right now. From the article:

The Seattle School District can allow many new uses in former schools without convening a special committee, city planners said Thursday.

The District asked for the clarification with regard to eight closed and closing schools: Genesee, at 5012 S.W. Genesee St., Columbia, at 3528 S. Ferdinand St., T.T. Minor, at 1700 E. Union St., John Marshall, at 520 N.E. Ravenna Blvd., Horace Mann, at 2410 E. Cherry St., Viewlands, at 10525 Third Ave. N.W., Hughes, at 7740 34th Ave. S.W., and Fairmount Park, at 3800 S.W. Findlay St.

"What we were looking for at at this point was simply to expand the potential uses of these eight specific closed schools," district spokesman David Tucker said.

I guess the thing that I still shake my head over is how many closed, leased or interim buildings we have.

20 comments:

Syd said...

I seem to be in the minority here, but I don't think the school district should ever sell off land. They need that flexabilityto respond to demographic changes. If they sell off the buildings and the land, then they have to buy new land for new buildings when growth happens.

As well, I am not a fan of big schools. I would prefer to keep buildings open with smaller populations. My eldest had a 1st grade of 17 students at Beacon Hill 10 years ago, and I have to say his experience was better than the huge kindergarten class my second child had this year with 26 kids at Graham Hill.

If SPS had not sold off the QA high school for condos, they would have a high school in their neighborhood.

Sahila said...

I agree with Syd... smaller schools with smaller classes... we have the space and its educational best practice (AND DISTRICT POLICY)to reduce class sizes...

and what is left over - spread the SPS admin around the buildings that border the Central Business District... put like departments together wherever possible... with multiple avenues of electronic communication and video conferencing possible today - see Roundtable - there should be no trouble staying connected and being productive and effective...

Then SELL or LEASE OUT the John Stanford admin centre elephant in the city...

Its like the churches - I never know why they think its OK to own expensive to maintain real estate - churches, cathedrals, administration buildings etc.... the money tied up in those management assets needs to be spent in the communities and disadvantaged groups churches say they serve.... a church is wherever a like-minded group of people gathers to honour their version of the Divine - and we have Dioceses and the Vatican City for example - huge wealth tied up in assets and the world's poor go unfed, unhoused, unclothed, uneducated etc....

gavroche said...

Smaller class sizes in Seattle Public Schools -- mandated or just wishful thinking?

Sahila said - I agree with Syd... smaller schools with smaller classes... we have the space and its educational best practice (AND DISTRICT POLICY)to reduce class sizes...

I do too. What IS the District policy on class sizes? Is it an enforceable rule or merely a 'goal'?

What is the average class size in SPS schools?

Because, one result of the closures/mergers/splits will be significantly larger classes for some kids.

And we have a Superintendent who believes that class sizes don't matter.

Do these two facts contradict District policy -- and voter mandated levy funding -- that ensures/strives for smaller classes?

If so, shouldn't we speak up about this? (Hand me one of those complaint forms, Sahila....!)

dj said...

The Super doesn't believe class size matters, so I don't imagine that smaller classes with their extra costs are anywhere on the district's radar.

I live in central and crime has been on the uptick. There have been shootings at the corner of MLK and Cherry, where Nova is about to be closed. A drug syringe was found in the T.T. Minor field this spring. This is a lousy time for those buildings to sit vacant for the surrounding communities.

Charlie Mas said...

To me, this looks like a really friendly overture to the District from the City saying "We will help you resolve your facilities issues by lowering barriers."

I think it's nice and it is just the sort of cooperation that we have been hoping the City would offer the District.

Melissa Westbrook said...

So in my summary of the Work Session on the Capacity Management, this is a key question. Meaning, there's an historical reason why we have many small schools. However, the district gives, in the Facilities Master Plan, school rebuild/remodel sizes that are not small schools (elementary around 450-500). As well, COO Don Kennedy, asked at the Work Session for guidance from the Board. I don't think under BEX that we will be rebuilding or remodeling all our schools anytime soon but they've made a dent in the number of schools.

Smaller schools, by the way, don't mean smaller class size. You do get a smaller school community which can be nice in some ways. And, as well, Dr. Goodloe-johnson was asked this week on KUOW about class size and she demurred. I don't really know what the average class in at any grade level in SPS. That info is somewhere. We know what the contract-mandated class sizes can be (and that's up for renegotiation this summer).

Parents really should be making this very clear to the Board if smaller schools and/or smaller class sizes matter. I thought, as voters, we made that clear with I-728 but clearly the district has other ideas. Maybe we advocate for ALL I-728 money to go to smaller classes.

owlhouse said...

Agreed. Property owned by the district should NOT be sold. It should be held in public trust for the students and citizens of the district. Of course this raises the question of how to maintain buildings and property not currently in use, especially as we don't do an even adequate job managing active school properties. I do think with support from the city and community interests, we can come closer to having the "best of both worlds"- ensuring that as the population ebbs and flows, we'll have schools sites available throughout the city.

Charlie- I think you're on to something. The city seems to be reminding the district and the public that there are options for these buildings. A little late, but glad to see the city making at least passive acknowledgment that leaving buildings vacant is not a desirable outcome.

Finally, I'm a fan of small schools and will be sure to let the board know. I understand that they are less "economical" but I wonder if that is a short-lived benefit? ie- how do we equate the cost benefit of the potential for close and inclusive community? Hard to measure and clearly Gates has switched gears- but I'm still a supporter of the smaller environment. This line of thought has me wondering about the "data." Findings (testing, engagement, drop-out...) of small classes in large schools, large classes in small schools, double large and double small would be interesting. All the more so if we had long term- post college, employment, family, life experience- feedback and measures. Dare to dream.

Sahila said...

I was at a meeting with incoming AS#1 principal Roy Merca today, and somehow we got to speculating about ways to shape class configurations in the new school year...

And one creative idea would have ended up with three classes of 17 students each... which we parents (myself and I heard at least two others indicate agreement) thought was an absolutely wonderful state...

Roy's response was negative - he said he would be accused of not using his resources effectively...

So there is pressure happening within schools NOT to reduce class sizes...

I think its appalling...

steve in west seattle said...

Cooper had 28 students in each of its Kindergarten classes last year. They ultimately turned away students because the district wasn't willing to fund another teacher (They had a couple empty classrooms).

I believe every Kindergarten class in West Seattle was 28 students except the blended special-ed room at Lafayette.

Megan Mc said...

I've been thinking about the excess capacity issue and the audit report that pointed it out. Seattle is not suffering from a lack of school age students living in the district, it is suffering from a lack of school age children attending Seattle schools in certain areas. I can't believe that the audit didn't make a bigger stink about this and direct the district to make changes. So far the SE Initiative hasn't gotten much traction. The district is trying to solve two problems at once, how to help low performing student in low performing schools and how to lure families back to schools. Other than the Summit at RBHS idea, has the district looked a school within school models?

I wonder how all of this capacity management and SAP would have looked if the district wasn't facing a budget shortfall.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Megan, to your point, if you are referencing the state auditor's report, he can't compel them to do anything. He has someone do the audit and makes it public. Now OSPI could see if they have broken any regulations but if they had we would have heard about it. No, it's kind of on other elected officials and the public to hold their feet to the fire.

And this kind of thing is precisely why I told the City Council members at the Town Hall recently that they may have to consider taking over the district. It's not my greatest wish but big things like the auditor's report are getting cherry-picked and/or ignored by the district and the fact that they are not good at property management - things that are costing real money - that's when maybe the City needs to take over. Richard Conlin, the Council President said I wasn't the only person saying this to him.

On the issue of luring families back, Harium said at a community meeting that it just isn't on his radar to get students back. He said he had to be concerned for the students we do have and if schools get better, people will come back. But AGAIN, if the district did some (1) research - ask people why they leave the district and ask them what might make them consider coming back and (2)marketing - we have a lot of cool stuff in this district but I don't think the general public knows this, we'd be able to fight back. My belief is that we could get 5-10% of the roughly 25% that go to private if the district tried. But they won't and if Board members feel this way, then it really won't happen. But every student who isn't in SPS is money lost. (Of course, we have capacity issues now. What if we got even 5% of the private school students back? Could they handle it?)

Sahila said...

Capacity issues - its one of the biggest lies/smokescreens being promulgated...

We dont have capacity issues - we DO have the space - much of it is mothballed and they wont spend the money to use that space for the benefit of our kids - smaller class sizes, smaller schools, more local schools...

There's a lack of vision and out-of-the-box thinking here - they're tackling the problem from the wrong end...
problem = a perceived lack of money/budget shortfall
Limited thinking solution 1 = cut services to kids

Creative solution 2 = go gather more money

I know which one I would rather work on... stop sticking it to the kids by cutting what is already not a world class education system/experience and go find more money... its not like there is no money out there - $700B+ for the banks and AIG, that much again for the car manufacturers... and we cant find a paltry $34M for our city's kids? Interesting where the priorities lie... Wish this country would get real!

SPSMom said...

"Roy's response was negative - he said he would be accused of not using his resources effectively..."

This is a reflection on how principals are managed, do it my way or your gonna be out of a job or transferred against your will until you tow the party line.

Does anybody think that school princpal hiring committeess will return next spring? I don't, the line has been drawn.

seattle citizen said...

First, anyone wishing to advocate for the John Marshall building may merely cite the errors in the finding to demand a new hearing:

"The John Marshall School building at 520 NE Ravenna Boulevard is located in an L3 (Lowrise-3 Multifamily residential) zone. It was built in 1946 and, until last year, was used as an alternative school for grades 6 – 12. is an elementary school, built in approximately 1960 at 1700 East Union Street."

Uh, no, it was built in 1928, not 1946 AND 1960, and ONLY on Ravenna, not also on East Union...

The big wowser is the evidently SUAC does not apply - it's up the the district to decide if if even wants to apply for SUAC, it "may." Otherwise, if it doesn't apply, the only constraints are cuttent zoing:
"3. the SUAC process, SMC Chapter 23.78, does not say that it is the sole process for establishing non-school use in an existing or former public school structure. Instead, it is written permissively: “The Seattle School District or other owner of a public school structure may apply for the establishment of criteria for non-school use….”
and
"4. As reflected in Comprehensive Plan Policy LU23, the purpose of the SUAC process is to encourage future school use of public school buildings, which would start with preserving the buildings. The process would provide flexibility by “allow*ing+ non-residential uses not otherwise permitted” subject to specific criteria. This also reflects an intent that the purpose of the process is to provide a means for allowing uses not otherwise permitted, and that the process is not necessary or intended for authorizing uses that are otherwise permitted. . It is logical, therefore, to read the applicable Land Use Code regulations to comport with this intent."

seattle citizen said...

Owlhouse, if you read the City's report on, say, John Marshall (linked in the PI article) you will find that the city is actually freeing the district from the onus of SUAC - the district can merely NOT ask for a SUAC review, and then is permitted to do anyhting it would like under current zoning. So the city has removed a potential barrier to the district in selling buildings. See my previous post.

owlhouse said...

I'm trying to understand this- but even after looking at the "Land Use Code Interpretation"- I'm not sure I get it. Why aren't all closed buildings included? Why would an appeal of the interpretations be positive/negative? Should there be some public announcement of the appeal deadline- as in other land use proposals?

In a sense, I'm in favor of finding tenets to these properties- assuming "appropriate" use for the public good. My concern is that it's a slippery slope- and that this paves the way for sale of these properties, which I would oppose.

SC- I didn't find the quote you posted on Marshall- but it seems like a mash-up, accidentally combining Marshall and TT Minor information?

WS said...

FWIW, we reported on this first.
http://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=18168
I reported on the land-use notices that appeared in the morning Land Use Information Bulletin, since three of them involved West Seattle properties; I then put a question out to district public affairs, and got an answer at mid-afternoon from David Tucker.

Not sure if it shines any more light but here's what I added after he called back:

"3:19 PM UPDATE: From school district spokesperson David Tucker: “Nothing has changed regarding the buildings’ status.” He says this is a move made to enable “expanded usage in the future,” possibly so that community organizations could rent the buildings for usages beyond church, school or day care: 'It’s to the district’s benefit to have community organizations in these buildings — they help maintain the buildings' and step up security. He stresses that any change in the buildings’ status would have to be approved by the School Board, and he doesn’t expect anything to be proposed until the rest of the Student Assignment Plan is finalized."

By the way, another story we broke a few months ago, Fairmount Park is reopening for summer school - I have info from the principal and am publishing a story in the morning - 350 students (she didn't say which grades, so I'm checking on that), with the session starting Wednesday and running throughout July.

Fairmount Park, also btw, has had three break-ins in the past two months (maybe more but those are the ones that came to our attention - arrests in two of the cases after a quick police response).

-Tracy from WSB

WS said...

Oh, for the commenter who mentioned appeal deadlines -

They're all listed on the individual notices, which as I mentioned came from the Thursday morning Land Use Information Bulletin. This will change on Monday but for now they are all here:
http://web1.seattle.gov/dpd/luib/Default.aspx

I highly recommend getting an e-mail subscription to the LUIB if you are interested in tracking such things. It hits the mailbox early Monday and early Thursday, usually.

As for more public announcements ... the sale of Jefferson Square air space, introduced at last week's School Board meeting, NEVER resulted in a news release. We only found out about it, and broke that story as well, because one of our "readers" flagged us to the tiny-type public notice in a print publication, mentioning a public hearing. It took a while to get some details of the deal ahead of time.

Even at that, though, I guess few people cared, because Chris Jackins and a journalist I paid to cover the meeting for our site were the only two people who showed up at the hearing.

owlhouse said...

Cross Cut has an interesting article about Mann specifically- building history, possible future options, community concerns, hopes and needs...

Ron English is quoted as saying that when the district's evaluation on the building comes out in the fall, it will say "Please allow us to sell it, or rent it, or make it vacant”- telling, eh?

One point raised calls on the district to act wisely with the building so as to "protect" their "investment" in Garfield. As much as this pov pains me on behalf of Nova, it has me thinking about the district's interest and ability to manage its facilities. Again, I'm thinking of community schools in partnership with the city- and joint responsibility for the facilities.

Now we need an article addressing the need for SPS to protect its "investment" in students- reducing class size, returning Pathways teachers to schools, engaging parents and families...

http://crosscut.com/2009/07/02/neighborhoods-communities/19079/

Sahila said...

Good job on the article, owlhouse!