It is actually a pretty good article (and welcome to new Times' reporter Brian Rosenthal). Highlights:
- wondering how many portables the district is considering? The article says 35 more over the next four years. Not sure if that includes Hale's which are now being used elsewhere.
- The district is also trying to figure out why it was blindsided by the sudden enrollment growth. The funniest line in the article.
- After years of declines, enrollment increased modestly between 2007 and 2009, then shot up. District officials say factors they could not predict — the recession and the district's new student-assignment plan — caused much of the growth. Second funniest.
In Boston Public Schools, demographer Jerry Burrell said he relies heavily on housing patterns and immigration trends.
The basic methodology is "just a tool," said Burrell, noting it often is late in picking up on major trends. "You have to look at all these other pieces."
San Francisco and Sacramento, Calif., officials agreed. Even in smaller Puget Sound districts, nondemographic factors are an important consideration, officials said.
Lake Washington tracks housing developments, said Deputy Superintendent Janene Fogard, adding the district correctly predicted an enrollment spike similar to Seattle's in 2009.
Those types of factors are not an important consideration in Seattle's current method, officials acknowledge.
The district's enrollment consultant, Les Kendrick, told staff they didn't consider enough data sources. They will also work more with City demographers.
What does staff the Board say?
Asked why officials didn't predict the enrollment increase, School Board member Peter Maier's answer is simple: "Conditions changed."
He pointed to the new assignment plan and the recession. But several parents dismissed those factors, complaining district officials ignored warnings about the possibility of rising enrollment.
C'mon Peter, the recession was here in 2009 AND parents were already telling you about coming enrollment. You are supposed to be the "eyes and ears for the community", isn't that what you say on the stump?
"No demographer can predict what the economy's going to do," said Holly Ferguson, head of communication strategies. "The economists can't even predict what the economy's going to do."
Projecting enrollment is a difficult combination of science and art, said Tracy Libros, Seattle's longtime manager of planning and enrollment.
Naturally there are a lot of unhappy parents especially around the issue of portables. Mr. Rosenthal says the portables cost $135k each. I'm thinking he got that number from staff but that is for the IKEA-type portable. I have documents from past work sessions calling the number more like $200k. And, if you want to really help the situation, some should have plumbing for bathrooms.
The end also made me laugh. Michael DeBell says his highest priority is to move funds for "minor maintenance" to this overcrowding effort. What funds? The district has cut back and cut back on "minor maintenance" to the point where a lot of it is major. Whatever's there for minor maintenance - it's not that much. Somewhat of a futile point.
I did talk with Pegi McEvoy about this issue recently. She told me the following:
- most of the portables will be at elementary schools
- there's a new Facilities Master Plan to come out in December (I can only hope it is vastly improved from past plans which the district wrote and never followed.)
- Grade reconfigurations could be something like K-2 and 3-5.
- There is concern over the transporting of APP students from West Seattle when the viaduct comes down. The city will, of course, have a transportation plan for West Seattle but it is something on the district's radar.
For the most part, I believe in these people. I think they have the skills to understand what needs to happen. But it is worrying to see such a quick timeframe and the need for quick decisions. I have no doubt that the Board will approve whatever they come up with.
It is VERY important for all of us to vet whatever plan comes out and make our voices heard. Parents and communities were not listened to on this issue over the last 3 years and the time is NOW for the Board and the district to take into account what the feet on the ground have to say.