Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Capacity Management Meeting at Eckstein

FYI, the next FACMAC meeting is this Friday, Dec. 2nd from 10-noon at the Stanford Center, Room 3802. 
 I am sorry to say this but I think there is a lot of confusion still and frankly, this meeting only served to exacerbate it.  That's my impression.

The main staff speaking at the meeting were Pegi McEvoy, Operations, and Lucy Morello, Capital Programs.   DeBell, Carr, McLaren, Peaslee and Martin-Morris attended the meeting.  I would estimate the crowd at about 60.  (They stated that they moved the meeting from the library to the auditorium as they had expected 50 at Denny and 120 showed up.) 

The handouts were a large map of the district, a spreadsheet of possible fixes for 2012-2013 and a list of capacity terms.  I found the spreadsheet confusing because I doubt that the majority of people in the room have enough knowledge to make any kind of judgment what to do.  (You could vote "no opinion" but if people don't have enough information to vote, why have everyone from every area vote on schools they know nothing about?  I can't make those kinds of decisions for other communities.) 

You could also write questions.  They had mics set up but then took questions from the audience which made it hard to hear.   They promised all the questions would make it to the FAQs. 

They had a 34-page PowerPoint and yes, they read most of it.  Naturally, all this explaining and reading took nearly an hour, leaving about 35 minutes for Q&A.  I think this was frustrating to people because the overview could have been a lot quicker. 

Highlights:
  • Ms. McEvoy said, twice, this extra enrollment was a good problem to have.  I can only say I'm glad I don't have a child entering SPS or somewhere between K-8.  If you are in one of the many buildings affected by this overcrowding, I don't think there is a lot of relief in sight soon.
  • There is some thought to reopening the old Van Asselt building but only the '50s building and not the very old 1910 building. 
  • Portables would be about $135k or leasing at $35k to install and $2k per month which, over four years, would make it the same as if you purchased.   They would not have bathrooms.  I will point out that when portables were talked about a scant two years ago, the cost was given as $200-250k each.  Just like capacity, I guess the portable number can bounce depending on what the district wants it to be. 
  • For 2012-13, there would be very limited to no program changes.
  • A woman from Graham Hill was upset because it showed up on the spreadsheet that Graham Hill's preschool would possibly be eliminated.  She said no one from the SE on the FACMAC knew about this and asked if this was true.  Ms. McEvoy said they might try to fold the 4-year olds into the Ks and eliminate the 3-year program.   So when it came time for questions, this woman again asked about it because it seems parents were given a letter saying this was a possibility.  She said their Ex Director, Bree Dusseault, said she knew nothing about this nor did their principal.   The woman asked who made this decision as it seems the FACMAC didn't nor did school administration.  Ms. McEvoy said she could speak with the woman privately.   I spoke up and said wait, this woman is asking a legitimate question about something that clearly came from someone, who made this decision?  Ms. McEvoy said nothing.  
  • When speaking of the idea of moving some SW 5th graders to their middle schools for 5th grade, it was said it would reduce transitions.  Huh?  It's easier to transition from 4th grade to middle school than from 5th?  
  • The spreadsheet had putting a Spectrum program at Lowell (as well as moving the audiology lab from View Ridge) because they have all this extra room.  Very funny.
  • One woman was upset over a Times' article that she claimed said that students were assigned to the school closest to their home (which is not true in all areas).  She said that sibs were still being split up.  Director Carr explained how the NSAP came about and they tried to have as many students as they could go to their closest schools but geographically, it wasn't possible.  DeBell also said there was no surge capacity left.  
  • There was a suggestion for a temporary boundary change for JSIS.  
  • There was also a complaint about JSIS possibly losing its preschool.  I will remind folks that the district builds and then changes its mind - they build a pre-school specifically for Ballard and then took that space away and they can do with the buildings what they want despite past design plans.  
  • The district has down a possible modification for both Salmon Bay and Thorton Creek's geozones.  
  • Cedar Park and Webster cannot be opened in time for next year.
  • There were two questions on Lincoln and it seems very up in the air.  On the one hand, the district likes having Boren and Lincoln as available interim sites.  On the other hand, Lincoln may be needed (and soon) for more middle and high school space.  
  • They are putting on a roof and putting in an elevator at John Marshall this summer but don't know what use they may make of the building yet.  
  • There is this "watchlist" of middle and high schools that are nearly overflowing.  It was pointed out that Eckstein and Garfield are beyond that and maybe watchlist isn't the right place for them.
  • A suggestion was made that only 11 out of 16 classrooms will be in use when McDonald moves in their building in the fall and couldn't JSIS use some of that space?  Apparently, the principals are discussing possibilities between their schools.
They repeatedly said they were making choices for next year but really, it should all be on the table because the district has a habit of calling something temporary and it becomes permanent.  The choices made today could have far-reaching effects.  That said, it eases my mind that so many hard-working and smart people are on the FACMAC group.

I definitely think there are some staff choices being pushed.  Clearly, if a letter already went out to Graham Hill families, the district thought they needed to send it.   Also, I think the idea of sending some Ks or 5th graders to Boren is a staff idea and did not come from FACMAC. 

Also, I have no beef with the district, regretfully, ending early childhood programs.  Their duty is to K-12 and with space at a premium, no matter the program, those K-12s have to be served first.   What I find strange is sending out preliminary letters as discussions are still going on. 

18 comments:

Erin said...

At Graham Hill those preschoolers are in a Montessori classroom with Ks. It is part of the curriculum design of traditional Montessori to have a class with 3-6 year olds, (P3-K), and 6-9 year olds (1-3). Since it's an option program and the school is under enrolled I wonder why they are screwing with it. It won't make much of a difference in the capacity for K if they don't add a classroom.

Anonymous said...

The tidbit that I came away with was the possibility that Lincoln could be used to deal with Eckstein and/or Hamilton middle school capacity as early as next year (as a short term fix?). It was suggested that John Marshall would be used for middle school, but then it was said it may also be used for elementary.

Lincoln is clearly needed as an interim site, but then there was a suggestion of it becoming a high school down the road.

I left with the feeling that way too much was up in the air, especially for Eckstein/Hamilton/Lincoln.

A quick show of hands showed most of those attending were in either the Hamilton or Eckstein service area.

Northend parent

Jon said...

Can someone who went to the meeting elaborate on why some of the closed schools can't be reopened as soon as next year?

Specifically:

"Cedar Park and Webster cannot be opened in time for next year." Why?

"There is some thought to reopening the old Van Asselt building but only the '50s building and not the very old 1910 building." Why?

In general, I'd think the district would be scrambling to reopen schools as fast as it can. Maybe there are good reasons why these can't be reopened, but can someone tell me what those reasons are?

SolvayGirl said...

The Montessori Preschool Program at Graham Hill is an integral component of the Montessori experience. I don't know this year's numbers, but it could be under enrolled because there is a pretty hefty tuition associated with it. The NSAP redrew Graham's reference area to start just a few blocks north of the school, and going further south. That cut off a large area of middle- and upper-middle-income families who could afford that tuition.

As I have noted many times on this blog. GHS is in the middle of a very Orthodox Jewish neighborhood (two synagogues down the block)—big families with lots of children that do not attend public school because of religious needs. Consequently, the school needs to work hard to draw families.

I live one block from the school and will note that many non-Jewish young families have been moving into the neighborhood. The Montessori program at GHS was a big draw. This is one of the biggest problems with a restrictive neighborhood school assignment plan. A family's assignment schools might be just what they want when they move in...3-5-7 years later, maybe not.

The District is considering tearing the heart out of a very successful program to gain ONE portable, ONE! It is risking losing a number of the middle-income families that would go to the school. The school had been at about 60%FRL, a workable number when backed by a 40% group of families with the resources to support the school financially and from a volunteer standpoint.

Once again, the District is going to "fix" something that's not broken.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Jon, they probably have issues reopening those schools because of the leases and the city codes to reopen closed school buildings.

One,I believe district leases stipulate that the district can ask for the building back for educational purposes. However, I think there may be a timeframe for advanced notice (like a year) that the district has missed.

Two, code and maintenance. Any school building closed for longer than 2-3 years is subject to newer City codes for disabilities. So they would need to be brought up to code which is costly.

Also, the older Van Asselt building probably has huge maintenance issues which is also costly.

I need to go back and check the BEX/BTA numbers to see how much money they truly have to use for this effort. I'm thinking in the neighborhood of $40M but I'm not sure.

Eric B said...

There was a lot of confusion about when a north end middle school would open. As I understand it, we are going to need a school open no later than the 2013-14 school year. Because construction for re-opening/rebuilding won't come through until BEX IV, I assume that the middle school would open at Lincoln, a la Viewlands, McDonald, etc. until the permanent building is ready.

We need to come up with a solution for north end APP, and soon. I don't know what's best, but it can't be Lowell at Lincoln forever, since we're going to need that space (see note above).

On the Graham Hill preschool question, I'm of two minds. On the one hand, we need to make space for K-5 students, and I can't really fault the District for prioritizing that over pre-K, especially when pre-K classrooms are on the list of take-backs elsewhere in the city. In that sense, it doesn't really matter who suggested the idea. It might not be a good idea, but it's one possible solution. On the other hand, it's weird that the idea was added at the last minute without any consultation with FACMAC or school staff. It's very weird that a letter was sent home to parents about it, making it look like this was a done deal.

Bottom line is that I don't think that any decision is a done deal, particularly where there are several options to get to the required capacity.

WV says we're all in a noblen pursuit.

Eric B said...

Jon, if significant work needs to be done to a building, the timeline for getting it done is usually at least 18 months. There are several months for architecture/engineering drawings, a month of sending the package out to bid, and then at least two weeks for Board review and approval before the contract can even be signed. That eats up six to eight months before ground is even broken. Once you add long lead-time items like windows, boilers, etc., you need a lot of time.

Anonymous said...

SolvayGirl, the Montessori Pre-K was not under-enrolled but had a lengthy wait list as usual. The problem was with SPS enrollment services, as usual.

Southie

Jayne said...

Well the Nordic Heritage Museum is still in the Webster Building. Not sure what the lease agreement is but their new building is nowhere near completion. Doesn't seem like it will be ready for a school for quite a while.

Anonymous said...

Jane Addams is also part of the Northend middle school equation.

From June 2009:

The evaluation of middle school and K-8 capacity and facilities, including Jane Addams, will be included in the BEX IV capital program planning. Therefore, there would be no change to the Jane Addams K-8 program prior to completion of BEX IV levy planning in 2013.

Sherry Carr worked with the community to promise no changes until 2013, but now it just around the corner.

Northend parent

Rebecca said...

There is no preschool at JSIS. There is a before and after-school program called LSA, and there is talk of taking that space to use for regular classroom space. That would be a misguided and insufficient fix; we still would not have enough classroom space to handle the kids coming in next year, and of course that would create a whole host of other problems. For the longest time we've heard that the school's footprint is too small for portables (smallest footprint in the district?). Now there have been suggestions that portables could be placed at JSIS. Where? We would have no playground if this were the case, and we have no nearby green space.

This is the info JSIS parents were sent this week:

JSIS has been identified as THE biggest capacity problem in North Seattle. (Currently, we are 80+ students over capacity and by next year could be 130+ students over capacity. It is critical to get parents out to these meetings so that our community can hear about possible solutions and provide feedback. Please attend and have your voice be heard before it is too late.
As a heads up, be aware that SPS has identified solutions for JSIS such as:

- taking the Music room for use as a classroom
- determine if LSA space could be repurposed as classrooms
- possibly shrink school attendance boundaries
- make JSIS an option school
- create temporary "gray" boundaries to shift enrollment to McDonald


What a mess!

Anonymous said...

The question that I had (but didn't get called on) was that on the SPS Intermediate Capacity presentation it said that Bryant needed 4 portables but on the Short Term preso shown at the meeting there was no mention of Bryant needing more homerooms. Does anyone know what is up with that?

- RB 1986

Anonymous said...

Why not use the empty rooms at McClure?

Or even move some of the kids from overcrowded rooms into the empty ones?

Oh. They might have to hire some (gasp)more teachers.

-JC.

CT said...

Northend parent - I hope they don't mess with Jane Addams. I have run into quite a few parents who have been so pleasantly surprised by JA (not their first choice by any means when this NSAP went into effect) that it will now become their top choice for the siblings as they reach school age. I know of several more parents who are planning a move to JA as 5th grade approaches because they want the K-8 environment rather than the MS environment.

wsnorth said...

This is all so outrageous!! At our elementary school in West Seattle they are talking about kicking the 5th graders out now, to make more room for out of area siblings. Where is THAT in the NSAP? The closures and NSAP left whole neighborhoods without "neighborhood schools"! And yet, this summer, the district just bulldozed a perfectly good school (Denny) right in the middle of an area with overcrowding! Nice new tennis courts, though.

TraceyS said...

I am sorry I could not make this meeting (I had planned to, but a last minute emergency prevented me).

A couple of questions:
1. I am glad to see five board members were able to attend. Did they just listen, or did they ask or answer any questions themselves?

2. I have heard that Wedgwood is scheduled to get a portable, then I heard we were not, and were going to give up our art room instead. Any further information on this? I plan to look through the online docs tomorrow for school-specific portable plans, but if anyone has a link that would be great.

Interesting news about a new northend middle school. I personally hope this happens in 2012/13, even in a temporary location. I will have a freshly minted middle school kid, and we are concerned about the overcrowding at Eckstein.

Anonymous said...

This week's meeting was about presenting various options to the public, but final decisions have yet to be announced.

The options for Wedgwood involved a portable and they mentioned some plan to work with University of Washington to have a "green" portable. That said, they clearly were trying to minimize the number of portables and were trying to "repurpose" existing spaces as much as possible.

One school was to lose their music space and the District's plan was to have the music teacher visit each class for music. I was trying to imagine a piano being moved from homeroom to homeroom...

Northend parent

TraceyS said...

Thank you, Northend parent. I think that "repurposing" means losing the dedicated art room and going with "art on a cart". In either scenario, it means another classroom in a portable, so I am not sure why we'd do that.

As much as I hate portables, I think parents and staff would rather another portable on the grounds than permanently lose the art space. There will be a classroom in a portable regardless, so I do not know what the issues or reasoning is behind giving up the space. There is an extremely strong and vibrant art program at Wedgwood, and the teacher needs a place to keep ongoing projects, store supplies, conduct classes undisrupted, etc. She is already hampered with the lack access to running water. Putting her program on a cart would definitely diminish this amazing curriculum.