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.
- 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.
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.