The first one is the BEX Oversight Committee meeting on Feb. 10th. To note:
-one member said they should - at some point - talk about whether they really need carpeting in schools. What do you think? Good, bad, indifferent?
- two guys from the City of Seattle came to talk about the need for an elementary/K-8 at South Lake Union. They are growing and expect even more families to move in (they spoke of FUN - Family Urban Neighborhoods).
Of course, there are multiple issues here. One, the district doesn't own any land and even if they did, this wouldn't be high on the capital "to-do" list. Two, where would the students play? Apparently, Parks doesn't want more park area to manage. Three, is it a chicken or egg scenario? Are there enough kids to open a school or "if you build it, they will come?" Interestingly, the Pacific Science Center and Cornish have express interest in working with the district on programming. Arts AND science. Looks like a STEAM school.
My thought on this is if Amazon and Vulcan are building big new buildings, give over a couple of floors to a school. Build it and the district is likely to make it happen. But I don't see how the district has the resources to give over to this effort without some help from the companies who are asking for it.
Then we were onto BEX IV. The overview is this:
- $45-50M to address seismic issues at some schools (but also water lines, security, etc.)
- $45-65M for technology upgrades
- some major maintenance (but no figure given) - there is an RCW that allows maintenance to use capital dollars for this
- $150-200M for other capital work (non-specified)
They are looking at landing permanent locations for specific schools and programs like Nova, SBOC and APP at Lowell. They are also looking for equity in program placement. On that last one, it's kind of at the bottom of the list. They need to address old buildings and capacity management and permanent locations. I can't seem them getting much past that.
Lucy Morello, head of Capital projects, said buildings with an overall score of 3.5 or higher are being given priority.
One new BEX member asked about planning and what is the strategy and flexibility for 20 years out? He was told that anything over 10 years is guesswork. I'm not sure from a capital view that's entirely true. He was also told that BEX is more technical and FACMAC is more the planning for the future. Interesting.
Another BEX member said that it is better to be more flexible with portables than building schools or closing them. I'm not sure that parents would always agree given how portables take root at many of our schools.
I was given a tour of Arbor Heights and boy, that is not a good building. In fact, some portables got "built-into" the actual building. You open a door and it's one weird classroom. I will be sorely disappointed if Arbor Heights is not on BEX IV. They are not totally full but I think if they had a better building, it would be and might take the pressure off other buildings.
One member had an thoughtful comment. He said he could accept the outcomes of the demographer's work but that there is a need to talk about strategy for engaging that demography. He said that choosing schools based on their facility condition score might be wrong and it might be better to have a flexible plan for educational adequacy.
Then there was the BEX Work Session on Feb. 15th. But first, here's what was said at a 2009 presentation on BEX IV:
They projected a BEX of between $550-600M. Today they are talking from $490M-$800M.
They projected 4 elementaries at $66m each for a total of $264M.
They projected 2 middle schools/K-8s, 1 remodel and 1 new for a total of $254M
They had Technology at $60M which is almost the same today.
What's wrong with this picture? There is too much expensive building. The district has this idea that everything has to cost a lot and my research says no, you can build a simpler building for less money. We should be able to do 8 elementaries and 3 middle schools. The charter 6-12 I visited in San Diego was built for $14M. Not a thing of beauty and no bells and whistles but they have 800 students.
Also, Infrastructure is part of any BEX and it includes fields, planning, contingency, etc. Also, remember, we fund capital project jobs out of BEX and not the General Fund. I have no idea what happens if a levy/bond fails but apparently many people would be out of a job.
Back to the Work Session.
Michael DeBell came right out and asked about the assumptions they had on one page. He said that assuming we could (and would) want to run every school at near full bothered him. He also asked about the growth of high schools north of downtown and the capacity we have for high schools is south. He got a less-than-satisfactory answer and continued on. He said we have a localized way to use middle school and then a flat assumption that all high schools will fill 100%. He wants high school numbers by area of the city.
Kay Smith-Blum expressed concern that there needs to be more balance between educational adequacy and site infrastructure. She said that schools needed areas where teachers could work collaboratively.
It was also stated that modernization can often cost as much as building a new building. I am not totally sure how the issue of being an "historic" building plays here. Meaning, what is historic, who decides and do you have to build to keep that label? We have painful proof of how expensive it is to build to that measure and I think giving a nod to the legacy of the building is important but we need modern, safe buildings.
So their list (and this is not even a preliminary BEX IV list but just schools with high scores throughout the city (and I only include the schools with the highest scores):
Whitman attendance area - Bagley, Northgate, North Beach, Viewlands, Wilson-Pacific
Eckstein attendance area- Thorton Creek, View Ridge, Olympic Hills, Rogers,
Hamilton attendance area - Laurelhurst
McClure attendance area - none
Madison attendance area - Alki, Lafayette, Schmitz Park
Denny attendance area - Arbor Heights, Roxhill, West Seattle
Washington attendance area - Gatzert, Meany
Mercer attendance area - Mercer
Aki Kurose attendance area - maybe repurpose Van Asselt
And likely, Eckstein or Washington.
As I have said before, capital building is usually evenly spread throughout the city. I doubt they will be able to do that this time. The capacity management issue is so pressing, they have to leave it very high on the list. So don't be upset if the list does not reflect every area.
So if I had to give my educated guess:
- Arbor Heights (arguably the worst building in the district except maybe Meany)
- Schmitz Park or Lafayette
- Rogers or Thorton Creek
- Bagley or Laurelhurst
- Eckstein/Washington/Mercer and Wilson-Pacific for a new middle school
- If they can squeeze those dollars for 2 more elementaries, then View Ridge/Alki/McGilvra/Bailey Gatzert