The first challenge is the question about whether we even need the school in the first place. We had a middle school at Meany just four years ago and the District decided that we did not need it. Now they say that we do. Pardon me if I don't have a lot of confidence in their conclusion. How is it that we need another middle school in the Central Region but we don't need any more elementary school space there? T T Minor was closed at the same time as Meany and I don't see the District saying that we need to bring T T Minor back. So where are these kids coming from? Also, at the same time that the District closed Meany they moved over 200 students out of Washington. If you look at the District's own projections for the area you'll see the creation of 110 seats in 2014 (What's that? Is it NOVA?) and then the creation of another 700 seats in 2016 (which is Meany), but that the number of surplus seats doesn't drop below 700 until 2020 and then by just a little. That tells me that we don't need it.
After the division Meany and Washington will each be pretty small middle schools with only four elementary schools feeding each of them.
There's the money. The District is going to spend over $50 million dollars on this. They will spend $13 million to move NOVA back to Mann, $14 million to move the Seattle World School into TT Minor, and another $23 million to create a middle school at Meany. I'm thinking that they could fix up Meany for NOVA and the Seattle World School (you know, like they promised that they would do four years ago) for a heck of a lot less and use only a portion of the remaining money to build a suitable addition at Washington to house another 250 students or so. It's only costing $12 million to build the 180 student addition at Mercer. Even if we spent $18 million at Washington it would be a $5 million savings. We wouldn't just save money. They would also save the Mann building for use as an interim site, to lease for income, or for future growth and they would save TT Minor to lease for income or for future use as a downtown elementary. Seems a lot smarter and cheaper to me.
NOVA and SWS can camp at Mann and Columbia for a couple years while their space at Meany is under renovation. The District was planning to use these sites while fixing up Meany anyway.
Then there's the demographics. The Central Region wears its elementary schools like a bikini. There's a band at the top and a band at the bottom and lot of exposed space in between. Four of the Central Region K-5 schools are north of Mercer and four of them are south of Yesler with none in between. The division between the feeder schools for Meany and Washington are pretty obvious with Lowell, Montlake, McGilvra, and Stevens feeding to Meany and with Bailey-Gatzert, Thurgood Marshall, Leschi, and John Muir feeding to Washington. I suppose the division could be different but it would look odd and contrived - like a two-piece bathing suit arranged some way other than a top and a bottom.
The demographic contrast is stark.
The Lowell numbers will be very different because these numbers still include Lowell at Lincoln, but the theme is unmistakable. This division will look a lot like racial and economic segregation with a majority White population with low incidence of poverty at Meany and a minority White population with a high incidence of poverty at Washington. It looks like the District is creating a boutique middle school for White affluent families living in Eastlake, Montlake, Capitol Hill and Madison Park. Adding Laurelhurst to the Meany service area to ease crowding in the north won't bring more balance.
The District won't be eligible for state matching funds if the construction project exacerbates segregation. This work probably would not qualify. That's going to cost the District millions.
With those demographics comes some predictable academic outcomes. It's enough to make you wonder if APP students living in the Meany attendance area will choose to leave it for Washington.
On the whole, I can't help wondering if it wouldn't it be easier and cheaper to manage the middle school capacity in the Central Region by building an addition at Washington and, if necessary, shifting Muir into the Mercer Service Area. Then we can save a lot of money by leaving NOVA and SWS at Meany but spending some money to fix it up properly, and we would have TT Minor and Mann available for lease, interim use, or expansion.