Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What About BEX?

What are you hearing at your school about the levies?  Is there a big push on?  I know that at least 20+ schools have endorsed it.

Yesterday, the Times had an op-ed from the head of School First, Greg Wong, in support of the levies but it had one day on their webpage and is now gone to their file area.  Kind of odd. 

The election is less than a month away and ballots are coming your way next week.  And, yet this seems to be a decidedly low-key election.  Does the district NOT want to call attention to it?

I go on record as saying I support both levies.  

(FYI, I find it unlikely that either levy will fail but if one or both did, the district can come back again in a couple of months.  It would cost a lot of money.  If that didn't pass, at least for Operations, I'm sure the State would step in with some funds.  The district could not suffer a loss of 25% of its Operating budget.)

But there are definite rumblings against BEX.

 I know watchdog Chris Jackins is actively out there.  He is very concerned over the Wilson-Pacific building, its murals and, of course, the outcomes for programs there that serve Native American students.  Chris seems to be stepping up his efforts this time and going to different community groups to speak out.

 In every BEX there is generally one problematic project and that one for BEX IV is the new TC Elementary.  The district insisted on rebuilding South Shore, even as it was attached to the Rainier Beach Community Center.  Waiting would have meant sharing the planning and costs.  And now, yes, the City is redoing RBCC (albeit slowly).  There is a value to waiting.

Some members of the Wedgwood neighborhood are very unhappy about Thorton Creek's site and the new elementary there.  I can't blame them.They may or may not mount an organized effort.

Among their issues:
- 1,000 K-5 student campus and what looks like a more limited recess space
- big one - loss of sports fields.  Any one who has a child playing la crosse, Ultimate, soccer, baseball, you name it, knows the struggle to find field space.  The district doesn't have a good answer for this one and once they are gone, they are gone.
- it does seem odd to have 5 (count 'em 5) elementary schools within 1 mile of each other.  And, in an area that is not going to get the density that say Roosevelt will (after the light rail goes in) or Lake City (which is also seeing increased density).  It is also quite likely that you'll actually see more kids on buses, not fewer.

What the TC Elementary plan looks like is desperation.  We need a new elementary, where do we have land?

Now land is no small thing (and this is nice flat land, even better to build on).

However, is this where we need a school? 

I also can't believe just how hard it will be for TC to watch this new building rise before them when their own building is not great.  Quite the bitter pill and interesting to see given the close relationship between Director Martin-Morris and Principal John Miner.  It's something akin to what Chief Sealth was feeling when they got passed over for a new building, Denny got the new building AND joined their campus.  Sealth did get some mitigation so I would advise the TC community to push for that for their building.

If the district took some time and worked with the City (and apparently there are those on the City Council willing to help), a better NE location could be found.  But no, we forge ahead and I predict it will not have the best outcomes.

34 comments:

Peanut said...

Yes, the TC site is the "easy" one, because the district already owns the land. However, with increasing density and rising population, this won't be the only needed new school.

At some point, the city and school district are going to have to figure this out and work together to solve the problem.

Patrick said...

There are real issues with adding a second school to Thornton Creek. I live two blocks from there and I'll miss the open space and the athletic fields.

However, I am not really seeing an alternative. Other schools around it are full, and will get even more full since Jane Addams K-8 is to be moved. I don't want to see Thornton Creek's program kicked out in order to become a neighborhood elementary. There's not any vacant land around there that's big enough for a school as far as I can see. (And if there was I'd be advocating for using it for the JAK8 program...)

Mike said...

With the new TC Elementary coming on-line, would this then result in Wedgwood being moved to JAMS in the medium term? Would TC Elementary feed into RHS or Hale?

Anonymous said...

Maple Leaf and Lake City are heaving with young families and pre-schoolers. LC is also getting lots more dense housing (low-income) in the next few years. There needs to be an additional elementary for these neighborhoods.

(My own block has gone from 1 child a decade ago to 20 now, and 2/3 of those are not too young for school. Some families are still on their first kid.)

But as you say, the district is likely to go for the easy option, not the right one. The glimmer of hope is that the Lake City neighborhood council is getting traction with the city. Would be great to see the Maple Leaf council start to take action too.

Maple Leaf Mama

SpsSchools Exposed said...

Seattle School District No. 1
Proposition No. 1
The Seattle School District’s enrollment rate continues to grow; yet the school district has continually
used and mismanages many of the funds provided to them. Countless dollars are not being spent on
repairs; schools are taking a loss in funds by selling school at losses only to reopen them.
In 2009 the school district was offered $9.7 million for the sales of Martin Luther King Elementary. When
all was said and done they voted to sell it to a non-profit church for $2.3 million. This is lost money that
could have provided much needed maintenance. Arbor Heights the oldest school in the district and the
most in need of repairs is not even part of the money allotted in the levy. Now the school district is nearly
$550 million in back repairs.
This mismanagement of funds is not helping our students. We need improvement in our schools. Do you
as a voter want to see your tax dollars go down the drain?

Vote NO on the operations Levy

Melissa Westbrook said...

Actually Sps Schools, you mix up operations with capital money. Maintenance is part of operations and so the MLK, Jr. money could not have gone for maintenance as it went into the capital fund.

Arbor Heights is on the BEX list.

Anonymous said...

Building a second school on the Thornton Creek site is another ill-advised idea. What the district needs to do (or should have done long ago) is partner with the city and purchase or lease some space at Magnuson, if available. Then move the current Thornton Creek program there and open an elementary school at the current TC site. And on a side note. Why is the district not partnering with the city in leverage school space in the South Lake Union area from Vulcan and Amazon. Everyone knows they will need schools in the downtown area.

-Oly Hills dad

Eric B said...

The Loyal Heights PTA Board will have an endorsement vote on Thursday. I expect it to pass with no issues. I have seen very little from Schools First on the levy. They are now asking for volunteers to phone bank, so you might see more contacts soon.

On TC, you have to either build on the land you have or use eminent domain to force homeowners to sell land. I wouldn't want to be trying to sell eminent domain as an option to anyone. Not to mention that two full blocks worth of houses are going to add a whole lot to the cost of building a school. I like going to school sports fields, but fields aren't the District's first priority.

Patrick said...

What the district needs to do (or should have done long ago) is partner with the city and purchase or lease some space at Magnuson, if available.

I asked Tracy Libros about a school site in Magnuson Park, and she said they investigated that but the conditions on the land when it was transferred from the military don't allow use as a school. It's too bad, it would have been a nice site.

Jamie said...

Ballard HS PTSA is phone banking for the levy this evening at the Schools First offices. Students can get service hours if they participate.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Really? They can't use Magnuson for a school? That's a new one to me.

Anonymous said...

"Really? They can't use Magnuson for a school? That's a new one to me. "


Maybe because they only want private operators of recreational sports to set-up. Maybe we should suggest a K-8 Sports school there

NEDad

Peanut said...

From p. 7 of the 2012 Magnuson Strategic Plan:

"It is also important to note, that the Secretary of Interior’s transfer of the Sand Point Naval Station to the city included three types of covenants:

Recreation Use – requires that the “property shall be used and maintained for public
park and recreation purposes in perpetuity”.

Historic Preservation Covenant – requires that approval of the National Park Service (NPS) or its designee, The Washington State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), for “any construction, alteration, remodeling, demolition, disturbance of the ground surface, irrevocable disturbance of landscape settings, or other action that would materially affect the integrity, appearance, or historic value of structure or settings…”

Education Use Covenant – requires that the University-owned property be used for
education purposes.

http://www.seattle.gov/parks/magnuson/docs/SDP.pdf

Nick Esparza said...

Vote NO on The The Operations Levy Proposition No. 1

SpsSchools Exposed said...

http://youtu.be/UgH1jjkpXB4

Mike said...

"Education Use Covenant – requires that the University-owned property be used for
education purposes. "

Ah, that would explain the UW warehouse and center for dentistry there...

SpsSchools Exposed said...

Melissa Westbrook The Propagandist for both levies and the Seattle School District

Anonymous said...

"From p. 7 of the 2012 Magnuson Strategic Plan:

"It is also important to note, that the Secretary of Interior’s transfer of the Sand Point Naval Station to the city included three types of covenants:

Recreation Use – requires that the “property shall be used and maintained for public
park and recreation purposes in perpetuity”.

Historic Preservation Covenant – requires that approval of the National Park Service (NPS) or its designee, The Washington State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), for “any construction, alteration, remodeling, demolition, disturbance of the ground surface, irrevocable disturbance of landscape settings, or other action that would materially affect the integrity, appearance, or historic value of structure or settings…”

Education Use Covenant – requires that the University-owned property be used for
education purposes."

So where in there does it allow low income housing and transitional housing that is at Magnuson?

So let me get this right, the UW was able to grab property for "educational purposes", but SPS was not. That right there shows you how inept SPS can be.

Maybe SPS can work out a deal with the UW at Magnuson....

-Oly Hills dad

Eric B said...

@Nick and SPS Exposed: I can see reasons for not voting for BEX. I don't agree with them, but I can see them. Why do you oppose the operations levy? If the levy fails, how should the District cut 28% out of its budget? If the levy fails and is put on the ballot again and passes, which departments should bear the several hundred thousand in costs for re-running the levy?

Patrick said...

UW Warehouse? Not sure if this is the one you're thinking of, but there is book storage for library books there.

kellie said...

The fundamental issue with BEX and Capacity is that BEX is a repair and replace levy. It is not a "build new schools" levy that you would see in many suburbs.

As a repair and replace levy, BEX addresses much of the backlog of repairs, particularly for buildings currently in inventory that will be used for students. However, the repair and replace process really doesn't add that much NEW capacity over and above what we already have and we have lots of NEW students over and above what we have.

SpsSchools Exposed said...

RE Eric B My Reasons for not voting for BEX. are
SSeattle School District No. 1
Proposition No. 1
The Seattle School District’s enrollment rate continues to grow; yet the school district has continually
used and mismanages many of the funds provided to them. Countless dollars are not being spent on
repairs; schools are taking a loss in funds by selling school at losses only to reopen them.
In 2009 the school district was offered $9.7 million for the sales of Martin Luther King Elementary. When
all was said and done they voted to sell it to a non-profit church for $2.3 million. This is lost money that
could have provided much needed maintenance. Arbor Heights the oldest school in the district and the
most in need of repairs is not even part of the money allotted in the levy. Now the school district is nearly
$550 million in back repairs.
This mismanagement of funds is not helping our students. We need improvement in our schools. Do you
as a voter want to see your tax dollars go down the drain?

Vote NO on the operations Levy

kellie said...

My objection to the "additional" school at Thornton Creek is pretty simple. We have a severe capacity issue that is getting worse each year. I have this baseline that I use to judge decisions. -- "Does this fix the problem?"

If it fixes the problem, great. If it doesn't, then don't do it.

The new school at Thornton Creek will spend $40M to not fix the problem.

All of the students that would be in the "walk zone" for the school are already in the walk zone for at least one other school. This means that when the new boundaries are redraw students will be drawn out of the walk zones for View Ridge, Wedgewood and John Rogers. This means that non-walk zone students will need to be drawn into View Ridge, Wedgwood and John Rogers.

That's not a solution, it merely just changes the problem a little bit. There needs to be truly NEW elementary schools added to the neighborhoods that don't have one. There is simply not enough elementary schools and the ones that are in the NE are very small. That is the problem.

A new school at Magnuson would truly help. A new school in the Bill Pierre Properties in Lake City would help. A new school in the Lake City property that the district already owns would hep. A new school at Cedar Park would help. There are things that would actually help.

The trouble is .. none of these solutions are fast.

kellie said...

@ Eric B,

The problem is not "use the space at TC or eminent domain." Space for NEW schools is an issue that nearly every school district in the US has dealt with at one point or another. School districts everywhere manage to work with local and state partners to secure property for schools. The history of Seattle Schools is one of "this property was donated by _____"

The current school at Thornton Creek is a great example. The school is on land that was donated by the navy to the school district when they no longer needed that property.

The issue is really simple. Enrollment is growing. It has been growing for 10 years. Ten years should have been ample time to plan. But it wasn't.

The 04-05 closure plan specifically identified that while there was excess capacity in the district, there was not enough capacity in NE Seattle and that capacity needed to be added.

However, all that said, without BEX, this gets much worse.

Anonymous said...

@ Patrick

The Wedgwood Open Space Coalition met with the Parks Department. Parks was very open to the idea of a school in Magnuson. However, the district didn't want to work with them

- ww

Patrick said...

Kellie, I'm not really following. All the elementaries around Thornton Creek are full. A new school there will allow boundaries to be adjusted to shrink enrollment in the other schools. That's good, right?

Lake City would be great, but former Lake City school is leased and occupied. If it isn't landmarked already it probably would be. So to use it as a school again would mean ending the leases and an expensive historically sensitive renovation and addition.

Cedar Park I think the District is already planning on reopening, although again as a landmarked building it can't be any bigger.

Magnuson, as noted, has covenants against using it as a school. Even if it could, it would be a new building and not ready until the end of the BEX period. And I'm not sure it would be the best location. Sand Point Elementary is nearby, isn't it one of the few NE schools that has space?

Does Bill Pierre have property up for sale? Is it big enough for a school?

Eric B said...

@SPS Exposed, You're repeating yourself, but half of what you're saying isn't true. On top of that, you're mixing operations and BEX levies.

Arbor Heights is getting rebuilt under BEX IV. Repeating that it's not won't make your statement true. The timeline is later than what most people want, but that's not what you're saying.

You're objecting to not spending more money on maintenance. The projects on BEX IV address roughly $100M of a $500M maintenance backlog.

The lost money on MLK is a major problem. It's also about 1% of the total project value of BEX. The two issues aren't even remotely on the same scale.

Saying that SPS is selling schools only to re-open them is nonsense. Once SPS has sold the school, it's gone. It can't be re-opened. They did close schools only to re-open them. Again, lousy decision making, but not what you claim.

Most of the maintenance work comes out of the operations budget. If you want more money spent on maintenance, why are you in favor of voting down 28% of the operations budget?

Eric B said...

@Kellie: I took a quick scan over NE Seattle for elementary-school sized lots without houses. I'm not seeing much besides the park just NW of Eckstein and the Maple Leaf reservoir (newly capped). There are a bunch of what looks like ravines that I threw out because it would be very hard to build. That said, I'm not from around there, so there might be places I'm missing. Are there other government-owned lots out there?

@Patrick: If land could be made available, a new school on another site could be done on the same schedule as any other school. It wouldn't have to be at the end of the BEX period.

kellie said...

@ Patrick,

Your logic about shrinking boundaries would make sense if this was a problem about just two schools being over-crowded. But is not. The problem is that the entire system is out of capacity and the entire SPS system is running well over 100% capacity.

As such, even after there were a second school at Decatur, all of the nearby schools, Wedgwood, View Ridge, Bryant, etc will still be running as they are now. This is because the new school won't be designed to alleviate crowding at nearby schools, it will be designed to provide capacity for the entire NE. As such, the tremendous enrollment growth in Lake City will need to mapped to somewhere.

Another way to think about this is Ballard High School does not have a true capacity problem. The number of students that live near Ballard is about the same number of spaces that are provided by Ballard High School. However, Queen Anne and Magnolia do not have ANY high school. Therefore Ballard is now the high school for Queen Anne, Magnolia and some of Ballard.

Lake City has exceptionally little elementary capacity. Therefore, most of the NE boundaries go quite a bit further north than they would if there were actually schools in Lake City.

kellie said...

@ Eric B,

The point is not that parents should be out shopping for a parcel of land for a school. The point is that there are property specialists within every government agency. They have the inventory of every building or parcel in their network.

As such, I have no way of directly knowing whether of not the City of Seattle has a property or building that could be perfect for a school. However, I do know that those conversations are important. My opinion on this topic has not shifted in all the years I have worked on these issues. Transparency is your best friend. We need help and help is only going to come if folks know you need it.

I have no idea if there is a perfect property that could fix this problem. However, I do know that there are experts at the City of Seattle, Parks Department and the State of Washington that know their inventory and would know if there was property that would work better. I have been in multiple community meetings were much better properties were suggested, like the Bill Pierre Properties that are currently under development in Lake City.

The land at Decatur is the last build-able land in the NE system. It is clear that no matter how large a school you build there, we still don't have enough capacity. Therefore, it seems to me that it would be prudent to at least start the conversations with all the various government agencies before you use your last resource, not after.

Eric B said...

@Kellie: Thanks for the clarification. I agree that talking sooner is better than later (or not at all).

Anonymous said...

KellieB, you're Aces tonight. Thanks for all your hard work. (BTW: We didn't really close schools in '08, did we? Please tell me I'm imagining that, because what Board would be stupid enough...)

MW: Bless you for not feeding trolls.

Jessie & Garfield staff: A round of Gold Stars.

WSDWG

Maje said...

I had heard the same thing as a previous poster regarding a school at Magnuson - the Parks department is open to a deal (like a land swap), but the School District doesn't want to do it. The reason wasn't disclosed (to me).

Magnuson would be perfect for one of the option schools because then you don't have to worry so much about nearby attendance area schools.

ws said...

Putting this here. Preliminary massing for the Genessee hill site was revealed. As a neighborand parent of a previous student when it was Pathfinder I like it a lot.

http://westseattleblog.com/2013/01/preferred-schematic-design-debuts-for-future-genesee-hill-school