Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The New School Needs a Safe & Appropriate Building

From New School parent, Ben Wilson, comes the counter-argument to Pat Murakami's posting on BEX III opposition.

- The New School is currently in the South Shore building, which is being held up by braces, leaks whenever it rains, and has a heating/ventilation system that constantly fails. The district facilities people say they cannot keep the building safe/habitable for much longer.

- The building's construction quality is so low and its architecture is so distant from current educational standards that renovating it is not considered an option. Scenarios for renovation were prepared by architects, but they result in a school facility that is not desirable.

- The community in Rainier Beach is anxious to have a K-8 option. This comes up at all neighborhood meetings about schools in that region. The building as designed could hold either a K-8 or a middle school in the future.

- The New School is not an alternative school. It is a neighborhood school. The majority of students come from a one-mile radius of the school. Community events are co-sponsored and hosted by the school, and parents are active Rainier Beach community leaders. The student population is 47% black, 15% white, 29% Asian, 9% Latino - wonderful diversity.

- There are no empty buildings in SE Seattle at this time. Rainier View is scheduled to be empty after this year, but that building is also crumbling and would therefore require a capital investment similar to that planned for the South Shore site in order to be useable. That building is also too small even for the PK-5 program, and certainly could not be a PK-8.

- The New School is achieving outcomes for its students that are comparable to schools in central (McGilvra, Montlake, TOPS) and the north-end of the city that have much lower rates of poverty and english-language learners. For example, 96-97% of first and second graders are reading at grade level.

Shouldn't we invest to preserve a great educational option in SE Seattle?


Anonymous said...

I'm with Pat.

Here's what I told the Board in my e-mail yesterday. One, New School is not a true public school. Don't know if it's a magnet, alternative, whatever. Its program is not sustainable on its own without New School Foundation. Meaning, if the Foundation withdrew its support, New School could not function as it does today. That's not a public school. Two, there is a K-8 in that area; it's called African-American Academy. To place two K-8 just over a mile apart from each other is folly. It will weaken AAA and it just plain doesn't make sense. Three, there are many other schools that have been waiting a longer time, in buildings of poorer condition, than New School. The minutes from the last meeting about South Shore states that even if the levy doesn't pass, the repairs made to the building could last it another couple of years. Four, Olchefske, I believe, deliberately placed New School in a rundown building so that it would be obvious that they had to have a new building. That's not fair to other communities.

My answer remains that AAA should be moved (not closed) to a facility it can fill and New School can move into AAA's building (which is big and beautiful). The money being slotted for New School should then go to Pathfinder which is the only K-8 AND the only alternative in the SW. They deserve a chance to flourish and having been patiently waiting their turn for a very long time.

I was quite surprised to see that the SEA mentioned school communities thinking of voting against the bond measure but it shows the extent of their unhappiness. That is another issue about this BEX. Parents and taxpayers only have one real way to show their unhappiness with the decisions and direction the district is going. They can vote, against either the bond measure in Feb. or the Board next November. I told the Board that if the BEX III list had more of a rhyme and reason to it especially in the light of school closures, it would go far to have it pass and perhaps restore people's faith in this district.

I am sorry to disappoint anyone at New School. This is the place and time we are in. Whether or not New School should have a new building may be moot if voters decide to either stay away from the polls or, if they do go, vote against it because they seek to give the Board/Superintendent a wake-up call.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wilson says that the roof at the Southshore building leaks, but didn't it just get a new roof? Is it in worse shape than Genesee Hill? Has the New School waited as long?

Mr. Wilson says that the building's construction quality is low and the architecture is not up to current educational standards, yet the building is of the same vintage and design as Kimball and Maple, and the architecture doesn't appear to have prevented academic performace at Southshore where, he reports, 96-97% of first and second graders are reading at grade level.

Mr. Wilson says that the community in Rainier Beach is anxious to have a K-8 option. As Mel pointed out: they have one, the AAA. In addition, ORCA will expand to K-8 starting next year when they move into Whitworth. The New School would be a THIRD K-8 alternative school in Southeast Seattle. This level of need is not as great as the need in West Seattle which has only one K-8 and alternative school, Pathfinder.

Mr. Wilson is flat wrong when he writes that The New School is a neighborhood school. It is NOT. It does not have a reference area. It is an alternative school. It has alternative funding, alternative governance, and a pre-school. The District officially regards it as an alternative school. There is no way that The New School can deny being an alternative school. This is not open to opinion, re-definition or debate - it is an objective truth.

As for the diversity of the program, what is Mr. Wilson trying to say? What should these numbers be compared to? Against the Districtwide demographics The New School is seriously overweighted with African-American students and underrepresented with White Students. Against the demographics of the other schools in the area, The New School is much, much Whiter and more Asian than the surrounding schools. What is Mr. Wilson trying to say with these numbers? What is so wonderful about The New School's diversity?

Mr. Wilson asks if we shouldn't invest to preserve a great educational option in SE Seattle. Is he saying that the option will not be preserved without the investment? Where will it go?

Shouldn't we invest to preserve a great educational option in SW Seattle?

Mr. Wilson is right about one thing: There are no other available buildings in SE Seattle. That is, of course, unless the District moves the AAA into Rainier Beach High School.

Beth Bakeman said...

Charlie, the district does not regard The New School as an alternative school. When you look in enrollment materials and on the district web site, The New School is listed under Elementary schools, not Alternative schools.

This is a small point in the overall argument here, but I raise it anyhow because I think there is inconsistency in which schools are officially labeled "alternative" in this district.b

Anonymous said...

As Beth noted, the question of alternative vs. neighborhood is a small point in the argument, but it raised my curiosity and I tracked down an answer of sorts - see my response to Mr. Mas under "BEXIII Opposition".

I could spend a lot of time trying to answer all the questions/comments raised here under this post but I'm supposed to be working right now... the one thing I know with certainty is that there was a pile of wet ceiling tile, a large puddle of brown water, and yellow "danger" tape stretched across a third of the room in my daughter's before-school classroom at The New School on Monday morning , indicating the ceiling has not been fixed.