Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Oh the Irony

So on the day of the vote for the contentious Denny/Sealth project (it's not like a big Oscar surprise; it'll pass with little to no dissent on the Board), here's this article in the Times about Bellevue's capital bond measure.

"The Bellevue School District will ask voters to approve its largest-ever school-construction initiative, a 20-year, $545 million bond measure in a special election March 11. The measure would fund a $100 million renovation to Bellevue High School; completely rebuild three elementary schools; add science labs, classrooms and security to Sammamish High School; and modernize Tyee and Chinook Middle Schools.

Because of the booming development in downtown Bellevue and the already substantial city tax base, voters can approve the measure and still end up paying half what residents pay in school taxes in many surrounding districts."

Now, you look at the figure and go, holy cow! But boy, they get a lot done for their money.
Interestingly (and in tune with what Facilities folk here say about cost escalation):

"The first phase of school modernization, a $324 million bond measure in 2002, paid for construction or renovations to 12 schools. All projects were completed on time, said Steve Brown, chairman of Bellevue Quality Schools, the citizens group that is backing the measure. Because of steep escalation in construction costs over the past few years, three projects weren't built because money ran out."

So they had 12 on the list but did 9. That's pretty good considering over here we do between 5-6.

The irony is this:

"The Bellevue School District mailed an informational postcard to all households. Local school PTSAs also have "inundated" families with information about the bond measure, said Connie Gerlitz, Bellevue PTSA Council president.

Still, some voters who received their ballots in the mail last week said they hadn't heard anything about the bond measure and were shocked by the cost.

"It's a huge number, and I haven't seen a bit of publicity," said Bob Bethke, a Bellevue contractor."

Even Bellevue has a hard time getting the word out and their election is in two weeks. But, to their credit, their district mailed a postcard to ALL households (Schools First only sent theirs to 45,000 households, presumably parents of SPS students). (Members of the Board are still stubbornly maintaining that the district's efforts were good enough even though the actual bond language - not the pro argument - in the voter's guide did not detail Denny/Sealth. I find that odd but maybe they are operating on the old saw that if you say something enough times, it becomes true.)

One other thing about Bellevue's plan:

"Under the renovation plan, the old schools would be leveled and rebuilt with ample daylight, interior skylights, modern technology and energy-efficient heating and electrical systems."

SPS Facilities staff has always maintained that its cheaper to NOT level buildings and "remodel" or "renovate" them and yet there goes Bellevue leveling its buildings. I have always wondered if it was more about city permitting than cost for SPS Facilities. (For example, they are not rebuilding Hale because they could never get a permit for it because it was built on a bog and they couldn't get a permit to rebuild on it.)


Anonymous said...

There is a perfectly fine building sitting at 520 Ravenna that could be repurposed into some sort of educational institution. Melissa, you've seen Marshall; what do you think we might do with the place?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, Marshall isn't a perfect building but it's in okay shape and, of course, in a great location. But, it allegedly is too small for an elementary (in terms of playground space). It might have been nice to move the elementary APP kids there so that the Capital Hill area might have more schools to choose from. Or, Marshall is even big enough for APP 1-8 which would solve even more issues (Washington would like its space for more resident kids or so I'm told).

It could be a small middle school to take the pressure off of Eckstein.

Maybe Secondary BOC, which has long needed a new home, could move there. It has very convenient bus lines and will, by 2018 (I think that's the date), have the light rail over by Roosevelt. Students from all over could likely get there easily.

The problem is the building likely needs to be updated and the district probably doesn't want to spend the money. I was told by staff that the property is worth tens of millions and well, I'd bet it gets sold before it gets used for a school purpose.

Just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think you'e right that it'll be sold rather than updated. I believe the updates could be minimal, though, and this brings up the question of whether we want form or function. When I was in middle school, back in the stone ages, the district I was in was building a new middle school and as an assignment we studied design. I came up with a poster as a result that somewhat quoted current (stone age bau haus modernism) to the effect that "a building should be functional, then beuatiful, rather than beautiful, then functional".
The point being that education, at its root, can happen in a forest clearing with stumps for seats and a stick with which to draw in the dirt. I fear that we are losing sight of the purpose of our buildings, sometimes. It's not how current the paint is, but who is in there using the facility and what they're doing.
The Marshall building is, indeed, worth millions and millions (though tell that to the people who tried to build condos at the nearby Carnation block by Gregg's Greenlake Cycle: The anchor, Whole Foods, pulled out and now there's just a big, deep hole in the ground that's slowly filling with groundwater and runoff...)
Marshall is ideally located, it has many and various rooms and spaces for PE, art, theater...what an opportunity for a REAL community safety net school, utilizing all sorts of pedagogies, all sorts of community support and services to serve students, and their parents, in a basic but serviceable building. The place is built like a tank. The "bones" are the best, and to sell this off to the bulldozers is a certain misuse of public property.

I picture a 16 hour school that rents space to theaters and PE use groups, that serves daycare needs, that houses social services...and last, but not least, has a variety of learning opportunities for youth AND their parents through ongoing tutoring, ELL, and other basic education offerings.
But then I've been called an idealist before...
With a bit of jiggering, playgrounds could be resurrected next to the building (does it NEED tennis courts?) and of course Greenlake is a short walk away and its staff of parks people stands ready and willing to coordinate with whatever Marshall offers, as does the nearby Greenlake Library.
I like the idea of the 1-8 APP program, this place is perfect for it, but there would be barriers raised (some already raised by certain people at Marshall as they struggled to save their school...misguided, but understandable) but with the addition of program elements to address some of those concerns, I think APP could all fit in the building just fine.