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Friday, January 23, 2009

The Re-Purposing of Summit K-12

In comments on the post School Board Meeting on January 21, there was a request for a separate post about Summit K-12, as well as much discussion about the decision to close the program. Many people seem to not know about Summit's unique situation in this process. Summit K-12, whether you consider it a program or a school, is doomed, no matter which way the board votes next week, without direct school board action. This post is simply a timeline and assessment of the current situation. Why Summit should be saved is a topic for another post.

On November 12, 2008, the school board voted to "re-purpose" the Jane Addams building, Summit's home for the past 24 years, into a K-8 school, as part of capacity management in the northeast cluster. The original School Board Action Report can be found here, as a PDF file. The pertinent suggestion, in Attachment B, is to re-purpose the Jane Addams building for a new K-8 program with decisions regarding the future of the Summit K-12 program to be included in any building closure process.

Video of this portion of the board meeting can be found here. During the meeting, the concern of many Summit parents that this was a de facto closure of the program, was brought up by Steve Sundquist beginning at about 10:30. Director Sundquist and the other board members all agreed that this was not a part of the current decision and there was a discussion of what "re-purposing" meant in this context. Director DeBell stated that if it was a motion to close the Summit program, he would have a very different feeling about it. The motion was approved.

Prior to this meeting and during the public comment portion (video), many people involved with Summit had spoken up about the program and its value, in an attempt to keep the program viable, even if the Jane Addams building was re-purposed. Despite our dismay at the decision, we have continued to be active after this meeting, as well.

When the Superintendent's preliminary recommendations were released on November 25, 2008, it was recommended that the Summit K-12 program co-locate with Rainier Beach High School. Since this re-created the same situation that had been problematic for Summit in the past, namely placement on the outskirts of the school district leading to complaints about transportation costs, there was a call for a more central location. At the December 3rd board meeting, there was a discussion about the move to Rainier Beach perhaps not being fiscally feasible. It was noted that this might lead to a final recommendation to discontinue the Summit K-12 program.

On December 9th, at a board workshop, further modifications were made to the recommendations. The preferred option discontinued the Summit program. The non-preferred option suggested moving Summit K-8 to re-locate with Nova at the Meany Middle School building and discontinuation of the 9-12 portion of the program.

As was expected, the final recommendation on January 9, 2009 was to discontinue the Summit K-12 program and re-assign students to where they lived. It has been proposed that this include an option for Summit students to enroll in their regional alternative school, but that isn't yet official.

If the board votes yes on the final recommendations without amendment, Summit will be discontinued. If the board votes no, as many active in the discussion suggest, Summit still has no building and will be effectively closed. At this point, Summit, as a program or as a school, is homeless and cannot be saved without direct intervention.

17 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

I'm pretty disturbed by two elements of this situation.

First, the shabby treatment afforded Summit. The District should find a new location for this program with over 500 students. The Board clearly did not intend to close the program with their earlier vote.

Second, the bad planning and capacity management that closing Summit represents. If the District does not find a new location for Summit a great number of the Summit students will be assigned to northeast cluster schools. That will wipe out the majority of the benefit the District is trying to realize by re-purposing Jane Addams. So it's a bad move because it severely blunts the impact of the move. It is also bad capacity management because without Summit the District will not have enough alternative school capacity to meet the demand. As they go about the business of counting butts and seats and right-sizing the District they need to recognize that not all of the demand is geographically determined. Some of it - the parts they are so gleefully shifting about - are in alternative schools. Part of right-sizing the District is making sure that we have enough capacity in each cluster, and part of it is making sure that we have enough in the various programs - Special Education, ALOs, ELL, and alternative. Without Summit, there will be a serious shortage of alternative school seats in the District. That's just bad capacity management.

Andrew Kwatinetz said...

I'm not in favor of closing Meany. But if Meany must be closed, I think having Summit there would be a better alternative than the current proposal. It's already been written that Nova would prefer to stay at Mann (relatively low cost) and the SBOC folks have expressed concern with co-housing. Having Summit at Meany would offer a potential home to the current Meany students and an alternative to Washington in the central cluster, where there are plenty of middle school kids we lose because not everyone likes the tracking at Washington. It would also (as Charlie points out) potentially offload some of the overcrowding in the NE, which closing Summit outright does not. Thoughts from others?

Andrew Kwatinetz said...

I should also add... retaining the current Meany students at Summit might give us the possibility to retain some of the amazing community efforts (especially around music and art) that would otherwise be lost if Meany is closed. And having younger kids (K-12 instead of high school only) would make better use of the building's location next to a playground and community center.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, Andrew, I made that point last night at the public hearing (I talked about Summit and the issues around it, AAA/Aki and elementary APP.) I honestly think that Summit could and would grow at Meany and many Meany students might want to stay and the "design team" could take some of the great elements of Meany and bring them into the fold at Summit.

samdinista said...

I agree that, should Meany close, that building is the right spot for Summit K-12. It would mean 800 alternative school seats in a centrally located neighborhood with a highly diverse demographic. It would help over-crowding in the NE as a significant protion of current Summit families would follow the program, It would help alleviate the problems the district will create in the Central cluster, (particularly if they close TT minor as well)and transportation costs would be manageable.

Josh Hayes said...

My concern is that the District would balk at providing all-city transportation to the Meany building for a single school. True, it's centrally located, but that's a long slog from, say, Lake City, or Loyal Heights. They were already whinging about the transportation costs for Summit when they shared busses with AS1; moving it to Meany would make that system unworkable (and AS1 has already been told that it'll only get transport from N/NE clusters; I've requested an amendment to add NW into that).

I do think that Meany is a great fit for the school, in Charlie's usage, just anticipating the objections the District might offer.

north seattle mom said...

As Meany is centrally located, it should be relatively straightforward for Summit at Meany to share transportation with APP and / or other multi cluster draw programs like TOPS.

As far as I can tell, Summit at Meany just represents something that might be successful for STUDENTS and therefore should be avoided at all costs.

dan dempsey said...

North East Mom,

I think you have analyzed this correctly. MG-J's administration has been mostly about centralization and uniform standardization. A Summit success might be considered a setback to the administration's direction.

Megan Mc said...

I emailed the board today asking them to amend the current proposal to include a location for Summit - even a temporary placement at Linclon until a permanent solution could be worked out. The stress and inconvenience of a temporary placement is better than being discontinued. The district should run the enrollment numbers w/ Summit closed and all those kids staying in the NE/N and then run the numbers with the program centrally located and get some real data about how that would play out.

I think the Summit program is a major asset to Seattle's public schools and the district should treat it as such. How stupid is the district going to look if the new K-8 at Jane Addams ends up with even less North End kids than the Summit program had? Its going to be hard for them to fill that building without forcing former/enticing Summit students to attend.

If I were forced with that choice or being sent back to the traditional program I'd already rejected, I' d head to Shoreline or do online school.

Johnny Calcagno said...

The ending of the Summit program is a bad idea for lots of reasons.

If the current Meany program is really going to be discontinued – and all indications are that it will be -  Summit at Meany makes a lot of sense. Not too far away for the North End families who would want to continue, close to the Meany playfields and community center, in a great location for a multi-cluster or all city draw, and with enough middle school capacity to relieve some of the pressure from Washington.  It would also end up within a mile or so of its original location in the Central Area, before it was “temporarily” decades ago.

The Lincoln site would be attractive and keep the seats north of the ship canal, but is that site one that elementary families will be attracted to?

Unknown said...

Aside from the question of Summit's existence, NE clster truly needs this additional space for a traditional elementary school. Many families are thrilled to have this K-8 option that will meet a wide range of needs. I agree that Summit should have a new location as it is a program crucial to the (relatively small # of) families that have chosen it. At this point, however, would be useful to have 2 threads-- one for the issue of potential relocation of the Summit program, and one for the possibilities presented by the new K-8. Opening an entirely new school is pretty uncommon / unique for SPS. What does the community want for that K-8? Many have already spoken in favor of a traditional program. With what features?

uxolo said...

Summit at Lincoln makes perfect sense.

Jet City mom said...

I agree that Lincoln is an more accessible location for an all city draw & I am confident that given a location is more central and support from district that they could enlarge the program to levels previous to the districts recent emphasis on using WASL to determine academic achievement.


I appreciate that the board didn't " intend" to close the door at Summit and the community- however- given the behavior of the district over the recent years it is no wonder that the program has struggled to meet the needs of the community and the demands of the district.

Summit enrolled K-12 students-which is not something replicated in the district and very limited elsewhere .

high % of students with " special needs" , my definition- not districts
students that for whatever reason, needed something besides the " traditional " environment of some neighborhood schools.

Because they had social difficulties, communication disorders, because they were maybe gay and out or had behavior issues & needed more arts/drama/music based classes with more parental support than you often see in a high school classroom.

Maybe their family undergoing transitions- needed a place where all the children of the family could attend school & teachers there wouldn't just know one child from the family, but would be able to put them in perspective.

Students who learned skills to make them very successful in outside world, but who learned those skills at Summit.

No, perhaps the students who require the supportive environment of a K-12 school are not the bulk of the students in the district.

But even more important to keep them as a cohort then isn't it? Because they will not get the tools they need to be successful, if dispersed throughout the city. They will be going back to the schools from which they transferred, where they weren't successful- sometimes even harrassed or assaulted- because they didn't " fit in".

I feel the question is- do we want our school system to serve the needs of all the students in the district, even if some students with special needs- highly gifted without/ with disabilities- or other learning differences are not served by traditional neighborhood schools.

Or do we want alternative schools that serve the above described populations- only if they can be shown to excel using conventional measures.

north seattle mom said...

I don't think SPS would ever go for Summit at Lincoln. If they would, they would have done that as part of the vote to repurpose Jane Addams.

Summit at Meany has a lot of potential. Meany is an excellent location for an all city draw. Plus Summit at Meany would do something completely crazy. It would actually help NE capacity by giving NE parents a reason to leave the cluster.

seattle citizen said...

North Seattle Mom writes:
"I don't think SPS would ever go for Summit at Lincoln. If they would, they would have done that as part of the vote to repurpose Jane Addams"
Yes, I think I agree, and this points to a problem: Why IS the district so adament about not using underutilized or closed buildings? Yes, there might be a bit of expense, but if the plan is for the best future for the students given a need to rearrange (and in some instances decrease) capacity, couldn't you close five building and open one (like John Marshall) or better utilize one (like Lincoln)? The adamant refusal to consider opening buildings strikes me as out of step with the process; there isn't a rationale for that position, except maybe stubborn-ness.

(the word verifier "cringes" along with me...)

north seattle mom said...

It is incredibly perplexing why they won't open buildings when needed. John Marshall has only been closed for a few months. The last program there was moved out over last summer. The NECC spent the summer trying to get that building to be used for the overflow capacity but no deal.

Maybe the district doesn't want to move Summit because they want to re-use all of the stuff inside the building for the repurposed program. Does anyone know if any of the various cost savings reports mentioned anything about the cost of starting a new school if Summit is moved vs discontinued? I wonder what the cost of new desks and a new library might be and if this might be driving some of the cost savings.

North End Mom said...

I posted some numbers relating to the repurposing of the Jane Addams building on the Jane Addams thread that perhaps should have been posted here. Please refer to that thread. Thanks.