Reopening Buildings: What Should They Be?

The district proposes reopening 5 buildings to house new schools to help with capacity issues. We already know that Old Hay (which will be renamed soon using the previously used name Sharples) will be a K-5 Montessori. The district has some experience with Montessori (although not a full school) so it could be assumed they know what they are doing.

So then we have Sand Point (original name was Pontiac), Rainier View, McDonald (and note it's Mc, not Mac), and Viewlands. All will be K-5s (likely).

So the question is how to open these schools and as what? Should they open as full K-5s? Start with a couple of grades? I think just K is out because of two factors. One, for parents who already have a child at a different school (and if grandfathering for sibs at the original school doesn't happen), then you would have a mandatory assignment of two schools. Two, Lincoln is a big building and it would seem odd to have two little schools with just kindergartens as their start. Not the friendliest option.

Tracy Libros is interested in thoughts on this issue. You can also advocate for programming but that would have to go to Dr. Enfield (not Tracy's area).

Some updates from the BTA III Work Session that pertain to this issue:
  • Sand Point's capacity figures were wrong. (How did this happen? Someone forgot to put in the capacity for the portables slated for it. It is about 225 w/o portables and 325 with the portables. Michael asked about a library here and Tracy seemed to waffle. Something about putting in bookcases (that's something to keep in mind).
  • The directors, after seeing the renovation figures, seem to want to push back on McDonald. I need to get the handout they had but it seems that the enrollment numbers are not as great a need and with the highest renovation figure (about $14M), some directors seem to be balking at reopening it. However, Tracy did point out that by opening McDonald, it would open more seats up at JSIS under the new SAP (which, in losing the distance tiebreaker, might allow more students to get in).
  • Tracy did acknowledge (and the district should have said this long ago) that excess capacity in one building doesn't really help in capacity issues if the building is not in the area where the stress is.
  • There seems to be an acknowledgment, as per McDonald, that if these new schools were Option schools they might draw the stress off the regular ed buildings. Tracy pointed out that transportation choices might influence that choice for parents.


Elizabeth W said…
Mel writes:

Tracy did acknowledge (and the district should have said this long ago) that excess capacity in one building doesn't really help in capacity issues if the building is not in the area where the stress is.


This isn't necessarily true. It depends greatly on the current density of stuents and schools and where you believe continued growth is going to be greatest.

As I commented on an earlier thread, you could get the same net effect on capacity in NE Seattle by opening Sand Point or by opening the same size school at the far Northeast end of the city. There is currently more than enough slack in the placement of NE Seattle schools to shift their attendance areas Southwards while still keeping the schools within their boundaries.

In fact, if you look at the proposed boundaries N of the ship canal and E of I-5, most of the schools are in the South end of their reference area. The immediate effect of opening a far Northeast school would be to better center attendance areas around their schools.

Opening Sand Point is the best solution to relieving congestion in NE Seattle if you believe that the school age population is going to grow substantially faster in the South end of the NE than in the North end of the NE. If projections are for even growth throughout, it doesn't matter whether you open one in the North or South end of the NE area.
Charlie Mas said…
I have already said this, but it bears repeating:

The District should place north-end elementary APP at McDonald.

They are opening buildings at great expense to make space in the north-end for north-end students. If this is a high priority for other north-end students it should be an equally high priority for APP students.
Jet City mom said…
I believe the james monroe building is the one used by Salmon Bay- since Salmon Bay is an option school and attended by students from West Seattle to Lake City perhaps the city could be better served if it was in a more central location.
Anonymous said…
Writing from my limited perspective in the NE, it would be ideal for Sandpoint and McDonald to open as K-5s and welcome older siblings of incoming Kindergarteners, for those families who would opt to move their older children.

Several elementary schools here had to add additional K classes for the 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 school years, creating large cohorts of current 1st and 2nd graders. We were told that teachers would move up with these cohorts to keep class sizes reasonable, but that didn't happen at our school, which was a big surprise when class lists were posted this year.

I have serious concerns that the current class sizes, which are unprecedented at our school, may undermine effective teaching. My child loved Kindergarten, but she's complaining that she's bored and spending a lot of time sitting at her desk waiting for other kids to finish their work, and she would ask her teacher for another project but her teacher is too busy. I didn't put any of these ideas into her head or ask leading questions. This is what she volunteered to me when I asked her how school was going. It's early though; maybe the year will get better.

Now, I don't think anyone should be forced to move their older children to a new, unestablished school. But if they are serious about addressing overcrowding AND maintaining the supposed quality of our schools AND giving people options to keep their children together, then they must open these schools at all grades.
Charlie Mas said…
Regarding the possible move of Salmon Bay to a more central location, the most promising alternative site would be Wilson-Pacific, but the building needs a metric ton of work.
seattle citizen said…
Harkening back to an earlier idea about Northend APP, how 'bout a K-8 APP program in the John Marshall building?

I don't know about the other buildings, but Marshall's "bones" are pretty good, it's a relatively well-equipped place, and it's central. Only major flaws are lack of elevator (it's three floors) and no play field (but Greenlake is two blocks away)
It's stated capacity is somewhere around 800. Most classrooms are still in orginal configurations. Science lab was quite nice. Auditorium/cafeteria has a nice stage, and HAD a very good sound and light board and lights, etc(don't know if that's still there)

Also has a daycare facility for, uh, pre-APP?
h2o girl said…
Salmon Bay will no longer be an all-city draw with transportation after this year, correct? In the new assignment plan, it's listed as the option school for the Whitman and Hamilton service areas. Moving it doesn't really make a lot of sense to me, although it's hard to say until there is some definite info on how the option schools will work. I'm wondering if there will be quite a few current 6th & 7th graders who leave next year if they no longer get transportation.
Dorothy Neville said…
Rumor has it that the seven million bucks to reopen Sandpoint is already available and not relying on the BTA levy. Anyone know if that's true? When I was there on Monday, there was surveyors' equipment (ie, the tripod things) set up, but in the hour I was there, no surveyors. There's also an awful lot of that spray painted information on the pavement concerning utilities and where to dig. I couldn't tell how fresh it was.
Meg said…
Why is the New School an option school instead of an attendance area school? There doesn't appear to be anything notably different in its educational approach between it and a regular K-8. Also 77% of their K-5 kids are from the SE, and 92% of its 6th grade was from there. For K-5, that's a lower percentage than, say, Dunlap, which has 90% of kids coming from within the cluster, but higher than what Pathfinder pulls, 63%.

It has a substantial number of empty seats (this year it has an enrollment of 521 for a building that has, depending if you use functional or planning capacity, 760-1,000 seats), and using it as a neighborhood school could well mean that it's un-necessary to re-open Rainier View. I understand the desire for neighborhood schools, and in some ways, Rainier View's location is better. However, 1) the district ignores or uses the idea of a school genuinely serving its surrounding neighborhood at its convenience and 2) $7M+ in capital and a likely $2M a year in operating seems pretty steep for a more convenient location.

So is there something I'm missing? I'm not trying to go after the SE with this, but I am hoping maybe someone has a better grasp on why it makes sense to have the New School continue as an option school.
Central Mom said…
And, once again, my multi-thread rant that if the district would address language immersion schools as Option programs, they could distribute the programs throughout the district, WITHOUT the challenges of opening schools with the best, most updated (costly renovation) facilities or to the sites most convenient to K-5 walkability. Families would overlook facility and transportation issues for a great program.

Thoughtful placement of the programs and the geographic boundary would mean not only relief of overcrowding but also no need for a couple of the really wonky assignment areas that have popped up on the maps.

I've always suspected that the inability to do this somehow hinges on an unspoken rule not to mess with JSIS, which of course is a stellar program...and a neighborhood school. But that's purely conjecture from my end.

If we're changing rules throughout the district, why not this one too?
Jet City mom said…
I would like to see more option schools-( and I actually liked the cluster groupings we had a few years ago)

We could have had successful programs like TOPS replicated years ago.

this charter school proposal in Portland also sounds intriquing

^ search for hip hop high school
southend girl said…

Someone asked MGJ why The New School at South Shore was named an Option School at a recent "coffee w/ superintendent" at Aki. She basically dodged the question by saying that the Board had made that decision and it was water under the bridge.

I have friends there who report that the community did not want it to be an Option school and also agree that it isn't truly alternative.

In addition, I believe it was founded with the mission to serve the surrounding population. As with any other "good" school in Seattle, over time more middle class families have discovered it, bringing down the FRL numbers. But, that is also a reflection of changing demographics of the hood. Still, those changes haven't helped Dunlap across the playfield.

I agree with Central Mom and many others that there are fundamental problems with the Option school choices. There is no rhyme or reason or consistency in the choices but of course those choices affect almost every other school.

Because South Shore is the Option school for the area thus no mandatory assignments can be made to it, SPS needs regular ed seats at other schools that might be better fits for an Option school, say to create equitable access to an Immersion or Montessori school or program.
Rebecca said…
Central Mom,

From what I've heard, the reason for keeping the language immersion programs as attendance area/reference ones is not because of an unspoken rule to not mess with JSIS, but rather to better serve the multilingual/multicultural communities that surround two of the three, Concord and Beacon Hill. 60% of Concord's students are Latino, for instance. Beacon Hill has a very diverse, largely immigrant population. Making these schools available by lottery would do a huge disservice to the families in these communities, whose language learning needs are unique.

JSIS obviously does not have the same community makeup. One could argue for moving the program into a community that has a higher number of non-native English speakers. Bilingual immersion apparently has the greatest success for all involved when the number of native English speakers is balanced with the number of non-native English speakers (e.g. native Spanish speakers).

My hope is that the district increases the number of bilingual immersion programs at all grade levels. There are many other cities across the country that have much stronger and broader International programs, so it can be done!
TechyMom said…
I wonder if South Shore is an option school because it and Dunlap are so close together? Wouldn't it be difficult to create attendance areas for both? Of the two, South Shore is the more alternative program. It seems like the option schools were designated on a case-by-case basis, without any real rule to it.
southend girl said…

Maybe, but why did SPS allow two schools just across the playfield from one another?

By most accounts South Shore is a good school but as far as I can tell, what is different about it is that there is outside funding to provide additional services. Not sure of the status on the extra funding. Clearly it has helped. I just wish SPS would take what is successful and replicate it.
TechyMom said…
I couldn't begin to tell you why they allowed that. But, there it is. South Shore is a nice new building. They're not closing old buildings right now, because they did that last year. Why didn't they close Dunlap last year, and move those kids to the nice new building? No clue.

Laura Korn, perhaps you know?
southend girl said…
Hi Rebecca,

Tracy Libros said as much about Beacon Hill. However, none of the families I know who are there or want to be are native speakers. I wonder what percentage are? I also wonder if this reasoning means we'll be seeing immersion schools for other prevalent native languages - for instance in Rainier Valley: Tagalog, Vietnamese, Somali, Amharic, Arabic, Oromo...I doubt it.
SolvayGirl said…
It will be interesting to see how SPS staffs an entire building of Montessori classes. As I have noted on previous posts, there are not many schools nationwide that certify Montessori teachers beyond the preschool level. There is ONE in South King County. Will the District need to recruit far and wide to fill spots? It will also be problematic when/if RIFs come around as Montessori teacher slots cannot be filled by teachers without Montessori certification (at least they could not at Graham Hill).

I am also curious as to whom they will lace as principal. They will need to be at least Montessori-friendly, if not trained.
SolvayGirl said…
Of course, I meant "place" not "lace."

Mea culpa
kellie said…
It just seems fairly backwards to me that the SAP is determining which buildings should be opened. As Elizabeth and many others have noted, there are many ways to add capacity to the system and therefore many ways to draw the lines when new buildings are introduced.

This is a very expensive process of over $50M to open these buildings. It seems that something this expensive is worthy of both community input and board oversight. Where is the board policy on what to consider when opening buildings? Where are the community input meetings on what is important in a new program? And what is the levy fails? Are we back to drawing new lines?
Laura Kohn said…
I don't have answers to all of these good questions about South Shore, but I can offer a few things:
- I agree that it is not aspiring to be an alternative school (but I don't think that precludes it from being an option school).
- It draws from the Rainier Beach neighborhood and has strong community ties that it would like to maintain.
- And the foundation aims, through its donations, to support the work of an amazing school serving low income students of color, and we believe some economic diversity at the school supports that mission. We hope that, whatever the new assignment plan rules are, the school will continue to serve at least as many low income students as it does now, and hopefully more. But we don't have the answer for how to accomplish that...and don't have a point of view about whether it's best accomplished as a neighborhood school or an option school...we just don't want low income families to lose access to the school.
NE Parent said…
I have talked to at least 30 current SPS families about this, and haven't heard of anyone intending to pull their older child out of their current school if their younger child is sent to Sand Point or McDonald. People just say they'll have their kids at two different schools, try again the next year, or go outside Seattle or to private school. So I don’t know that having a K-5 at Sand Point or McDonald will be viable. Now the view might be different if there was an attractive program in place, such as language immersion at Sand Point. But if not, I honestly do not see any need to have more than just the K grade next year (and I’ve discussed this with more Sand Point than McDonald attendance area families—McDonald people should speak up if they feel differently).

In contrast, I have heard from a few people who, if their younger child doesn’t get into the older child’s school, would be willing to pull their older child and put them at an established school such as Bryant, Wedgwood, or Laurelhurst. You may recall that the SAP had previously guaranteed putting the older child in at the attendance area school when the kindergartener joined, but that provision was removed from the plan (inadvertently, I believe) by Sherry Carr's amendment to consider siblings at the implementation phase. So if that option comes back at the implementation phase and siblings are not grandfathered, I do think it will add to the Bryant etc. overcrowding.
Laura Kohn said…
In my opinion, all of the Montessori programs in the district should start at PreK, not K, the way Graham Hill does. I hope the new program at Old Hay will start that way.
southend girl said…
Hi Laura,

Thanks for your answers about South Shore. My suspicion is that making it an option will serve to attract more middle school families who seek to avoid unpleasant middle school (and now elementary) "choices" and who know how to navigate the system. I know many who plan to flock there asap, which is sad for the K-5s where those kids are currently happy. I think many in the south end use K-8s and "alternative" schools as an escape from other options.

Regarding Montessori, totally agree with you. One of the basic tenets of Montessori is that ages 3-6 are a sensitive learning period which is the foundation for future learning.

SPS says they plan to invite more students to begin school at age 4 in the coming years. Why not start with what we have in Montessori? Add it to Bagley and Old Hay. But make it FREE. PreK Montessori at GH is fantastic but even though tuition assistance is offered, the fact that some have to pay is a barrier to many.
Meg said…
Laura- thank you for answering. It seems as if being designated a neighborhood school wouldn't keep South Shore/the New School (which do you prefer?) from upholding its goals. Would it?

Most of the kids there already come from the SE cluster (which is as good as some neighborhood schools - Bagley has 78% of its students coming from within the cluster). It's a brand new facility, with plenty of space. Is there a reason you would prefer for it to be an option school over an attendance area school?

As for being an option school... you're right, there is nothing to say that a school that isn't really distinguishable from a regular comprehensive K-8 can't be an option school. But almost every other option school in the district is appreciably different from regular comprehensive schools. I hope this doesn't come across in a snarky or unpleasant way, but I think there should be a more thorough rationale for designating a school as an option school than the school administration and community wanting it to be that way.
So John Stanford Int'l was opened in an attendance area school. For whatever reason, it stayed that way. The other foreign language schools are also attendance area schools. If they all became Option schools, there wouldn't be enough guaranteed space elsewhere. This is what Tracy has told me.

South Shore. Well, it was an alternative school, then an attendance area school and now we're back to it being an Option school. And, it more alternative light than anything else.

Yes, why would the district put a K-8 in the backyard of a K-5 and a mile away was another K-8 (AAA)? Sure doesn't sound like they needed the capacity and now they do.

Dunlap IS a newish building.

Funny how the Superintendent and Laura Kohn feign innocence over how South Shore is classified when they likely both had a hand in it. But again, money talks in this district. We see it over and over.

The district could use existing capital funds to start work on Sand Point and then put it back into those funds when the BTA money came in. So they likely could start sooner than Feb.

What happens if the levy fails? Well, you could not do the addition at Ingraham, there's some money there. You could not reopen one or more of the schools. The bottom line is that district truly needs to open Sand Point. That could happen without the levy. And they could put the levy on the ballot again within the year. But when you are getting up in the millions of dollars - for each school - it should give people pause. That's money that won't be going to schools that have been patiently waiting for maintenance, big and small.
Charlie Mas said…
While it would be obviously odd to have two attendance area schools as close to each other as Dunlap and South Shore, that's pretty much the situation with Van Asselt @ AAA and Wing Luke. They are a mere three blocks apart.

It is too late for the District to correct this, but they should have put The New School in the AAA and created a new middle school in the South Shore building.

The Van Asselt program could have remained at Van Asselt or - if the building really is that decrepit, it could have moved to the Sharples building (Aki Kurose).
What about moving the Montessori program at Bagley to Viewlands or McDonald and making the new school an option school. That would give the Montessori room to grow and more people would be able to access it.
What about moving the Montessori program at Bagley to Viewlands or McDonald and making the new school an option school. That would give the Montessori room to grow and more people would be able to access it.
southend girl said…
Hi Laura Kohn,

Maybe having Southshore be an option school is a good thing if that means more students can take advantage of the extra funding and free preK. Can you give us a status update on what is happening with the extra $? Rumor has it that it is going away over time.
dj said…
Bagley, according to district projections, is about to go from 15% FRE to 47% FRE under the new SAP. That seems to me enough of a change (and challenge) without pulling a successful program out of the school.

Replicate, sure, but relocation doesn't seem like a good idea.
TechyMom said…
Laura Kohn said...
In my opinion, all of the Montessori programs in the district should start at PreK, not K, the way Graham Hill does. I hope the new program at Old Hay will start that way.

Did you know that was the original plan at MLK? I was hoping it would be ready for my 3-year-old in 2007, silly me. Learning Tree Montessori was involved, and so was the community. I even donated a bunch of money to it. But, then it got sidetracked by the move to TT Minor. I heard that TT Minor was trying to get pre-k montessori going for this year, but, surprise, time to move again. I hope the program has found a permenant home at Leschi, and that the pre-k will finally be able to happen.
Johnny Calcagno said…
One thing that larger families (these days, more than one kid!) might find attractive about having the New School be classified as an Option School is that siblings would have priority for 9+ grades.
SolvayGirl said…
I agree DJ...and having experience with Montessori, it's not that simple to move a program. The principal has to buy-in and have some knowledge and understanding of how Montessori works for the program to remain successful. At Graham Hill, we had NINE principals in SIX years. Some were all for the Montessori and some were not. It was definitely a roller coaster ride.
jd said…
One concern with having language immersion as attendance area rather than option schools -- not all kids are well served by language immersion. For many kids, the transition to school is rocky enough that making a large fraction of the day be in another language could be a disaster -- for one of my kids, being forced into the JSIS/Beacon Hill attendance area would have driven us to private. Other specialized attendance area schools (montessori for example) are not nearly as large a difference. I completely support these schools as option schools, but forcing someone to go to one seems like a mistake for many.
SolvayGirl said…
Oh but Montessori is definitely NOT for every kid. One that needs structure and routine would not be well served in a Montessori classroom.
ParentofThree said…
I think the New School will be SPSs very first charter school once they get it passed by the voters, which could happen as earlier as Nov 2010. And I think the school, once a charter school, will look a lot like a KIPP school. And I think there will be a ton of money behind it, making it super successful, which then will lend itself to the second charter school. The Mann Building perhaps?

Just a guess.
WallingfordMom said…
No one will be forced to attend JSIS for language immersion. They are supposed to have a linked elementary if parents want to go an english route. I believe the other language immersion schools have an english option housed at the school. I would guess the alternative option for JSIS will likely be McDonald or BF Day.

I do think language immersion would be better as an option school, but it sounds like this isn't in the cards for JSIS.
Unknown said…
Solvag girl mentioned the challenge of finding certified teachers for Montissori. Another challenge I see is the start up cost of the materials for each class room, it is not cheap and specific materials are needed. The district says it needs to cut expenses. Will the incoming families be forced to do fund raising to buy what's needed?
Rebecca said…
Right, JSIS Principal Aramaki said that BF Day is the linked school for families who are in the JSIS reference area but don't want to do bilingual immersion.
WallingfordMom said…
Rebecca -- Do you know if Principal Aramaki said this since the new SAP came out? BF Day's reference area is quite large now. I think it is a school that will really flourish under the new SAP and wonder if can accomodate the extra kids.
There's already a "ton" of money at South Shore. You think we need to put more money into it? Interesting.

We do have lots of buildings that are ripe for charter takeover (if we had charters). All, because of the low maintenance our district seems to favor, are pretty bad off. You'd have to spend a lot of money to fix any of them up (look at the price tag for the 5 they want to reopen).
WallingfordMom said…
Sorry -- I should have said, BF Day's proposed assingment area is very large.
Sabine Mecking said…
Unfortunately the BF Day (or McDonald) kids cannot choose to go to JSIS whereas the JSIS kids can choose to go to BF Day ...
Meg said…
I'm sorry to drag this back to my question, but... is there something stopping the board from deciding that 1) they're going to designate the New School as a neighborhood school and 2) they are not, given seats that will bring to the SE, going to open Rainier View?

I just went through and compared how many kids from the home cluster go to option schools with elementary components, and it breaks out as follows (for the K-5 kids only):
TOPS 37%
AS #1 49%
Thornton Creek 64%
Salmon Bay 69%
Orca 58%
Pathfinder 64%
New School 78%

There are neighborhood schools who have less kids from their home cluster attending the school than the New School does (Gatzert 71%, BF Day 59%, for example). Am I wrong in thinking that the most sensible solution is not to open a school in the south end, but to change the rather arbitrary designation of option school for the New School to being a neighborhood school?
ParentofThree said…
"You think we need to put more money into it?"

Nope, I am just guessing what is in store for the New School. And remember "we" won't be dumping $$$ into these schools, the corp interests, (Gates, Broad) will be. Bill Gates thinks KIPPs are education utopia.
ParentofThree said…
"Am I wrong in thinking that the most sensible solution is not to open a school in the south end, but to change the rather arbitrary designation of option school for the New School to being a neighborhood school?"

Given that you have been pretty spot on in all your past analyses I would venture to say that you are correct here also.

Except.....remember it's political. We cannot open 4 NE schools and not one SE school. That is a big no-no!I have already heard, "And where are all the schools being re-opened?"
southend girl said…
I'm curious to learn more about any plans for Southshore. Meg, at first glance what you suggest seems to make more sense than re-opening an (unpopular) school in bad shape at the very southern edge of the SPS zone.
dj said…
Cecilia, when we were at the Montessori program that is now at Leschi, the parents were indeed asked to donate money for materials. In fact, the district had committed to expand the program (both to Pre-K as Techymom points out and into upper grades), but the teacher was writing grants to get financial support for the expansion.

It makes me either skeptical or cynical (I'm vascillating) about the district starting up a whole Montessori school, immediately, in Queen Anne.
Rebecca said…
Hi Wallingford Mom,

Good question. Principal Aramaki said it the same day that the new SAP came out; I don't know if he had had a chance to review the plan well when he said it, or if the plan addressed that question.
Central Mom said…
You know what? I cry foul on the idea that there wouldn't be enough room for all kids in the district if they made immersion schools Option schools. Here's the reason: Geographic Boundaries as the 2nd tiebreaker for option schools. You could draw the Geographic Boundary pretty much the same as the current neighborhood schools, but just slightly under. Enough that maybe 20 percent of the seats of the school were "open"...available to anyone but limited in transportation to the middle school service area. Those 20 percent of families would be reassigned to the nearest other neighborhood school.

This would allow kids from all over an area to at least have a shot at the program a whole lot faster than hoping one arrived in the area. And yet, with the geographic preference and a good program, the district would know the vast majority of the surrounding kids would still be attending the school. For instance, JSIS wouldn't be ousted from its home. But it would accommodate other folks than Wallingfordites. Ditto Beacon Hill-ites, etc.

Let's take Sand Point for instance. I would be flatly opposed to putting an assignment immersion program there. Too many other areas of the city have zero excellent programming and the NE has quite a bit. I wouldn't have that problem, though, if it were an Option school, with the boundaries drawn slightly smaller as currently shown. Those 20 percent of reassigned kids would go into Laurelhurst, VR, etc. and the boundary lines throughout the NE would be adjusted for this change. Same w/ Beacon Hill area and neighborhood around Concord.

Later, option programs could open in underused facilities in other quadrants of the city...or the same tactic with the geographic zone could be used to repurpose a failing/flailing assignment program into an attractive immersion optional draw.

Of course, it will be 100 times harder to do this after the boundary SAP passes. And then 2 years from now the District will say...well, sorry, it's water under the bridge. We've drawn boundaries and opened facilities in accordance with the SAP. Nothing we can do now.

It. Is. Very. Frustrating.
kellie said…
I completely agree with Central Mom. These are huge decisions and they are things that are relatively easy to change now and will be very hard to change later. As part of this process, I think all language immersion and montessori schools should be options schools with a small geographic boundary.

This model creates a great way to then have a policy for how to re-open other schools because let's face it, other schools will need to be re-opened at some point and these decisions now will impact how future buildings are opened. While the NE and QA are already way over capacity, N, NW, Central and W Seattle are currently at capacity and it would not take too much change in programming to throw them over capacity.

I think a policy on how to open schools needs to be done separately from the new SAP but done quickly. They are pushing these changes because the kids simply don't fit in the schools in NE and QA and under the new plan, this just can't be ignored any longer. But that is no excuse to simply spend the kind of money involved here without community input and board oversight.
Anonymous said…
SolvayGirl1972 said...
"Oh but Montessori is definitely NOT for every kid. One that needs structure and routine would not be well served in a Montessori classroom."

I take issue with this. I've had one child go all the way through 5th in Montessori and another now in 4th. Ive observed in the classroom and jawed with the other parents. Life is very orderly and routine-oriented in a Montessori classroom, and I think a child can be as successful under that system as under the "traditional" classroom teaching model.
Sure, some kids need extra help and support, but that's true in any classroom. If anything, Montessori prevents kids from falling through the cracks because the work is individual.

Sorry this is not really germane to the main discussion, but people's perception of what Montessori is will certainly color what sort of schools they say they want. The teachers also tell me it works best with a larger class size, so that dovetails well with the direction the district is going!
SolvayGirl said…

My daughter went through Public Montessori from Pre-K (age 3) thru 5th and she flourished, but I did see families who pulled their children because it wasn't a good fit. I have also seen a teacher suggest that a child would be better served in a more traditional classroom. I believe it is a terrific program, but it's not for everyone and should not be a program that kids are auto-assigned to.

I don't think the Montessori programs will have any trouble filling their classrooms as it is a great teaching style for many, many children—just not everybody IMHO.
Jet City mom said…
my oldest started at a Montessori school in Magnolia when she was 5 ( after the K teacher at West Woodland suggested we find an alternative school), but she only lasted less than a month because we found it to be too inflexible
( she then went to North Seattle 5's - much better fit for us)

We also have a K-8 Montessori program in north Fremont, they must be getting their teachers from somewhere.
Josh Hayes said…
It's been my experience that "Montessori" is an axis, and schools can fall all along it and still think of themselves as being "Montessori" schools.

Some of those schools are what my son, a prospective student, called "fascist" (I was pleased he knew the word at age 5, and frankly, it wasn't a bad descriptor of the particular school). Some are much more relaxed. I'm not sure that I could walk into a school and detect that it was a Montessori school without someone telling me.

A more telling question is, does SPS central want much more in the way of Montessori schools? I don't think so.
SolvayGirl said…
The teachers at the k-8 in Fremont probably don't ALSO have to be certified to teach in Washington State as the ones will need to be for SPS. We lost out on a terrific 4/5 teacher because he couldn't get certified for WA state quickly enough.

Josh...SPS is the one who decided to propose a K-5 Montessori in the Old Hay building, so they must see it as a draw.
kellie said…
At one of her coffee talks, MGJ mentioned using Montessori programs in the Race to the Top application for federal funds.
ARB said…
Why isn't the GH mont. program classified as "option"? How are other special montessori and similar programs classified?
I completely agree with central mom. Right now there is no rhyme or reason as to what is an option school and what is an attendance area school. Montessori and language immersion are much more alternative than many of the alt schools and yet they are not options. How SPS handles the designation for option schools in this SAP will have impacts for years to come all across the district.

Montessori should be an option that is accessible to more folks that just the families that can afford to move within a few blocks of the school. Also by making them attendance area schools, sps opens itself up to the JSIS problem. Families will move (or forge their address) to get access to this type of program. It is possible that within 1-2 years, these schools would be swarmed and way over-crowded. Under the choice plan, families were just assigned to another school when there were too many families but what happens now? Portables? Annual boundary re-draws?

This is also going to make for big problems at Bagley and GH, How do the new attendance area folks get divided up into the regular program vs the Montessori? Neighborhoods don't come in nice neat little packages where everyone wants the same thing and having two programs in the same attendance area school is going to create some weird competition. How they divide up the families into Spanish and Japanese at JSIS is a very fraught process but folks rarely complain too much because all of them are getting a language.

The same can also be said for Spectrum programs. How are they going to handle it when there are too many reference area kids at a spectrum school? Placing optional program in attendance schools is going to create problems for families that really want and choose these programs.
dan dempsey said…
How about a k-8 alternative school that focuses on acquisition of core knowledge ( E.D. Hirsch style )?

This could include 100% Singapore Math.

That could be a real draw for many families more interested in education than district politics. Better yet make it k-12.
Lynne Cohee said…
When we think about how to reopen a building we have to think about the purpose behind reopening the school in the first place. If Sandpoint and McDonald are being opened in order to relieve pressure on other schools, then there needs to be a plan in place so that reopening the schools achieves that purpose. For example, if the NE schools don't have enough classrooms to house the cohort of kids currently moving through the system at the first grade level (and I don't believe that they do) then Sandpoint has to at least include the lower grades and not just K. I'm thinking maybe opening it as a K-2, and then growing it from there? But as noted before, that only works if you give families a reason to want to switch their kids to the school. Without something to attract families to the school, it's just not going to relieve enrollment pressure for anyone other than incoming families. I'm concerned that enrollment is making the decision to open these new schools without any sort of plan in place, and they are doing so separately of any involvement by the SPS curriculum/programming side of things.

It makes me realize that just as Charlie says that people want predictability as long as it means a predictable assignment to the school of their choice, NE families wanted Sandpoint opened so that there could be less kids in their child's classroom in an existing NE school. Nobody wants to be the family being assigned to the new school!

So back to what you need to make a new school attractive to families. At a bare minimum you'd need a strong principal with a good track record and a decent building. The first the district can probably come up with, but it's hard to see how they can manage the second by next fall.
SPS parent said…
"This could include 100% Singapore Math."

A traditional math K-8 school at Jane Addams was one of the things NE families asked for when the district was considering opening the new school but we were never acknowledged.
uxolo said…
"Why is the New School an option school instead of an attendance area school? "

This is why you need folks on the School Board, like Mary Bass, who know the history and can share information with her fellow Board members and do his/her best to keep the supt and staff honest.

New School was at TT Minor. It was "allowed" to close. There was a Montessori program there. There were more Rainier Scholars there than any other school. The New School Foundation abandoned the school rather than continue to invest and the school thrived. Then politics - it is now empty. Ready to become a charter?

Not so sure those South Shore neighborhood addresses are true. There is no reason it cannot be a neighborhood school. No reason to reopen another elem school.
Sahila said…
The reason the District has such a 'fuzzy wuzzy' approach to defining what are Option schools is that the word "Option" now allows it to dismantle alternative education and gradually move to the place where they can scrub the C54.00 commitment to alternative education (which document is quite specific about what is an alternative school/programme and how it should function in the world) off the policy books...

Messing with the language and widening the definition of what is alternative to 'option' or 'choice' allows the District to remove a very long-standing, inconvenient, troublesome thorn in its side...
meulemama said…
What would NE parents think of Sandpoint kindergarten to 3rd grade with a guarantee of class sizes less than 20. With all the overpopulation and large class sizes in the rest of the section it might be enough of a draw that other more expensive programs like immersion/montessori would be unnecessary.
I would love to hear what others think?
As the district has not released any detailed information on what it costs to make a new school in terms of programming there is no way to know if x is more expensive that y. We can only guess. Yet another reason why this process needs more transparency.

Lang immersion and Montessori should not be any more expensive. Converting a regular program to another program is expensive because you need to replace materials that have already been paid for with new materials but in this case, there are no materials to replace.
another mom said…
Should the District reopen Viewlands in 2011 or wait to see the how the new SAP will impact crowding in the North? The District believes that it needs it opened in 2011. Really? Alot of time and emotion and maybe money was spent merging the populations of Broadview and Viewlands. Is that all to be undone?

Viewlands requires at least $10-15 million in repairs and improvements. And if more capacity is needed in that neighborhood -which by the maps extends to I-5- would we be money ahead just bulldozing and rebuilding it?
Lynne Cohee said…
Meulemama that is a creative idea -- take the negative (not many families wanting to move their older kids) to SP and turn it into a guaranteed positive. I also wonder if it would be possible to open up only part of the school the first year, so that the small numbers of teachers and kids wouldn't feel lost in the building.
Billy said…
Viewlands requires at least $10-15 million in repairs and improvements. And if more capacity is needed in that neighborhood -which by the maps extends to I-5- would we be money ahead just bulldozing and rebuilding it?

The cost of building a new school would be at least 4 times as much...that seems like a waste of money...also where are these teachers going to come from to go to it going to take away from other programs and schools?? son is slated to go there in 2011 and right now we are taking a wait and see approach to it....when the SAP came out I was quite suprised of the notion to reopen they even have any money to open any of these schools>>
southend girl said…
Back to language immersion and option schools...if indeed SPS turned Beacon Hill into a Mandarin/Spanish school to serve the neighborhood, then what better reason to open it up to other area "heritage speakers"? There are plenty of newer Spanish speaking immigrant families in Rainier Valley for example.

I know that there are many Spanish speaking families on Beacon Hill, but I'm not so sure about Mandarin speaking kids. A Mandarin speaking friend tells me there is more Cantonese and one other dialect I can't recall. There are Mandarin speaking parents who may wish their children to learn the language but that is not the stated mission of the school.

I doubt that many people know that SPS tested Mandarin in two other schools for several years, one in the se and one in the s. Then SPS decided to pool the money for the program at BH, pulling the plug on the other schools. Where is the long term planning in creating demand for something and then eliminating it? The program has been so popular that both schools have struggled to keep Mandarin language instruction alive through grants and families hosting guest teachers in their homes. (BTW, word is SPS is not treating these guest teachers very well.)

Call me cynical, but I don't buy the SPS argument that language immersion should remain attendance area schools, in the case of BH to serve the neighborhood. It would serve more native speakers if opened up as an Option. Feels like possibly justification for protecting another immersion school as an attendance school.

Now is the time to review and make changes to Option school choices.
NE Parent said…
meulemama said...
"What would NE parents think of Sandpoint kindergarten to 3rd grade with a guarantee of class sizes less than 20. With all the overpopulation and large class sizes in the rest of the section it might be enough of a draw that other more expensive programs like immersion/montessori would be unnecessary."

Many NE kindergarten classes are 23 or 24 this year, so I don't think a class size of 20 would be a sufficient draw.

I also don't understand why immersion is really any more expensive than a regular school. You have to buy materials anyway, and I understand dual-language Spanish teachers are not that difficult to find. I've always heard the District's reluctance to put in immersion programs was tied to difficulties in converting an existing school, but with Sand Point, for example, they're starting from scratch. Seems much easier.
Lynne Cohee said…
NE Parent, are the kindergarten sizes really that small? That surprises me -- if they're that small, where is the need for additional kindergarten space? I suppose "small" is relative, but I can only think of one year when either of my sons had an elementary class that small. Even 9 years ago when my oldest son started K his full day K class was maxed out at 28.
NE Parent said…
LynneC said... "NE Parent, are the kindergarten sizes really that small?"

I know of two schools with classes that small--at the K level. (I'm not sure about the other schools in the cluster). And class sizes definitely do increase in the upper grades.

I guess if the District guaranteed class sizes at Sand Point of 20 or less at, say, 2nd-5th grade, there would likely be some takers. But I can't imagine the District (1) agreeing to that, and (2) following through if it did so agree.
Anonymous said…
Other schools in the NE cluster have K classes at 28. Last year some had 30.
SolvayGirl said… are a bit mistaken about The New School's (aka South Shore) history. It did not start at TT Minor, but was started originally in an SPS school next to Rainier Beach Pool (essentially the same block as the new building). Where you are confused is that BOTH TT Minor and The New School were started and developed with money from The Sloan Foundation. This money, unfortunately, was only guaranteed for a finite period of time and when that time elapsed for TT Minor, the program could not really continue. I believe it also never delivered on the academic improvement that was hoped for.

The focus of the two programs was quite different. TT Minor was all about discipline and conformity (uniforms, etc.). The New School was more touchy-feely and promised a cultural approach and offered FREE preschool. The kids did yoga etc. It proved more successful. It was technically a neighborhood school, but drew from a wide range because it also required a lot of parent buy-in.

I don't know what the school is like now, but do think it is running close to the end of its funding arm; it may have already run out. It is interesting to note that the new building was built, of course, with public money, though The New School is as close to a charter as we get in Seattle.
SolvayGirl said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Catherine said…
I am not happy because I have one child in second grade, and another starting K next year who has been drawn out of the second grader's assignment area. Language immersion doesn't tempt me to move the second grader, but real math would. I would strongly consider moving them anywhere to get away from EDM.
Anonymous said…
Hmm. We appear to have 2 "Catherines". I have 3 children; the oldest in K at a private Montessori school.
another mom said…
Billy- the money to reopen Viewlands will be in the February BTA levy. My problem with Viewlands is the amount of money needed to rehab it,do we really need it, and if we do why not spend the extra dollars and do it right. Let the new SAP settle a couple of years and then if we need the capacity OK.

It was closed then neglected and vandalized with items made of copper stolen. If Distric folks knew it was needed for N.end capacity issues, why was it closed in the first place? Now it will cost millions to bring it back on-line. It makes NO sense to me. Unlike Sandpoint which was closed in the 80's, Viewlands was closed barely two years ago. Broadview absorbed the population became a K-8 and they are now one community. So the proposal is to rip this community apart again. People in the NE complain that their communities may suffer and be separated and I get that and am sympathetic. But what has happened to Viewlands and Rainier View for that matter is really really bad far worse in my mind than any redistribution of families in the NE. Sorry for the rant.
meulemama said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
another mom said…
I don't usually respond but I am not now or ever looking to pit Northend against Southend. How on earth did you conclude that I was trying to be divisive? Viewlands is in the N.end not too far from me. I very much understand the issues of the NE and boundaries and siblings and grandfathering etc. I believe that Sandpoint needs to reopen and I hope that whatever programs land in that building are successful.Equitable funding of schools is an entirely different issue and not raised in my post at all.

I was speaking to the need or not to reopen Viewlands, the tax dollars it will take to do that, and whether it would be better to wait and see how the new SAP works. I was trying to discuss the dollars and cents and sense of this. Should the current building be reopened or if there really are capacity issues in the North/NW should the building be bulldozed and rebuilt as a part of BEX IV?

Viewlands was recently closed its community was altered and merged with Broadview-Thomson. Now a proposal has emerged to alter that community again. Melissa may have raised this issue but there has been little discussion of the impacts of closing, and reopening Viewlands. I think that community got the shaft and continues to get the shaft. How is that pitting N against S? Geeze.
owlhouse said…
another mom-
For what's it's worth- I did not and have not read your posts as SPS N v. SPS S. In fact, you raise a point that I have been hoping to write about. It is incredibly hard work to close schools, merge or move school populations. I've been reading many ideas to shift programs here or there- as if it is relatively simple, or as if the benefit will be worth the cost. Having lived/worked/supported my student though a closure and move AND watched my immediate community lose 3 bldgs and 3 schools- I wouldn't wish that disruption on anyone. I understand entirely your concern that Broadview-Thompson will be re-divided if/when VL is brought back online.

Seriously, if anyone thinks they have a solution to capacity based on moving programs- I know students, families and teachers who you might want to consult with.
meulemama said…
Sorry - another mom- I was wrong and after rereading I removed my post having misinterpreted you- I apologize and will read more carefully in future before posting I enjoy this forum very much and was careless.
ParentofThree said…
I poked around the New School data. They haven't taken the WASL for very long, but seem to be doing very well in all areas.

One thing I noted was the 2009 staff survey. Everything was noticably down from 2007. You can see there is some dissatifaction among the staff at the school. Thought that was very interesting.

And yes, I agree it is darn close to charter school and a low hanging fruit if (when?) charters do become legal here.
NEparent65 said…
I also think language immersion would be better as an option school, especially in the case of JSIS.

Here is my situation;
- have been living in Wallingford 10+ and chose to stay because of JSIS language immersion
- I grew up in Japan, but am not native
- have been active Japanese assistant at JSIS, but am not a certified teacher
- now have 4yr old child who understands Japanese
- now am placed outside of JSIS area
- attendance area is the unknown McDonald school

...and there's more but I won't go into it here.

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