Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Capacity Management - 2011

Here is the opening act of the most recent edition of Capacity Management, a meeting of the Operations Committee of the Whole. It is an Operations Committee meeting but with the whole board as committee members for this meeting.

The presentation is both predictable and disappointing.

Predictable in that it proclaims the need for another middle school in north Seattle. And, let's face it, Wilson-Pacific is the only property that will work. The District has known this for six months but hasn't taken any action. They have allowed that time to slip away and later, when they are doing everything in a frantic rush they will regret their idleness of the spring and summer.

It also (predictably) says that the district needs to re-open some closed elementary schools - they suggest Van Asselt, Columbia, Hughes, and Boren. I would have suggested Fairmount Park as one of the West Seattle locations. Again, they should have started this work months ago.

The other disappointment is their clear resolve to kick the can on APP down the road rather than address it.


Melissa Westbrook said...

I am disappointed to not be able to attend any of these meetings. I'll put up a thread tomorrow for those who do.


- I generally agree with Tracy Libros but this continued "no historical trend data with NSAP" only flies half-way. There IS data from the old plan about how many kids in today's NSAP plan attended which schools. Basically, how many kids in any neighborhood were attending today's neighborhood school. There's some data there.

- "geographic priority" for option schools. What does that mean? I'm thinking that foreign language immersion may get opened up to more students (and with equity in this being a "premium", I think that's why).

- "grade configuration" -I'm thinking that means adding a grade at K-5 (to K-6) or dropping a grade (K-4). Add on at middle? I don't think they will go that way.

- elementary to middle school feeder patterns changing? I'm thinking this one could be a major discussion for many parents

- those capital costs seem mighty low if they are talking about buildings like Hughes, Van Asselt, etc. And BOREN and WILSON-PACIFIC? Those are practically tear-downs (even with Boren getting steady work).

Interesting to see what will be decided.

I am absolutely on-board with Charlie about the dilly-dallying. If we have issues this large, it would seem that something might have been in the works sooner. (Then again, maybe decisions have been made and this is just the "listening" part of the process.)

David said...

I am struck by the lack of admission of error. This need for capacity comes after closing eight programs in 2009. That was just two years ago. Now, we find ourselves badly under capacity.

It is true that we need to look forward and find solutions, but we can't make progress unless we admit the errors of the past. This school board just two years ago voted to close schools. Now we find ourselves under capacity. We need to acknowledge that they erred if we ever have any hope of having a system that has sufficient flexibility and surge capacity to handle new demand.

We can't fix what they won't even admit is broken.

klh said...

I wish there were some good information about Middle Schools and High Schools available too. One page about the middle school crowding? With just a list of possible interim sites (Wilson-Pacific, Marshall and Lincoln)? And one page on total high school seats in the city, with no information about where the available seats are vs. where the students live.

The APP Task Force that they mentioned needs to be a serious part of this discussion, if they are supposed to be coming up with a permanent home for APP - because the the same sites (Lincoln currently in use, Marshall's name has been mentioned for a potential permanent home) are being thrown around for general middle school and for APP.

I'm glad they've done a lot of work analyzing the upcoming elementary capacity issues, but there are some serious secondary issues that they don't address.

Whispering Seeds said...

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Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

Michelle Maury

Cleveland Music
Band, Orchestra, Drum Line
Piano, Guitar, .... and drama!

dan dempsey said...

David said:

"We can't fix what they won't even admit is broken."

I find the colors in West Seattle to be indicative of how defective the previous decision-making was.

It is interesting that Director Sundquist was the driving force behind the closure of Cooper. Boren was becoming available but Pathfinder wanted to be at Cooper. Now Boren is a solution to some of West Seattle's capacity problems. WOW what a fiasco those previous closures were..... no admission of past failure from the directors... hey its campaign season.

dan dempsey said...

Klh... Great point about high school capacity ..... is it being ignored?

The idea that there can be 10% set aside seats at each high school .... is apparently one that has been abandoned. Just another bait and switch ... this was the bait and switch on the NSAP.

Don't be waiting for an apology from the decision-makers on the set aside failure.

Wonder how that making every school a quality school is doing? My guess is its been forgotten just like the 10% set aside for students outside the boundary area.

Dorothy Neville said...

Mel, Geographic priority is a way of managing capacity where kids in areas of overcrowded schools get priority access to option schools. What this does is unlevel the playing field for access to option schools, by using capacity management techniques. It came into play (but was amended out, thank you Harium) with a geo zone around Thornton Creek that would have made it virtually impossible for kids in the Sandpoint neighborhood to get into TC, by creating a huge geozone around TC skewed to only capture Bryant and View Ridge addresses. Even though some Sandpoint addresses were much closer geographically to TC than the geozone (and closer to TC than to Sandpoint).

It is *not* about adding equity for immersion, it is for reducing equity for the sake of capacity management.

Anonymous said...

The title says Plan. I missed the Plan part.

October 1 numbers for this year were not even presented at elementary level as reality for this year, next year or the year following. Only the worst case scenario. Guess unplanned for reality is the worst case scenario.

At a minimum there has been six years of actual enrollment data to show that middle schools in the north would be beyond severely over-enrolled starting next year.

West Seattle might be the exception to the non-predictability because of the severe boundary mucking that took place with the NSAP. Otherwise, the NSAP is no excuse to perpetuate the predictable hand toss in the air of 'gosh' who could have guessed this would happen.

This severe lack of planning is what frustrates parents about the unpredictability of the “predictable” new assignment plan.

Will the boundaries change before or after Open Enrollment? This is just cruel. For those with long term planning or immediate escape possibilities- bon voyage.

-Not new to the game

Steve said...

It the elementary school analysis it lists access to advanced learning opportunities as one way to manage capacity. To me, this says use APP and Spectrum as a draw away from overcrowded schools, to serve as a pressure valve. Does this sound like a correct interpretation? If so, it appears they're planning for the radiant future of these programs without having done any real planning in at least the 4 years I've had a child in SPS. Kicking the can, definitely.

Anonymous said...

""geographic priority" for option schools. What does that mean? "

I thought it meant restricting the areas for option schools that are near popular neighborhood schools so that they might more effectively draw people away from the full neighborhood schools (and to make space by excluding folks from further distance neighborhoods).

Anonymous said...

oops, me, zb

Dorothy Neville said...

ZB, as I said above, it is not just limiting access to further away folks, it is limiting access to close folk who just happen to be assigned to a less popular school. The proposed GeoZone around Thornton Creek last year put the school at the bottom edge of the geozone, so that kids in the Sandpoint assignment area could not get in, even though they lived way closer to TC than to Sandpoint AND way closer to TC than those in the northern and western boundary of the geozone. These geozones are supposed to change every year based on capacity issues. But with sibling priority access to option schools, one or two such years will have a long term effect on reducing equal access to option schools.

kellie said...

I agree with Dorothy. The point of the Geo-Zones is to turn Option schools like Salmon Bay and Thornton Creek, into a John Stanford style school, where only those students in the immediate vicinity get access to that school.

Geographic based assignment plans have some generally understood principles whereby planners use a ratio of square block to school capacity to draw a boundary.

Option schools make that calculation more complicated as they make an assumption about how many students from each assignment area will opt into an option school. So the geozones make the assignment process ostensibly "less complicated."

However, the point of an assignment plan is not to make it easy on the assignment folks. Schools like JSIS should be option schools with a small geographic zone. Schools like SB and TC should be larger area draws. High Schools should have the 10% set aside.

The issue is that when a system is run at or over 100% capacity (which this one is - despite all the fancy new numbers) then "Should" goes out the window in favor of "have to."

A Geo Zone around TC has nothing to do with education or access. It is an emergency measure that reflects that fact that there is NO CAPACITY LEFT in the system around the school.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to me that 2 years ago when it looked like 20 siblings would be kept out of John Hay due to the new student assignment plan, the District said there was absolutely no way that additional capacity could be created by adding a portable. Now this presentation is showing the possibility of adding 2 portables to John Hay. Jane

Lori said...

Jane, that intrigued me too. In our area, they show 4 portables for Bryant next year and 1 per year added to Thornton Creek for 4 years.

How is that even possible? We've been told for years that Bryant's footprint is too small for portables. Are they trying to change that law/rule so that they can add them?

If anyone went to the meeting last nite, I suspect that a lot of parents would love some follow-up on the potential for portables at schools that don't currently appear to have room for them.

Po3 said...

Problem with using "portables" as a solution is that the infrastructure of the school will not support the additional staff and students. The gym, cafeteria, bathrooms and playground of a school are all based on the schools capacity w/o portables.

Any board members pointing this out?

Po3 said...

AND.....remember that a school slated for portables is at or beyond max. capacity. The thinking that they can just plop 30-60 additional students into a school by using a portable is insane.

If any of my schools were slated for portables, I would be in touch with the fire marshall, have them do a walk through and document how many students can be in common space at a time, this includes bathrooms. Then I would insist that staff presented a master sched that showed that no common space would have more than the legal number in it at any point in the day. (I would also check their numbers to ensure they added up!)

Anonymous said...

From the board retreat minutes, it is clear that the board is not thinking in an equitable way when it characterizes access to neighborhood schools for special needs children as a "capacity management" issue and the current language in the transition plan actually states that placement is contingent upon "space available." This is so wrong. They expand programs to accommodate others (hello APP, hello Garfield students), but they would say "ok" to bussing children with special needs all over town? Why the exceptionalism? This language needs to be struck out of the transition plan and at the capacity meeting last night several special ed parents spoke to this point.

For equity

Charlie Mas said...

The unexplained reversal is common for Seattle Public Schools.

When McDonald was proposed as a possible site for north-end elementary APP, the district claimed that McDonald could not be re-opened. A few months later they decided to re-open it. No explanation for the reversal was offerred. They didn't even acknowledge it.

When northeast schools were overcrowded a lot of people begged the district to re-open Sand Point elementary. The district claimed that it couldn't be done. Then, a few months later they did it. No explanation for the reversal was offerred. They didn't even acknowledge it.

The District used to say that they were going to close the achievement gap by bringing more experienced teachers to under-performing schools and reduing teacher turnover. Then they said that they were going to do it with Teach for America - the least experienced teachers anywhere who are likely to leave after just two years. Again, no explanation for the reversal was offerred. They didn't even acknowledge it.

When the district closed Cooper they said that there was plenty of elementary school capacity all through West Seattle. Now they say that West Seattle is desperately short of capacity. No explanation for the reversal was offerred. They didn't even acknowledge it.

One year, moving the Spectrum program for the south end of West Seattle from West Seattle Elementary to Arbor Heights was such a horrible idea that it wasn't even worth discussing. The next year they did it.

The District promised a written APP curriculum that would be implemented concurrent with the split. It was a critical element to making the split successful. Eight months later they claimed that curricula are not written documents and that they didn't need one for the APP split to work well. No explanation for the reversal was offerred. They didn't even acknowledge it.

We've always been at war with Eastasia

Melissa Westbrook said...

I hate to say this ("she's so negative") but when it comes to facilities, they tend to say anything to suit what they want to do.

It's true. They have guidelines for what they say can be put on a school lot and then promptly explain that away when they want to do something on a lot that was presumed too small. (The Directors fall for it every time and you'd think Peter Maier on the Board, it wouldn't happen.)

Also, the issue of not enough gym, cafeteria and bathrooms to accomodate the extra students is a real issue. It really puts a strain on an already crowded building.

Many schools have lived with portables for decades so we know it can be done. But we have two problems.

One, where will they get these portables? I hope they consider renting or leasing (which is an option). We have no extra portables (Hale's have already been taken and they were new.)

Two, BEX IV comes into view ever more sharply. The district better have some really clear and well-thought out ideas about who gets what. It may not be geographically equal as BEX normally is but it looks like drastic times.

As I said, I do not get these capital costs (unless they are talking move in). It cost $50M just for 5 buildings. Meany is getting more put into it.

Someone better have a big-picture view of how this will all work and soon.

kellie said...

If you are going to lobby on capacity issues, it is important to understand that the very first point on this presentation is meaningless.

"Student enrollment growth after many years of historical decline – approx. 2,500 students since school year 2008-2009"

2008-2009 was the Tipping Point year for enrollment growth, not the year that growth started. This distinction is critical to understand what is really going on and to push for something the might resemble an effective solution.

The district seems to only present enrollment information in Aggregate and aggregate data is meaningless for capacity issues. This is because a Kindergarten seat is not a high school and vice versa. A fifth grade seat is not a sixth grade seat. Because capacity is grade specific, only a cohort analysis is useful when discussing enrollment and capacity.

A cohort analysis shows both total enrollment AND enrollment by grade. If you look at a cohort analysis, you can clearly see that starting with the current NINTH GRADE cohort to the current Kindergarten cohort, there is growth every year.

There has not been 3 years of growth. There has been 9 years of growth and 3 years ago, the overall growth in elementary was larger than the small cohorts at the upper grades.

The growth is going to hit high school and soon.

kellie said...

For anyone that lives in QA/Mag, Ballard or Garfiled area or in APP, this statement should be worrisome

"High schools have not been the focus of the ITCM to date. Although overall capacity exceeds projected enrollment, certain schools are over/under utilized. Further analysis will be done as part of BEX IV planning."

While there may be sufficient total capacity in the system for every high school student to have a seat, somewhere, there is not enough capacity in the Garfield/Roosevelt/Ballard corridor for all the currently enrolled students to roll up.

So if they are not considering adding additional high school capacity, (and even worse, considering using Lincoln as a middle school) that means the only solutions to manage the soon to be overcrowding in that area are

1) redrawing boundaries
2) moving programs

Ballard, Roosevelt and Garfield are already located near the edge of their geographic zones. Redrawing boundaries means moving the boundary to within a block or two of these schools.

The only program that could be moved is, of course, APP out of Garfield. Which would beg the question of where could you move APP. There may be "some room" at every high school but there isn't 4-500 seats just magically sitting around.

Even Rainier Beach with their infamous under enrollment has over 2,000 students in their geographic zone.

Jamie said...

Kellie, can you please go work at the Stanford Center? Your posts are always so informative and logical. I know there's a hiring freeze but that phrase seems rather meaningless down there.

Kelly said...

If they want to make Lincoln a middle school, (which seems rather odd since it's spitting distance from another middle school) then they need to remodel either Blaine or McClure to be a high school. It wouldn't need to hold 1600 kids - it could hold half that and work nicely, I'd think. Whichever was not chosen to be the high school could be the K-8, or the middle school, and then they need to remodel the old Magnolia Elementary to be either a K-8 or a middle school as well, so you'd end up with a K-8, middle and high school for Mag/QA. Voila.

Anonymous said...

Help me out here.

The Washington State Department of Health runs the Child Profile Program.


Every six months of a child's life when they are really little, and every year when they are a bit older, from 0 to 6, " Child Profile Health Promotion materials mails parents age-specific information about growth, development, safety, nutrition, and other parenting issues. The materials include reminders for well-child checkups and immunizations. Parents get the materials from the time their child is born until their child's sixth birthday."

I don't know how complete these records are, but they are certainly a great starting point: the state knows where most kids are by birthday and address from 0 to 6 years old.

Had SPS relied on this data rather than 10-year old census data, they would have known that the "spike" in kindergarten enrollment was not an aberration, but the leading edge of a tsunami.

These data exist. They could easily plot trend lines for the 0-6 year olds by zip code or even down to the assignment area level.

Why oh why does no one look into this??? They could scrub the data of names and just look at numbers. Adjust the data for non-particiaption or whatever. But the trends would be super useful, and would probably have prevented the decision to close all those school only to reopen them a couple of years later.

Am I missing something?


Anonymous said...

I do believe that the birth data have been used by the capacity management folks. I think what they didn't model, and would argue they couldn't model, was the changes in enrollment of those birth cohorts/movement into the district and into neighborhoods.

On the other hand, it's also clear that they drew boundaries knowing that there would be capacity issues in some areas, but drew the boundaries too large in order to maximize the number of people guaranteed access to more popular schools, presumably a political maneuver to help sell the NSAP.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Ditto on hiring Kellie downtown. She always makes the best sense AND makes sense. The district hires all kinds of consultants. Hire her for a couple of weeks.

Jan said...

Or, if the District won't hire her -- maybe the BOARD could hire her, to be their consultant on what they are getting, and how to interpret it. Kellie feeding questions to DeBell, Smith-Blum and Patu at the next power point presentation? Now there is a sight I wouldn't want to miss.

Anonymous said...

Kellie told me about these capacity issues when my now fourth grader was a wee 2 year old!

~wishing the district could have seen it coming too

kellie said...

Wow. Thanks for all the kudos everyone. I feel like Meg!

Kelly - I think that plan for QA/Mag is perfect and possibly the only thing that might make High School capacity work for the next few years.

I have floated that same plan for a few years now with minimal interest and my concern is that none of those ideas seem to be in the pipeline to even be discussed. The lack of a geographic high school for QA/Mag drives most of the strange high school boundaries.

The Successful Schools in Action folks might possibly be able to push that idea forward. But frankly, I think that is the only way that APP can stay at Garfield and some of Ballard can actually go to Ballard High School, so there is a very natural group that could support a proposal like this.

I have to say that of all the strange capacity stuff I have seen over the years, the high school capacity stuff is the strangest. IMHO, the lack of centrally located high school seats was the biggest hole in the conversion from a choice plan to a geographic plan. (closely followed by the oddity that option schools have nothing to do with alternative schools?)

But to my point, geography is going to be critical in a geographic based plan. I still marvel at how geography has never been discussed in any transition plan.

4 of the 9 high schools are in geographic remote corners of the city. Each of those 4 schools has unique enrollment challenges based in no small part that demand is naturally going to be smaller at schools that are hard to reach.

kellie said...

Confused -

You are correct. There is lots of great data that does exist. The issue is not in the data. The issue is that it takes an unbelievably long time to turn a battleship.

For almost a full decade while cohort sizes were steadily increasing, the district was focused on "closing schools." IMO, this is mostly because of the belief that urban school district shrink. The same folks that worked so hard to close schools are slow to recognize the data that suggests there is growth.

The only reason, this district suffered four rounds of school closures is because nobody in charge understood the nature of capacity.

Excess capacity in a choice plan is a mark of poor programming, not excess capacity.

Excess capacity in a geographic system indicates excess capacity.

The two have nothing to do with each other.

More data is helpful but the folks in charge, need to know what to look for.

This is a huge problem at this point and a few boundary changes is not going to fix it.

TechyMom said...

Some of the excess capacity is still due to poor programming. For example, there are more than enough kids in the attendance areas for Madrona and Rainier Beach to fill those schools. Those kids just go to private school (the new wing at Epiphany is lovely). If the district wants to use that capacity, they had better do the same thing they needed to do under the old system: put some programs for kids at and above grade level at those schools, solve safety issues, and welcome the sweat equity and ideas of PTA volunteers. After a few years, the reputations will improve. Until that happens, families will do whatever it takes to keep their kids at McGilvra, Stevens and Garfield, and when they can't, in private school. The idea that you can force anyone into a school is just silly.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, QA/Magnolia and a high school. It just goes on and on and Kellie is, again, correct. This particular issue got kicked down the street until it hit the Supreme Court. Center School got created but was not what parents wanted. It's a nice niche school but does nothing to solve any problem. It costs us extra money.

Now waaaay down the road is the issue of the land swap with the City for Memorial Stadium land. The district would get a parking garage that they cannot use as a parking garage. They could build a high school. But that is so far off that it's no help at all.

Very frustrating.

none1111 said...

Po3 said If any of my schools were slated for portables, I would be in touch with the fire marshall, have them do a walk through and document how many students can be in common space at a time, this includes bathrooms. Then I would insist that staff presented a master sched that showed that no common space would have more than the legal number in it at any point in the day. (I would also check their numbers to ensure they added up!)

Be careful what you wish for if your goal is to try to change minds on policy. The result may be that instead of fending off portables your 2 lunch/recesses become 3 (manageable, but a pain), and no all-school assemblies, music performances (very problematic), etc. Of course there are real concerns about safety to consider, but the district has many ways to ram their decisions down your throat

none1111 said...

Po3 said If any of my schools were slated for portables, I would be in touch with the fire marshall, have them do a walk through and document how many students can be in common space at a time, this includes bathrooms. Then I would insist that staff presented a master sched that showed that no common space would have more than the legal number in it at any point in the day. (I would also check their numbers to ensure they added up!)

Be careful what you wish for if your goal is to try to change minds on policy. The result may be that instead of fending off portables your 2 lunch/recesses become 3 (manageable, but a pain), and no all-school assemblies, music performances (very problematic), etc. Of course there are real concerns about safety to consider, just remember that the district has many ways to ram their decisions down your throat

Anonymous said...

Well, Bryant already has 3 lunch/recesses and a 2nd PE teacher who teaches classes on the playground or in the music room since the gym is already booked all day with PE classes.

So how the heck are they adding 4 portables?

-Bryant neighbor

kellie said...

The portable strategy or the portable issue, should be of concern not just to the already over-crowded schools that are going to be assigned the portables but also to all of the neighboring schools.

I am just going to use the NE as an example but this argument translates to all the other areas that are slated for these new portables, especially West Seattle.

Both Bryant and Thornton Creek are by any reasonable definition overcrowded. Bryant was rebuilt about 10 years ago to repair earthquake damage. At the time, it was rebuilt as a LARGE building, designed for about 450 students. It has about 600. Thornton Creek was designed and built as a TEMPORARY K-2 overflow building during the baby boom for about 200 primary students. They have about 400 K-5 students now.

At some point, enrollment increases to the point where the space where reasonable people can disagree about what is the capacity building completely disappears.

Whether Bryant should have 450 or 550 students becomes irrelevant when you have 600 students, 3 lunch periods and no way to deliver physical education in the gym. Likewise with Thornton Creek. The entire building was a temporary building with very tiny bathrooms for tiny students. It was never intended to be used by 5th graders, let alone lots of them.

Placing 4 portables each at clearly overcrowded Bryant and Thornton Creek is not reasonable by any definition of reasonable. It is an act of desperation. It is a clear signal that there are no other ideas on the table and there are no easy solutions in the pipeline.

It means there are no more mothballed buildings that can be put into the system for $10M or so.

But most importantly to all the other areas of town, it is a clear signal that no amount of boundary changes is going to fix this.

They would not be placing this many portables (at great expense) if a mere inexpensive boundary shift would fix it, so that clearly implies that every neighboring school is over-crowded, not just at capacity.