Seattle Schools and Capacity Management

The headline story from the Seattle Times this morning - Surging Enrollment Blindsides Schools.  (I wish it had been "blindsides district" which would have been more the case.)  The photo of the Hay students having a class out in the hallway pretty much sums up the issue.

It is actually a pretty good article (and welcome to new Times' reporter Brian Rosenthal).    Highlights:
  • wondering how many portables the district is considering?  The article says 35 more over the next four years.  Not sure if that includes Hale's which are now being used elsewhere.
  • The district is also trying to figure out why it was blindsided by the sudden enrollment growth.  The funniest line in the article.
  • After years of declines, enrollment increased modestly between 2007 and 2009, then shot up. District officials say factors they could not predict — the recession and the district's new student-assignment plan — caused much of the growth.  Second funniest.
Mr. Rosenthal did his homework - he checked with local and out-of-state districts about what they use.

In Boston Public Schools, demographer Jerry Burrell said he relies heavily on housing patterns and immigration trends.

The basic methodology is "just a tool," said Burrell, noting it often is late in picking up on major trends. "You have to look at all these other pieces."

San Francisco and Sacramento, Calif., officials agreed. Even in smaller Puget Sound districts, nondemographic factors are an important consideration, officials said.

Lake Washington tracks housing developments, said Deputy Superintendent Janene Fogard, adding the district correctly predicted an enrollment spike similar to Seattle's in 2009.

Those types of factors are not an important consideration in Seattle's current method, officials acknowledge.


The district's enrollment consultant, Les Kendrick, told staff they didn't consider enough data sources.   They will also work more with City demographers.

What does staff  the Board say?

Asked why officials didn't predict the enrollment increase, School Board member Peter Maier's answer is simple: "Conditions changed."

He pointed to the new assignment plan and the recession. But several parents dismissed those factors, complaining district officials ignored warnings about the possibility of rising enrollment.

C'mon Peter, the recession was here in 2009 AND parents were already telling you about coming enrollment.  You are supposed to be the "eyes and ears for the community", isn't that what you say on the stump?

"No demographer can predict what the economy's going to do," said Holly Ferguson, head of communication strategies. "The economists can't even predict what the economy's going to do."

Projecting enrollment is a difficult combination of science and art, said Tracy Libros, Seattle's longtime manager of planning and enrollment.

Naturally there are a lot of unhappy parents especially around the issue of portables.  Mr. Rosenthal says the portables cost $135k each.  I'm thinking he got that number from staff but that is for the IKEA-type portable.  I have documents from past work sessions calling the number more like $200k.  And, if you want to really help the situation, some should have plumbing for bathrooms.

The end also made me laugh.  Michael DeBell says his highest priority is to move funds for "minor maintenance" to this overcrowding effort.   What funds?  The district has cut back and cut back on "minor maintenance" to the point where a lot of it is major.  Whatever's there for minor maintenance - it's not that much.  Somewhat of a futile point.

I did talk with Pegi McEvoy about this issue recently.  She told me the following:
  • most of the portables will be at elementary schools
  • there's a new Facilities Master Plan to come out in December (I can only hope it is vastly improved from past plans which the district wrote and never followed.)
  • Grade reconfigurations could be something like K-2 and 3-5.  
  • There is concern over the transporting of APP students from West Seattle when the viaduct comes down.  The city will, of course, have a transportation plan for West Seattle but it is something on the district's radar.
Before my meeting with Ms. McEvoy, she had been meeting with Doug Nichols, facilities, Lucy Morello, capital projects and Bob Boesche, CFO.  They came out with sober faces.  The list of the white board had at least 7 areas of moving parts.

For the most part, I believe in these people.  I think they have the skills to understand what needs to happen.  But it is worrying to see such a quick timeframe and the need for quick decisions.  I have no doubt that the Board will approve whatever they come up with. 

It is VERY important for all of us to vet whatever plan comes out and make our voices heard.  Parents and communities were not listened to on this issue over the last 3 years and the time is NOW for the Board and the district to take into account what the feet on the ground have to say.


Anonymous said…
A few years ago, with the first waves of overcrowding in the NE, there was a parent suggestion to have a Kindergarten village (an idea from another district) as a way to take the pressure off elementaries. All kindergartners from a region would go to a single building for K, then go to the neighborhood school for 1-5.

One Board member thought it would involve too many transitions for kids, yet they are now talking about K-2 and 3-5 configurations? Really unbelievable.

-a reader
A Reader, we should pass that idea on to staff. I think it might have some real merit.
CCM said…
I went to an elementary school that was split. K-2 was located in the "cottages" - which were a row of 3-4 houses with their backyards adjoined as the playground. Kind of perfect really for a kindergartener to attend class in a "house".

Then the 3-6 grade was at the elementary school down the street (this is when we had Jr high 7-8).

Hadn't thought about that for a long time - but it seemed to work well for everyone.
Greg said…
Melissa, Charlie, and maybe Meg, can you help me and others understand why the district is favoring portables over reopening schools?

Is it that they think the surge in enrollment is temporary (an increase for the next 3-5 years that will be followed by a drop in the following years)?

Is it that no schools are available in the right spots to reopen?

Is it that portables are much cheaper than reopening schools (over a 10 year time frame)? My understanding is that this is not correct, that portables are more expensive long-term, but do I have that wrong?

Is it an immediate cash crunch, that portables have low up-front costs but higher long-term costs, but the district has no cash now, so portables are more attractive even if they cost more?

Like many parents, I don't like portables, but I'd like to better understand the reason the district is favoring portables.
Anonymous said…
who else should hear our thoughts on the specifics of the plan (esp if we know of particular problems) besides the emails for the capacity planning team and the board?
think i know of a problem they aren't aware of
kellie said…
The focus on portables is because portables are fast. Portables are really the only solution to a problem that is less than 12 months away.

To reopen a closed building requires giving notice to the tenant and vacating the tenant. It also requires securing a current permit for students to occupy the building. Securing that permit requires, determining all the building modifications to reach current building code, actually making those modifications and then funding that entire process. None of those items are fast. And all of those items require working with multiple entities outside of the school district.

The fully loaded cost of installing a portable is closer to $250,000. I don't know where the $135K number is coming from but I doubt it includes the delivery, installation and set up costs. Regardless, the district has quoted lots of different costs for portables from purchase to installation and hook up. It would be nice if they just had a standard transparent number.

So portables are fast and less expensive than new buildings.
Anonymous said…
The 35 portables are in addition to the portables that are already at schools. Under the proposed plan the elementary schools in the Eckstein service area will have over 800 students in portables. They are not proposing to open any new elementary schools north of the ship canal.

A parent
kellie said…
So what is the problem with portables?

A handful of portables is a good solution. Endless portables create as many problems as they solve.

Every building can handle some additional portable space. The emphasis here is on some.

If you look at the Seattle Schools - Intermediate Term Capital Planning, you can see where portables are currently located.

The Eckstein Service area already has 525 elementary seats and 294 middle school seats in portables and they are scheduled to get another 275 seats in portables with no plans to open additional buildings. That is 1,094 portable seats out of a total of 6,061 seats. That means that the Eckstein Service area would have 18% of students in portables.

The question is how much is too much?
mirmac1 said…
Thank you Brian Rosenthal for being a REAL education reporter. ST's previous was a joke. Very dependable for publishing syncophantic drivel so long as she got "first dibs".
Anonymous said…
Why doesn't the School District just ask the City for a waiver of Occupancy Permit requirements?

If it's a matter of state law, why not get a legislative exemption? We declared a public emergency to bypass the referendum process & build the Mariners ballpark. Why not take the same steps for the children of our City?

I suspect much of the answer is the general contractors lobby that wants that guaranteed 5 to 10 mil per school in their pockets, instead of a couple hundred Gs. Including some of Silas Potter's buddies, of course.

Anybody got the straight answer? WSDWG
anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous said…
Thanks for the figures Kellie, the amount of portables in the NE is astonishing.

Some ideas:

Jane Addams has 250 +/- open seats in the building. I have three ideas to fill those seats:

A) Move and merge View Ridge and Wedgewood Spectrum programs with Jane Addams Spectrum program. JA would get the critical mass that they need to offer a strong Spectrum program and at the same time it would free up neighborhood seats at View Ridge and Wedgewood?

B) Thornton Creek could co-house grades 3-5 or 4-5 at JA. Co-housing, while not ideal, might be better than a portable city.

C)AS1, though no fault of their own, is underenrolled again. They have 173 students (of which only 9 are kindergartners) this year. Could the entire school move to Jane Addams and co-house? That would free up the AS1 building which I think has about 300 +/- capacity.

Other ideas:

Could there be an addition built on to the Thornton Creek building? Or a complete rebuild of TC? I know it will cost, but at some point the over crowding does have to be addressed in a permanent way. TC has grown by 33% in the past 5 years and still has a sizable waitlist. The demand and need appear to be there.

And what is the status of the Cedar Park school? Can it be reopened? Is it in a location where capacity is needed (28th ave NE and NE 125th) It's a cute little building with a nice playground and large open field. I think it is currently being used as an artist live/work space.


Lastly, in another thread NE parent wondered if space for a school could be leased at Magnuson Park? Not sure if that would be cost effective, but it should be checked out. Especially if enrollment is just a surge, and it will drop back down in 5-10 years. I recall that NOMS (now Salmon Bay) started in a leased space in a storefront, so it can be done.

Greg said…
Kellie wrote, "What is the problem with portables? A handful of portables is a good solution."

It's hardly a handful. We're talking about 35 new portables. Sounds like that's roughly doubling the number of portables across the district (assuming 30 students/portable and 1,094 portable seats). That's not insignificant.

As for why it is a problem, here is a nice summary of a Washington State Auditor's report that describes why it is a problem. Long story short, portables are uncomfortable and noisy for students and cost more in the long run.
The problem is here now. There is neither the time (permits, leases, etc.) nor the money to build anything.

They might be able to reopen some buildings but it would depend on the location and if it is leased. But the money situation is such that it would be a pretty bare-bones building.

"Is it that they think the surge in enrollment is temporary (an increase for the next 3-5 years that will be followed by a drop in the following years)?"

Great question and the one I think that Sherry Carr has stated (in another fashion). I think Kellie's numbers belie this happening but if the economy would improve there might not be an increase (although not a drop in already enrolled numbers). Maybe the capacity consultant will be able to unravel this one.

Think, I'm sure that Pegi McEvoy and Doug Nichols would appreciate any info that might help shape their ideas.

WSDawg, I have repeatedly said to the City and the Board that the district should ask for their permits to get fast-tracked and I always see nodding heads. Is it happening? I have no idea but I could see the district asking the City Council for emergency help on this.

Momster, all good ideas. I don't know if the district has considered them.

What I can do is take all these suggestions, put them in a list and send them off to the appropriate people. Brainstorming is a great idea and the more ideas the better.
suep. said…
Are there any leases the district could terminate to reclaim some buildings? I know Hamlin-Robinson is leasing T.T. Minor in the Central District. Are there any similar situations & options in the north-end?

How is the John Marshall bldg currently being used?
dan dempsey said…
If one attempts to cross a street without ....

(1) Stopping
(2) Looking for traffic
(3) Listening for traffic

and then takes three steps out into the roadway and is hit by a Bus.

I guess they are Blind-sided.

These directors are a mass of Blind sides and have been for four years.

Here is how they plan to evaluate the Superintendent:

By listing Goals no measuring

The perpetually blind board was blind-sided ... NOT a surprise.

Will the Voters ever regain their sight?
Also a parent said…
The problem with portables is that at a certain point the main building cannot handle the extra capacity - not enough room for lunches or all-school assemblies, not enough restrooms, inability to schedule PCP time for all students, etc.

There are real issues around safety and fire/building code, as we saw with the Lowell overcrowding.

What about the Seattle Times picture of class being held in the hallway? How is that not a fire code violation?

Greg's linked article does a good job of covering the issues.

Money is tight, but there is still an obligation to ensure the safety and well being of students at school.
kellie said…
@ Greg,

That is exactly my point. A handful of portables is a reasonable first line strategy. It is an acceptable strategy when you either need to add capacity quickly (less than 12 months) or you are uncertain about how long you are going to need that capacity (the bubble vs trend argument).

The challenges faced in North and West Seattle are neither of those cases.

The district has already exceeded what most folks would consider to be a reasonable number of portables in many areas of the city. Thereby exhausting the front line strategy. In other words, adding emergency portables to schools that already got emergency portables is not a strategy. It is a failure of creative thinking and planning.

This proposal calls for a truly extraordinary number of portables over and above current portables AND it calls for placing those portables in areas that have already gotten portables. The entire remodel of Nathan Hale was done with 22 portables. This plans has 35 portables. That is nearly two high schools worth of portables.
kellie said…
Charlie or Mel,

Maybe one of you can jog my memory here. I seem to recall that during one of the early closure rounds (04-05?), the board had either proposed or actually made a policy that portable capacity should be capped at 10% of enrollment or less.

I also seem to remember that one of the discussions about removing excess capacity had focussed exclusively on just removing the portables.

Do either of you remember this?
Anonymous said…
About the ideas of utilizing the Jane Addams space -

Spectrum - JA has made a very clear decision (parents, teachers and principals) to have an integrated spectrum program. That might not be of interest to wedgwood and viewridge parents, but certainly anyone from those schools could transfer to JA at open enrollment and they would find a school that is committed to meeting the students academic needs wherever they are. JA actually has a very good start on a strong spectrum program in the lower grades and even implemented walk to math in kindergarten last year. There are ~16 1st graders walking to 2nd grade math this year (I think there are ~70 total 1st graders).

There was some discussion about seeing if Jane Addams and Thorton Creek could be compatible (especially whether TC students might want to come to JA for middle school) but I heard that the parents at TC felt that JA's more traditional structure and curriculum would not work with their students.

RE: space - the space really is only at the 3rd-8th grade levels. JA has gotten larger than expected numbers of students enrolling both at the K and 1 levels (so much so that they added both a 3rd k teacher and a 3rd 1st grade teacher right before school started this year) - AND they've gotten a surprising number of transfers at the higher grades as well. The first floor houses the K-3rd grades and is pretty much filled to capacity (they took away the rooms that the afterschool program was using to use for more classrooms). If there is space for more classes, it's on the second floor, which houses the older kids. We have to be careful to not add too many younger kids now if you want to keep the middle school mushroom model alive in the future to relieve pressure from Eckstein.

If something is done to utilize some of the JA space, I think it needs to be the older kids - and should only be considered an option for 2-3 years (because there are full cohorts of 3 classes each at the lower grades.)

RE: Co-housing - I feel it could be a disaster for the JA community to co-house with another full-fledged program. JA has only been open for 3 years and is doing an amazing job building community, but to put two distinctly different programs (and populations) in such close proximity could become divisive. I don't know as much about the AS #1 program, but from what I've read, TC and AS #1 are more similar in philosophy and approach to teaching than JA is to either. Maybe that is where the K-2, 3-5 split should be (or see if there could be a K-4, 5-8 split and get some more middle schools spots in the NE.)

Just some thoughts.

~ JA First grade parent
Anonymous said…
Oh - and if they really want to relieve some of the pressure in the NE at the elementary level, if they did implement a true northend APP, there would be parents who have been keeping their kids in their neighborhood schools who would likely opt to move them. I think there are many more than the district would project. But this would only happen if there was a solid plan for APP, rather than the jostling around, changes because of "emergencies" that has been happening the last few years.

~JA 1st grade parent again
Anonymous said…
MW: I'm not necessarily asking about fast-tracking of permits. I'm asking why nobody discusses an exemption or waiver from the typical re-opening requirements of bringing every building up to code. At the WS capacity meeting, I believe it was Sundquist who said that, because the building was not occupied for a full year, the district would now be required to bring the entire building up to code, so any building in that status is literally off the table and unavailable for consideration. I've heard this numerous times, and that may be the law, but given that there are current buildings operating under dated code requirements, this seems like an area where a waiver or exemption should be available. I mean, hell, a slightly older classroom has to be preferable to kids blocking building exits by having classes in hallways? What enforcement agency would stand in the way of re-opening a building via a waiver to relieve the severe overcrowding dangers we are living with today?

I think this issue needs to be pressed. WSDWG
Anonymous said…
@ JA first grade parent -

Thanks for giving some insight into what is going on at JA. That said, you very likely know that the heart of this capacity plan is the district dictating what is going to happen at schools, not asking. The NE is way over-crowded and the proposed portables at Bryant and TC are just crazy. Neither of those schools can handle that many portables.

The one thing that seems very clear from this proposal is that the district is prioritizing expediency over every thing else. Regardless of anything else, there is space at JA and any empty space is likely to be "programmed."

The proposal that monster laid out of moving spectrum to Jane Addams has the great virtue of being much less expensive than portables and would enable the district to redraw some boundaries so that portables were not needed at Bryant.

I would suggest that the JA PTA (and the rest of the NE for that matter) be on the lookout for a curveball. The timeline is very short. They are going to have a final proposal to the board for Nov 2nd - a mere two weeks away.

I would imagine that this is not a case of what is the best proposal but rather what is the least crazy, least expensive and most expedient proposal. As such JA, might want to have a proposal of your own.

In other words, if the district follows its own history with over-crowding, their favorite plan seems to be identify a group and evict them. Then make it the schools problem to mitigate. So it might be a good idea for JA to talk amongst yourselves to see if there is a best fit among the crazy ideas.

I am not disputing that some of the ideas seem extreme (putting all the K students at JA for a year) but so do some of the things on the actual proposal

- beware of curveballs.
"...integrated spectrum program"

What does this mean? I haven't heard this term used before.
kellie said…

I have the same question and I have never gotten a good answer. 3-4 years ago, I asked multiple members of the Seattle Council and multiple members of the Seattle delegation about permits

Everyone of them answered that nobody had ever approached them about permit waivers. But that was years ago and I know that shortly after that the district started to have conversations about this but I have no clue what happened and I stopped following it so closely.

It is a great question and I hope someone has more current info.
anonymous said…
I think it can be done Kellie. Before MGJ & Co decided to open Sandpoint and McDonald I remember them telling families it would take a minimum of 3 years to get the buildings up to code and to get all of the permits updated. But once they decided to open the schools, the process was somehow fast tracked, and the buildings were open in less than a year.

Anonymous said…
Thanks Kellie.

Momster, let me clarify: I am not talking about fast-tracking, necessarily, but instead about avoiding altogether, via waiver or exemption, the typical updating requirements for an occupancy permit for a building that was just full of kids 366+ days ago, when if we'd reopened on day 364, we wouldn't have to spend 5 to 10 mil or jump through the hoops.

Why haven't we already asked Mr. Mayor and the City Council to step up and grant a waiver? If we haven't tried, and been shot down for good reason, then somebody is asleep at the wheel and burning millions of dollars unnecessarily.

Again, let's press this issue folks. It could make a huge difference in our neighborhoods. WSDWG
Anonymous said…
@ beware of curveballs - I fear you may be right.... I would actually be more in favor of strengthening and expanding the spectrum program at JA rather than co-housing two different programs in the building, if I had to choose.

@ melissa - what JA has been calling an integrated spectrum program is now what is being referred to as the clustered model (or something close to it), that wedgwood is moving to. In the first grade, there were about 16 or so spectrum/APP qualified kids. The plan, which was carried out, was to split these kids between 2 of the 3 classrooms, so there is 8 in each of two classes (or thereabouts). That way, each of those two teachers has a critical mass of the academically stronger kids. They also kept the APP qualified kids together in one of those two classrooms, so they stay as peers and could potentially work farther ahead. The rest of each classroom contains the full range of abilities and disabilities. I don't know if there was a set number of "clusters" in each of the classrooms, like the book says is necessary.

At JA we had the discussion (a meeting in late feb DURING open enrollment of the principal, asst. principal, some teachers and all interested JA parents as well as parents considering moving their kids to JA) of what our vision of advanced learning should look like at JA before any of the parents had actually heard of the clustered model that Brulles proposes in her book. I don't know if the principal and teachers used the book as a model, but it looks to me that the grouping is similar. There was consensus at the parent meeting that we did not want to become a self-contained spectrum program.

As a parent of an APP qualified student, I've been very happy with the differentiation my student has received - in math, reading, writing and even science to some extent. She's been encouraged to work at her level with her peers. I don't know if JA will be able to continue this level of differentiation if she gets way ahead of the rest of the students (and the principal told us outright in the meeting that it is unlikely JA would be able to meet the needs of an 8 year old doing algebra) but I plan to keep her there as long as they are able to give her what she needs.

We are very happy to be at a school where we are being asked for our preferences and ideas around advanced learning (and everything else.) It's sometimes a challenge to be part of a young school, but we also have more input as parents than most (from what I see in this blog at least.)

~JA First grade parent
kellie said…
@ momster

I know it was pretty quick with Sandpoint. North Seattle Community College had a long term lease with pretty steep penalties if the district cancelled because NSCC spent a lot of money (well over $10M) to replace the roof and do quite a bit of maintenance. - sounds a lot like the Westside School situation in West Seattle.

The stroke of luck was that NSCC broke the lease because they had budget cuts. The new tenants had only short term leases that gave the district the right to take the building back. (the new terms were largely because of the noise parents were making).

Once the district decided to open SP, it took (less than) a year because the building was in good shape (thank you NSCC!) and they could do the updates with the tenants in the building. AFAIK, they completely brought it up to code. And ... they started the work with BEX funds months before they even announced they would be opening the school.

I doubt any other building would be as good shape or as quick. McDonald students are currently still in Lincoln and the McDonald building is still under construction. In the end, it will have taken almost three years before students are in the McDonald building, and that was supposed to be a ready to use interim building!

Viewlands and Rainier View were both recently closed. It would have seemed quite reasonable to have gotten the waivers that WSDWG was referencing but again both buildings were brought up to code and it took about two years from the time, the district started working on the buildings until students were in the buildings.

So essentially, unless the district
- has quietly started some work (always possible!) and/or
- plans to utilize interim buildings (Boren, Lincoln, etc) and/or
- gets waivers as WSDWG mentioned,

new buildings aren't fast.

The only other random strategy would be to use the extra space at Madronna or Jane Addams as an interim location while a building is either re-opened or re-built into a larger facility.
Anonymous said…
"Why haven't we already asked Mr. Mayor and the City Council to step up and grant a waiver? If we haven't tried, and been shot down for good reason, then somebody is asleep at the wheel and burning millions of dollars unnecessarily."

I think you answered your own question!

- north seattle mom
Anonymous said…
"Move and merge View Ridge and Wedgewood Spectrum programs with Jane Addams Spectrum program"

my kids have 2 seats at VR spectrum. we walk to school. no way would i put them on a bus to JA (or Lowell, even at Hamilton, if they qualified), if spectrum were not available at VR - and i do not think this is a lone opinion. We are in this for NEIGHBORHOOD schools. Spectrum should be available to qualified kids at every school and not used as a "magnet" to underenrolled schools.

Kellie has pointed out this issue around the NSAP before.

Spectrum was okay under a choice plan because the seats could be set-aside. It gets much harder with a neighborhood plan (and may even become more difficult). The district seems to have not considered this issue.

That said, they are creating an APP/Spectrum Advisory committee. When they start work and what they recommend is anyone's guess.
Anonymous said…
i haven't dug through the presentations, but are there published numbers regarding what % of VR (or Wedgwood) is Spectrum transfer? I think a small amount - the overcrowding is neighbrohood kids, who just happen to be highly proportioned spectrum. Over the past few years, there are the same # of K, and 1-2 grade classes. K classes conceivably are neighbrhood kids only, as Spectrum transfers can only start at 1st grade. It isn't like the school suddenly needs another class to accommodate Spectrum transfers at 1st or 2nd grade. the overcrowding is starting at K - classes worth this fall. I think a large % of Spectrum at VR is neighborhood families, who would stay there whether hte program existed there or not. my point is that moving spectrum to a less popular location is not going to ease overcrowding, at least in the VR case.
Erin said…

I've looked over the spreadsheet you posted about on the open thread and see some issues. I have little experience in this area. I know you view this as a solid framework and would love your (or others) feedback.

1. Columns G-I clearly state that capacity was based on how spaces were used in fall 2011. Wouldn't this actually imply utilization, not capacity? Are they conflating these?

2. Columns J-M - I have some serious reservations about the numbers and the quality of the data. First, the number for my school is too low compared to the enrollment projections in June coming from enrollment services (we were projected at 410 in June 11 by ES, we are currently at 393 and growing, our projection on this spreadsheet and the budget from March was 387 which was less than the enrollment in March 2011, confused yet?).
Second, at my school the district added a kindergarten in 2009-2010 however the projections don't seem to account for the increased number in the primary grades mushrooming up over time. (there are currently 45 5 graders but 60 to 80 in k-2 each)

How many other schools had classrooms added in the last few years or enrollment projections are wildly off? And if the baseline data isn't sound how can this be an accurate analysis?

3. If capacity and utilization are different (which I agree they are), why wouldn't they adjust utilization based on programmatic needs in this analysis? A Spec Ed classroom isn't going anywhere and neither is Montessori? Can this still be a useful analysis when planning capacity if programming isn't accounted for?
4. There are some elementary school populations that get split at the middle school level, however this isn't addressed. In your experience how should that be addressed and is it salient to the overall capacity solutions?

Thanks Kellie and anyone else who would like to contribute.
none1111 said…
my kids have 2 seats at VR spectrum. we walk to school. no way would i put them on a bus to JA (or Lowell, even at Hamilton, if they qualified), if spectrum were not available at VR - and i do not think this is a lone opinion. We are in this for NEIGHBORHOOD schools.

You do realize that Jane Addams is physically closer for many VR families than the VR building, right? Best not to forget that.

Spectrum should be available to qualified kids at every school

I'm sorry, but this shows a terrible lack of understanding of both the program and its students' needs.

Yes, you're lucky enough to live in an area where there are quite a few qualified kids. That's not the case for most of the city. The point of Spectrum is there needs to be enough kids to make classroom-sized cohorts whenever possible, so their teachers actually have a hope of serving them well. In other parts of the city a building may only have a handful of district identified Spectrum kids. It's necessary to bring the kids together in a regional draw to make this happen. Not that the district is doing a good job of this.

Because your building's achievement level is relatively high overall, it seems to have left you with some significant misunderstandings of what the program is about and why it's structured the way it is. Er, make that was, because it seems to be in the process of being killed.

Note that I'm not necessarily advocating for a magnet to draw away from VR/WW, just that your reasoning fits a very tiny slice of our city, and not even all of your own school.
anonymous said…
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anonymous said…
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kellie said…
@ Erin,

The items you are pointing out are some of the "obvious errors" that I had mentioned. I would hope that we could get a lot of eyeballs on that sheet so that feedback can go back downtown. Doug Nichols does make adjustments when he gets feedback.

Parents know their schools and their neighborhoods better than anyone else. I know my part of town and I was able to point out a number of things - like Hamilton has 40,000 fewer sq ft than Eckstein but Hamiltons' capacity without portables is 50 more students than Eckstein? What is that about?

The projections are dated as of June 2011 so they are also obviously wrong. But I haven't seen a more current version.
anonymous said…
" I think a large % of Spectrum at VR is neighborhood families, who would stay there whether hte program existed there or not. "

Remember there are no Spectrum programs at Sacajewea, John Rogers, Olympic Hills, Thornton Creek, View Ridge, Bryant, Sandpoint, and Laurelhurst. Families with kids in those neighborhoods whose kids qualify for Spectrum are divided between View Ridge and Wedgewood (not JA because it is an option school). While View Ridge and Wedgewood ARE neighborhood schools, Spectrum is a program housed within them that draws students from the entire NE region. I agree that the location of JA, far north, is less than ideal for a regional draw, but JA has 250 empty seats in a region predicted to have 1000 plus kids in portables.

That said, Jane Addams has grown by 100+ kids per year, for the past 3 years. It opened with barely 300 kids, had 420 by the following year, and has 550 this year! They have 3 K classes and 3 1st grade classes. By all accounts JA is thriving, and growing, and if that continues they will need all of the space in their building very soon.

Benjamin Leis said…
Speaking as another JA parent, I expect that the remaining space will get filled fairly quickly if there really is the expected capacity issues in the cluster just by kids enrolling into the program without any need to move another school in. As others have mentioned the building has been ramping up quite well.
Jon said…
Not sure I buy the claim that portables are the only solution given the time constraints. What seems more likely is that it would have been embarrassing to reopen schools so soon after closing them, so they want to avoid reopening schools at all costs. This looks like another case of the district sitting on a problem until it becomes a crisis, then using the crisis to do what it wanted to do.
Anonymous said…
I would suspect that another reason for the attraction of portables for the school district is the goal of adding capacity without re-drawing boundaries.

Adding a new neighborhood school means re-drawing boundaries to move some kids from an croweded school. That creates issues, for current students and sibs, that parents feel particularly strongly about.

Adding a new option school doesn't cause this problem, but an option school can't be counted on to draw students from the crowded schools.

Anonymous said…
As another JA first grade parent, I agree with JA First Grade Parent that co-housing programs with very different approaches to learning as well as general behavioral management and expectations in one building would be divisive. I would predict it to decrease enrollment in both programs, further crowding neighborhood schools.

I think that the proposal to move VR and WW Spectrum to Jane Addams is a bit naive. Even if those Spectrum programs were dismantled, I don't think many current families would transfer.

Moving forward with a neighborhood assignment plan, I do support putting Spectrum programs at option schools since it doesn't make sense to have set-aside seats for non-neighborhood kids at a neighborhood school, especially at overcrowded schools. Currently Jane Addams is the only option school in the NE with a Spectrum Program, and many of the transfers we're seeing are from families whose advanced learners aren't being challenged at their neighborhood schools. We're also seeing many families choosing us for kindergarten because of the advanced learning options. So the magnet approach is already working, but we're drawing more kids from the north end of the cluster because of our physical location.

What I like about our model of advanced learning is that everyone is challenged, including advanced learners who might not test well, whose parents missed the window to apply for testing, whose kindergartners tanked the MAP last fall and weren't allowed to test for APP/Spectrum, or whose parents have opted not to test. It has been exciting to see our advanced learning cohort grow, and I would love to see more growth, but I value the integrated and inclusive approach, as well as the open dialogue between the parents, teachers and administration that we have experienced so far at Jane Addams.

- Another JA first grade parent
nacmom said…
Just b/c opening closed or leased buildings is not fast...doesn't mean we shouldnt be doing it!

If they did it last year - imagine - they'd have what they need next year. Plus families and communities do much better with notice. Announce the 2013-14 plan, along with the 2012-13 plan soon and get started. Even better, just get started, announce plan later.

The district ONLY ever works 6-12 months out, therefore, longer term (ironically, interim) solutions are never on the table. Forget long term. Doesn't exist.

It doesn't take a genius to see the future here: we're already at year 8 of adding classes in NEnd, with a BIG jump currently in 4th grade and then more each year, including next.

We need a whole new middle school - STAT, elementary school and HS. I'm not sure there is space for elementary anywhere? Oh and APP North will have to be relocated once it's evident Lincoln needs to something else - take your pick...but eventually as a HS!

John Marshall is a lot of capacity smack where it needs to be, just bite the bullet and plan to open it as something, anything - middle, interim middle while buidling new, N end APP, K-8, whatev...just get started! Give notice now to tenants (who were all moved from Sand point and given, inexplicably, long term leases).

It's been band-aided year after year, so now it's truly a disaster...
kellie said…
"Just b/c opening closed or leased buildings is not fast...doesn't mean we shouldnt be doing it!"

That sums up my point exactly. Portables are supposed to be temporary measures primarily used to buy time while you build a long term strategy. Portables have already been used extensively in certain parts of town. 25% of all district portables are in the Eckstein Service area. I have no words that can accurately describe the portable situation at Schmitz Park.

The portable strategy has already been used. Having portables be the cornerstone of every strategy between now and 2016 is a failure of creativity and imagination. It is a failure to adequate recognize the burgeoning population in many areas of the city.

Just because portables are a strategy that CAN be implemented in less than 12 months is NOT an excuse for failing to utilize additional strategies. Many folks would be willing to live with "leased portables" that had an expiration date as a bridge to a long term plan.

However every parent knows that once a portable is bought and paid for, it becomes a permanent part of the facility. This is not acceptable.
TraceyS said…
JA first grade parent, it sounds like the integrated Spectrum program was reasonably well thought out, and parents and staff were consulted during the early discussion phases. You had the ability to tweak things a bit, parents knew what to expect ahead of time, and it was overall easier to be a part of and to embrace the plan.

At the summer presentation, Chris Cronas presented a somewhat more rigid version for Wedgwood. He put up slides describing how all the Spectrum kids would be evenly divided among all the classroooms. His slides indicated that every classroom would have the full range of differentiation (ie, all levels would be evenly distributed in all classrooms). He would not discuss whether APP qualified kids would be grouped in one classroom (I assume not from his general comments), and he deflected questions about maintaining the critical mass or cohesion among the Spectrum kids within classrooms. There was a lot of talk about walk to math and reader/writer's workshop providing the needed differentiation, but no discussion about how science or social studies would be handled, other than "all kids perform equally well on those subjects". There was a lot of discussion from him about making things "equitable". It was apparent that the summer meeting was the first presentation to parents. There was no parent input requested during the meeting, and it was announced the first round of changes would begin in the fall. The claim is that program will be evaluated after the first or second year, but no metrics were given, and Chris deflected questions on that as well.

The rollout at Wedgwood was not handled with anywhere near the grace that it sounds like JA had. I still have as many unanswered questions about the Wedgwood program now as I did last June during the meetings (more now, even). I do not think the cluster model as laid out in Brulles/Winebrenner book is being followed very closely at all, and the ways that it is varying are worrisome to me, as is the lack of real discussion with the Spectrum parents. Most importantly, I am saddened at the refusal to discuss the elephant in the room, namely - how will cohesion/critical mass be maintained under this new arrangement? I think the short answer is that it won't, or at least not anywhere near the level it is at today.

(more below)
Anonymous said…
@ Kellie

I looked over the spreadsheet for the Washington MS service area and a few things jumped out.

1. The spreadsheet shows Bailey Gatzert's capacity as 376, but elsewhere I've seen the District list BG's capacity at 470. If the 470 number is right, then BG is not the urgent emergency that it appears on the spreadsheet.

2. Conversely, the spreadsheet understates the emergency at Stevens. It lists capacity at 380 "as spaces were used in Fall 2011". The problem is that in Fall 2011, spaces that should not be used as regular classrooms have been coverted to regular classrooms because the school is already overcrowded. So the spreadsheet is using abnormal overcrowding as its baseline and then saying there is not an overcrowding problem. This data issue probably affects other schools that are using closets, hallways, lunchrooms, etc. for classes.

3. The numbers for Thurgood Marshall make no sense. It shows capacity as 383, but there are currently 450 students at TM and they fit comfortably. The spreadsheet also shows an enrollment projection next year of 388, which doesn't match with the current enrollment of 450. The only explanation I can figure is that the numbers don't include Special Ed, but the footnotes don't say that.

nacmom said…
Oh and re: moving Spectrum from VR and WW to JA. True, you never know what the district will come up with :-), but there are a few BIG issues with that idea.

1) bussing and costs associated. most kids at those sites are not bussed currently - lots of neighborhood kids. also see #2

2) this is A LOT of kids. More than JA can accomodate. I'd conservatively estimate 3-4 classes per grade, and growing, natch - like all else. You'd have to assume 100 per grade then allow for growth. That puts JA over 1000 kids... and lines to be redrawn to now fill VR adn WW.

3) these parents (for the most part) would not move their kids from close school to far school for integrated model - essentially ALO-ish. why move when you can stay for similar?

Biggest issues though are first two. cost and numbers.

The solution to the elementary capacity problem (other than a new site!) is actually low cost!! Contentious certainly, but re-draw the lines to better balance. There are currently some schools with room adjacent to ones adding portables? for a $1M+? per school??? The true low cost option is rebalancing, which they try to achieve with programs but the programs are too big (and growing...;-)

I'm curious to see how the change in configurations will help...? Nevermind that will be insanely more contentious than redrawing lines. INSANELY SO! I don't even want to think about it. Plus, they won't provide enough lead time, so it will be reversed in spring a storm of anger. As usual.

I have to laugh that the district/board think that increased enrollment is a vote of confidence. Really? how about "no other option"?

Flat out - we know they don't think, plan or have best interest of kids in mind. so we don't trust them. Ever.
Tracey said…

I am not opposed at all to an integrated classroom (far from it, actually). And I absolutely believe that the cohesion I keep referring to can be fostered in an integrated classroom, but it does take some planning, and a lot of committment to the idea. I think the greater problem lies with the many hoops and overly formalized, district-level testing that goes into a "district-identified AL student". If the teacher or the parent or the district thinks there is a kid who wants or needs all or part of an accelerated curriculum, then it should be an easy process to get that kid the education he/she deserves. It is simply crazy to think there are kids who WANT to do advanced work and are rebuffed, due to lack of seats, overly rigid testing schedule, or philisophical changes to programs. Or ignoring the very important role that cohesion/critical mass plays in keeping AL students engaged. This piecemeal approach to shaking up AL programs seemingly overnight, and without warning, is doing a lot of damage as well.

One last comment - though it will be good to have a chance to talk with Dr. Brulles on Oct 26, I am also very aware that she also runs a consulting business, and is here presenting in that capacity. She will be giving a workshop to the staff at Wedgwood during the day, and will be conducting an evening parent presentation afterwords (her website outlines much of this in a FAQ). Also, most of her research and consulting is with districts and schools with either no existing gifted program, those with economically-strapped communities, and those with a significant number of ELL students.

Do not take my comments as a dismissal of her. I liked her book, and am reading as much of her research as I can lay hands on. I just think she is a little bit of a squarish peg trying to fit onto our rounded hole. I am interested in finding out more about what she thinks about replacing a self-contained classroom with a cluster model in the absence of those factors, and how much experience/research she has with a population like NE Seattle. But I am both not sure her work is actually being implemented, nor do I think there has been much thought given to what is being lost by dismantling a working, self-contained program.

(sorry if this is a duplicate - previous version disappeared into a black hole).
TraceyS said…
second half of my post keeps disappearing. I'll try posting it later, but the gist is that a well thought out integrated classroom is good, too, and that Brulle's model is not being followed at WW, at least not as described over the summer, and may not be a good fit there regardless.
kellie said…
@ AB,

Those sound like more of the obvious errors and/or questions. Parents know the area and the schools. The consultants that put this together are using standard models. This does two things:

1) It avoids all the political machinations of the previous models.
2) It omits specific site related information. The consultants looked at floor plans and square footage and that only tells part of the story.

Here is the link to the capacity web page. I would urge to you to contact them with any feedback you have about your area.

Capital Projects and Planning

The model is solid but everything hangs on there being good data put into the model and my confidence in the data is low.

Since this is the model that will be driving all capacity decisions, I really wish this had been circulated more widely amongst parents. I know most of the schools in my area, but I don't know all the schools in the district.

Last week, the consultants explained the model to all the principals and asked for feedback. So I know they are doing some iterations.
Anonymous said…
have the source of the $135K number - I was standing with the reporter talking to the woman named Lucy and the woman who appeared to be Asian (she said her name and I think it began with T but my Caucasian-conditioned brain couldn't process it.)

So it sounds like they are using an unreasonable low-ball number for portable costing. This conversation was around the cost of re-opening Cedar Park ($6M) vs. the equivalent number of seats in portables ($1M.) I had already decided that the $6M wasn't so bad considering the longer-term of the solution it offered.

Chris S.
kellie said…
And if you look at the article that Greg referenced about the long term cost of portables, it shouldn't even be a conversation.

$6M to open Cedar Park for the Eckstein area is a bargain compared to what it cost to open Sandpoint and McDonald..
Charlie Mas said…
I would like to see the District investigate the opportunities to lease space for new schools. I have seen all kinds of buildings successfully used as schools including hotels and office buildings.

Think about the areas of town where the District needs space. Are there any vacant buildings in those areas that would be suitable for use - on even a temporary basis.

Look around. Is there an underused or vacant strip mall, apartment building, hotel, office building or church? An elementary school doesn't need labs - though it does need a playground.
Charlie Mas said…
I think that the District should be wary of making a long-term decision based on short-term conditions.

For example, are they choosing to re-open E.C. Hughes instead of Fairmount Park because it would be cheaper even though Fairmount Park is the location they really need?
Lori said…
Charlie wrote, "Think about the areas of town where the District needs space. Are there any vacant buildings in those areas that would be suitable for use - on even a temporary basis."

The Barnes and Noble at U Village is about to be vacant, and we need capacity in the NE! Of course, this came to me sort of as a joke, but the more I think about it, maybe it's not so crazy for a year or two.
Anonymous said…
Charlie: Sundquist said at the WS CM meeting it was because EC Hughes hadn't been unoccupied for over a year, but Fairmont Park had. So, FP needs the full upgrade for an occupancy permit. It's back to that, "What about a waiver(?)" question that's driving me nuts. Has anyone at JSCEE even thought about that? I'd like to know.

But that's only half of it. The other half is that the West Seattle Area, North and South Clusters together, have to make room for another 1200 or so kids in the next few years. Yup! 1.2k kids more than they "planned" for (fingers in quotes).

I think the breakdown is about 450 in the North and 800 in the South. The district has all the charts with the numbers.

Sundquist and other Board Members scoffed when we tried to tell them this repeatedly 3 years back. But, To argue with a man who has renounced his reason is like giving medicine to the dead - Thomas Paine

kellie said…
Charlie and WSDWG,

You will be happy to know that Fairmont Park is back on the table. This was discussed at the capacity meeting today.
Anonymous said…
Montessori at Fairmont Park! WSDWG

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