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Saturday, January 28, 2012

BEX IV Planning

There was a BEX IV planning work session on Wednesday (before the School Board meeting). 
Folks, this is going to be one heck of a challenge.  Once I get this charter monkey off my back, this is where I'm going to focus next because there are so many moving parts.   I despair a little at how it may all come out but I can only urge you to KEEP UP and let the Board know what you think.

There were at least five handouts for this work session.  They were:
  • Macro planning schedule for BEX IV
  • Long-range Enrollment Projections for 2012-13 through 2021-22
  • What are "Ed Specs"
  • What is BEX IV?
  • Overview of Facilities Master Plan 2012
  • Large form Master Schedule for BEX IV Planning
  • Exhibit 8-1 - Scoring Summary*
I'll try to see if I can find links for all these.
 
The Macro Planning Schedule is a nice piece of work with a month-line of 2012 and little action bubbles above different months.

Right now FACMAC and the BEX Oversight Committee, along with staff, are looking at everything and trying to get a grip on what we need and where. 

In February (hey, that's the middle of next week), there will be a Prioritization List #1, reviewed by the Board, staff, FACMAC and BEX Oversight committee.  I will emphasis here that I truly do believe this will definitely be a first stab and may not resemble what comes to pass at the end of the process. 


In March, there will be a second Prioritization list (#2).  Then, in April, comes the first public community input, this time for Prioritization list #3.  In May, there will be a fourth list and then a fifth list in June.  FACMAC will then take a well-deserved break from their work in the summer. 


They expect yet another list in August.  Then in September, a second public community input opportunity and then final recommendations and the Board creates the final project list. 


In October, the Board will adopt the list and approve the ballot resolution (including what the figure will be, between $490M to a staggering $800M).  Keep in mind, the voters will be receiving TWO levies requests in Feb. 2013 - one for BEX and the other for the Operations levy.  Between the two of them, it will be well north of $1 BILLION.  That's a huge and scary amount to be asking for from voters. 

Also, here are the official district counts of schools:
  • 57 elementaries, 
  • 10 K-8
  • 9 middle schools
  • 12 high schools
Also in the same document (Facilities Master Plan 2012) is this curious statement after a statement about district growth:
To compound the problem, many schools are showing signs of aging and deterioration despite an aggressive District maintenance program in recent years.

Vague, myopic and not really true.  "Signs of aging and deterioration" doesn't cover how bad off many buildings are especially the ones that are 50-60+ years old.   And the "aggressive maintenance program"?  When was this?  I think they mean they just got around to restarting what should have been happening for decades.

Make no mistake - we have this many aging and deteriorating buildings because our district made a choice to put off maintenance and care for these buildings.   I know some of you might be shaking your head and thinking, "okay but in this place now; what use is it placing blame?"  I continue to make this point because the district wants vast amounts of money for our facilities and yet, somehow, a lot of that money never makes it to the buildings. 

*I put a start on this vague-sounding chart because it is a KEY chart to see.  It has the facility rating for all our schools (from a study by Meng).  They still have the seismic to do and that could change things.   Sadly, they did not include a key-to-terms box so I'm not sure what some of the markings mean.  I will ask staff. )

As I have previously mentioned, the district is done with high schools (for now) with the two exceptions of SBOC and Nova.  SBOC is getting a small amount $10M and it's not coming from BEX IV.  I recently toured the Meany building where SBOC and Nova are housed; what a sad building.   It's score is a dismal 3.63.  Very little natural light, small cafeteria and no decent common areas.  Frankly, it should be a rebuild but that won't happen.   Nova is likely to move to Mann (but Mann is not listed but I recall it had a bad score from previous surveys and was still using a 100 year-old boiler.) 

All of the "extra" buildings - Boren, John Marshall and Lincoln - are on the edge of needing help.  It really depends on what the outcomes for those buildings are.  I think, in the end, Boren and Lincoln, are going to stay our workhorse interim buildings.  (I know APP Lowell is staying at Lincoln another year but it will eventually move out.)  The only one I perceive will get work out of BEX IV is John Marshall which I predict will reopen as something. 

So who are, on paper, the worst buildings?
Number one is Arbor Heights with an overall score of 3.92 (1-5 with 1 the best and 5 the worst).

Let's go by region and see how they stack out, keeping in mind the score AND capacity needs:

Aki Kurose region
Wing Luke with 3.65 and a good-sized area
Graham Hill with 3.39 and a good-sized area

Mercer region
Kimball with 3.36 with a medium area


Washington region
Montlake (a perennial favorite) with 3.38 

I want to note here that I have been told by staff that there has to be a certain acreage size for each type of school, blah, blah.  I always thought Montlake couldn't be rebuilt much bigger because of its lot size (1.7 acres).  But then I looked down and saw that Emerson, in a newish building that holds 428 students only has 1.8 acres.  Now I know that geography has a lot to do with it but I'm maintaining a healthy skepticism over what can and cannot be done.)

Denny region
Arbor Heights, 3.92, medium area
Roxhill, 3.86, small area

Madison region
Alki, 3.55, small area
Lafayette 3.54, big area
Schmitz Park, 3.45, big area

Eckstein region
Thorton Creek, 3.54, big area
View Ridge, 3.44, big area

Hamilton region
Laurelhurst, 3.70, small area

Whitman region
Bagley, 3.53, medium area

There were no schools that were high enough in the McClure area. 

The worst middle school score was Washington with a 3.43, followed by Whitman with a 3.11. 

Pinehurst K-8 is the worst of the K-8s with 3.35.  Salmon Bay K-8 is also low with a 3.25 but a small (for a middle school) lot. 

Okay, so where do we need more space?

West Seattle, I would bet that Arbor Heights, Lafayette and Schmitz Park could make the list.  They need the capacity AND these are buildings in poor condition. 

NE, I would bet Thorton Creek, View Ridge and Laurelhurst all have a good chance of making the list as again, needed capacity and poor quality buildings.  I doubt that the district would invest the money in Pinehurst K-8 with such low enrollment.

NW, Bagley looks good.  Poor condition building, big lot, popular program.

Central, Washington probably, Montlake maybe.

SE, Wing Luke and Kimball are in poor condition but I am unsure if that area needs more elementary space. 

That leaves a few other issues. 
  • would they invest money in building a new middle school at Wilson-Pacific?  Centrally located, has a nice playfield, poor condition building.  However, you have to consider where you would move the programs there (or build to co-locate).   Or would they invest the money in a new building for either Eckstein or Whitman?
  • understand that NO building will remain the same size in population.  The district cannot rebuild just for poor building quality.  So, elementaries would be in the 425 size (at the smallest) and the middle schools at 1000 and the K-8s probably 700.  
  • it is likely that they will go to a three-plan blueprint for the elementaries.  There is not the time nor the money to be creating all new buildings for each one selected.  But I think each building team would probably be able to pick which blueprint as well as colors used and maybe some finishes.  
  • The district has been spending huge amounts of money on building.  Now, at one point, there was a huge amount of building going on AND inflation but that's not the case now.  So the middle schools have got to come in under $79M and the elementaries under $45M.  I do not understand why, when I check other districts in our region, they seem to build very nice looking buildings for $30-40M.  
  • Also, in answer to the question, yes the Advanced Learning Taskforce is trying to keep pace with FACMAC so that those recommendations can dovetail in with FACMC work.  There are several FACMAC members on the AL Taskforce so everyone is keeping in the loop as far as information.  
From the Work Session:
  • Director Carr rightly pointed out that the public has to stay in the loop and there needs to be a "narrative" - a story that explains where we are, what we need and how we plan to get there.   She also made the point that "if we don't tell the story and are silent, others will tell the story."  
  • Director Smith-Blum asked about the Advanced Learning Taskforce and the overlay for program placement?*  Dr. Enfield said they would have an update in late spring for the overlay for program placement and that yes, they need to decide about APP K-5 at Lincoln.  
  • Director DeBell asked about a bond versus a levy.  (Again, with a levy you get the money in pieces but there is no interest.  With a bond, you get the money all at once but there is interest. )  Bob Boesche said we could do a combo of both (and they have done this in the past).  He said they are studying this issue.
  • Director Smith-Blum also asked for an assurance for SBOC at Meany and was told they would be getting their work (and that they already started).  
  • Staff did say they need to take into account any building that is a city landmark (or might be up for designation).  From my cursory look at the City's historic landmark site, I only see Eckstein as a school with that issue.

6 comments:

Syd said...

I get the point, but I don't agree that poor building quality alone can never be the criteria for priority. There will be cases where poor condition is enough. I don't know what that cut-off is, and we cannot really do an assessment until the earthquake info is layered in. We are due for a big one. The academic consultant the city uses has stressed the need to plan for a 10.

Just walking through the SE schools (and I believe something about SE capacity and opening schools was in a recently posted capacity doc - Charlie posted on this blog as well), they feel stuffed. I know Graham Hill lost the computer lab to an added 5th grade this year. The building has also been told to expect the loss of the single room used for the pre-K and K combined Montessori class and that we may get some portables as well.

Note on community engagement: while the school community was given a short amount of time to react and the decisions seems like a done deal, the school has hosted 2 of 3 planned meetings. On the other hand, no one from the district central office was at the first two.

Also had some very interesting conversations with staff. They love having more diversity (in this case that means middle class kids that are drawn to the Montessori program), but really strongly believe there is an equity question between the programs. Really devoted to the needs of the kids currently in the traditional program. However, they get all tight lipped when asked if the program could expand to fill the school. Popularity (huge waiting lists every year that could easily fill at least one additional classroom) is not a reason to them to move towards that option. It is clearly a building staff decision, and they want no part of parental involvement.

Greg said...

Really a shame there isn't more funding available for this at the federal level. Good article on that today from economist Paul Krugman:

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/29/destructive-austerity-usa/

From the article:

We have a situation in which resources are sitting idle looking for uses — massive unemployment of workers, especially construction workers, capital so bereft of good investment opportunities that it’s available to the federal government at negative real interest rates. ... this is a time when government investment should be pushed very hard. Instead, it’s being slashed.

Anonymous said...

Amen Syd. Great comments about Graham Hill. Expanding Montessori is a no brainer, there is proven demand for it. Expanding would create more equitable access.

As you note that "It is clearly a building staff decision, and they want no part of parental involvement." Yet issues of equity and social justice have fallen to the parents to solve. The school badly needs leadership to look at the facts and get the staff on the same page.

And yes, community engagement from SPS has been deplorable.

groundhog day

Syd said...

Ok - I am reading this over, and I think I overstated some things.

1) I think the staff is entirely justified in advocating for equity. My opinion is that relegating the kids currently in the traditional program (and that includes my kid) perpetuates the disparity. The two programs have two very different demographic profiles. I don't think that indicates that the parents of the kids in the traditional program don't want access to Montessori; I think it instead indicates that the program is not well known to that audience. This is supported by reports of parents being told by central admin staff that i) there is no Montessori program or ii) that program is not a good fit for your child.

2) It may just be my opinion that not expanding Montessori is a building staff decision. That's the impression I have, but it could be wrong. It could be a central admin position. It does not appear to be a parent decision, but this is just based on my talking to to the parents I know.

Syd said...

Why is there no edit?

My opinion is that relegating the kids currently in the traditional program and future children from similar backgrounds (and that includes my kid) to the traditional program perpetuates the disparity.

Anonymous said...

Syd,

I agree on the points you made in your most recent posts as well. I am also in the dark about whether staff or Central Administration support expansion or not. But IMO the Montessori program should be expanded because there is evident demand for it and because more spots would hopefully lead to more equitable access. IMO all Montessori programs (& language immersion) should be option programs since they are by definition alternative. Again, this would create more equitable access. And perhaps if Montessori programs had a leader at the Central Admin. level, it would be better understood, advocated for and promoted. Currently it seems to be an anomaly that no one knows what to do with.

groundhog day