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Thursday, March 08, 2012

Any Color You Want, So Long as it is Black

Henry Ford famously claimed that people could get their Model T Ford in any color they wanted, so long as the color they wanted was black. Why black? It didn't reflect heat or light and therefore dried faster than other paint colors. That's how much he looked for ways to speed production; he wanted the paint color that took the least time to dry.

Where will north-end APP end up? It can't stay in Lincoln forever - the District needs that building as an interim site for the World School, NOVA, Eckstein, and all of the north-end elementary schools that they want to expand. Where can it go?

You can look around the north-end for available buildings or building sites. I can only think of three: John Marshall, Wilson-Pacific, and Cedar Park. After that, you could do some real outside the box thinking and imagine the District buying property like a failed motel on Aurora or the parking lot of the Calgary church. You could even think WAY outside the box and consider building a school on top of a lid over the Green Lake reservoir at the corner of 12th and 75th.

All of these ideas would cost the District and cost them dearly. It would not only cost money, time, and effort, but also capacity that they could potentially spend in other ways. Honestly, I don't think any of these things are in the budget for north-end elementary APP. In fact, I think the budget for space for north-end elementary APP is somewhere between zero and nothing.

Fortunately for the District there is a no cost solution. The District could quickly, easily, and cheaply place elementary APP at three locations: Broadview-Thomson, Lowell, and Thurgood Marshall.
There's enough enrollment to form three cohorts of 200-300. That's sufficient size to form the needed critical mass to support a legitimate program. There are some variations on this theme, but they come down to fine tuning rather than any substantive change. Some other under-subscribed north-end school could replace Broadview-Thomson, but B-T is the first choice because it has gobs of space, it's a K-8 (which could relieve some pressure off Hamilton), and it has a Spectrum program (which gives it credibility with the APP community that the other under-subscribed schools in the north-end don't have). Lowell could be re-written as T T Minor, but only if the District moves the whole current Lowell program back to T T Minor. The one interesting wrinkle is that Thurgood Marshall could be replaced with Fairmount Park if the District didn't have a taboo about sending kids over the West Seattle Bridge in that direction.

Given that the B-T, Lowell, TM solution is sitting there on the shelf with a price tag of free and is immediately available, what in the world makes anyone think that the District would reach past that for another solution that carries a multi-million dollar price tag? Really. I want to know.

So you can think about a brand new elementary school built at great expense on the Wilson-Pacific property to house an elementary APP cohort twice the size of the south-end cohort, but why would the District do that? Not only would it cost tens of millions of dollars, it would take years and years. You can think about John Marshall, but why would the District want to bring elementary students into the overcrowded northeast? Also, wouldn't John Marshall be better used as a new 600-seat location for the elementary language immersion programs at JSIS and McDonald? That would relieve the insane pressure on JSIS as an attendance area school, provide equitable access to language immersion, and draw kids out of the crowded northeast. If Cedar Park could be used as a school, they would rather use it to relieve the overcrowding in the northeast than anything else. I bet they would love to move Thornton Creek into there and re-purpose Decatur as an attendance area school.

Just to be clear. I'm not happy about this. Nor am I in despair over it. It would be neither wonderful nor disastrous.

Of course, B-T, Lowell, and TM are all attendance area schools. In time, the schools' enrollments will grow and the APP enrollment will grow and we'll see the exact same kind of capacity conflicts that we've already seen at Lowell, Washington, and Garfield. Those conflicts could be avoided if the District would co-locate elementary APP with an option program, but there's no space in the option schools either. The District could create new option schools - to address the capacity crunch without having to re-draw attendance areas and to meet the demand for alternative education. But where would these option schools go? Columbia, John Marshall, Fairmount Park, Cedar Park, and T T Minor quickly come to mind. John Marshall and Cedar Park are the ones in the north-end. Cedar Park isn't big enough for two programs, both schools are too valuable as outlets for the overcrowded northeast, and the District would rather have 300 language immersion seats at John Marshall than 300 APP seats there.

As you turn this Rubik's Cube over and over in your hands, I'm pretty sure that you'll find that there is one, clear, easy, cheap, and quick solution. And only one. You can have elementary APP anywhere you want, so long as it's Broadview-Thomson, Lowell, and Thurgood Marshall. There is no alternative that offers a higher cost-benefit for the District.

31 comments:

TraceyS said...

So is program placement being discussed at all in the Advanced Learning Taskforce? I thought that was one of the primary goals for the group.

Benjamin Leis said...

That mostly makes sense but from an operational standpoint Broadview Thomson is really at the edge of the entire north end. It would not be particularly close or convenient to reach for large parts of the target area. In an ideal world you'd select a more central location. That said I bet the APP parents would still tolerate geographic inconvenience.
Ben

Anonymous said...

You won't pry JSIS out of the hands of Wallingford. Politically unfeasible and McDonald just changed its name to International School at last night's meeting.

Hasn't Kay Smith-Blum pushed for APP at John Marshall since the day she was elected? Seems more likely than Broadview-Thompson, given the central location. No doubt they'll use price of transportation to B-T as an offset against cost of remodel of Marshall.

-skeptical-

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to envision how you would split the North APP geographically for assignment to B-T and Lowell.

Capacity wise, it seems like a short term solution and would create an imbalance between elementary and middle school numbers at B-T, while leaving little room for growth.

What's best for the APP program seems to be an afterthought. The program just seems to be regrouping after the split, the move, and the teacher turnover, and now you're suggesting another split?

Then there are the practical aspects of putting a program back in a school (Lowell) from which you just removed it. Talk about a fractured community.

-another skeptic

Anonymous said...

I agree with "another skeptic." The north APP elementary program has been through a lot of major changes in a short amount of time. The north program needs time to settle down before even considering yet another split. About half the teachers at LIncoln are new, and aren't yet ready to split off. We don't want to create another Hamilton. In order to make the splits work, you need experienced staff. They don't have it at Hamilton, and they won't have it at Lincoln for at least a few years.

Before considering a split, I would like to see Spectrum and ALOs fixed. I helped with the school tours at Lincoln, and there were a lot of parents who really didn't want to leave their neighborhood school, but needed to because of lack of support for Advanced Learning around the district. I don't believe north APP would be as large if the district would just decide what they were going to do with AL and then enforce whatever rules they put in place. Then we'll only need one north location.

Charlie - Where would these kids go to middle school? I wouldn't go for half at Washington and half at Hamilton. The kids should be able to stay together, especially with such a small group.

I think you'd be hard pressed to get APP parents to accept a placement with a neighborhood school. We have already been kicked out of one school, and it appears we'll be kicked out of Hamilton soon. APP needs stability.

-wants a home

David said...

Loved Charlie's article, though I can see I seem to be in the minority from the comments. I think a split of APP north is extremely likely, and that putting half back in Lowell makes some sense as long as it's only APP and special ed in Lowell.

Charlie, I'm curious about a couple other options. What if APP north was split and placed in Jane Addams/Lowell or Jane Addams/TT Minor? What if APP north was kept intact but made into a permanent 1-8 in its current location at Lincoln? You consider neither viable or cost effective? Why?

Melissa Westbrook said...

My feeling is give APP North their own building. Like Nova and SBOC, APP North needs its own home. Co-housing doesn't work and the minute they need the space, it'lll be "hit the road." Enough.

Melissa Westbrook said...

My feeling is give APP North their own building. Like Nova and SBOC, APP North needs its own home. Co-housing doesn't work and the minute they need the space, it'lll be "hit the road." Enough.

Constanze said...

Melissa is right: ENOUGH with attendance-area co-housing of APP. We know the outcome and trying it again and again is just adding onto a house of cards.

I can't believe it's even a consideration to expand already housed programs or open new programs in a space which would solve (not Band-aid) the problem of locating of an existing, thriving, yet homeless north-end program.

Please tell me this is satire.

Steve said...

Move all the North end kids to Lincoln for grades 1-8. Hamilton doesn't have the capacity to accept all the 6th graders coming their way next year, let alone in coming years. Co-housing a program like APP doesn't work, mostly because as a "program" it always gets short shrift if capacity becomes an issue. If they want the program to be smaller, raise the entrance requirements or offer it as a lottery program (like Bellevue does, I think), but stop messing around with APP as if it exists on a chess board. Very tiring.

Benjamin Leis said...

@David - Jane Addams has increased in size by about 100 kids each year so far and the current K cohorts at Jane Addams is around 80 students. Projecting upwards with no increase in incoming rates and the building will have 720 + ~20 preschool kids in it. There's not really room for another program there given its total capacity of around 800 without making a drastic change and that assumes enrollment doesn't rise again next year. You'd have to cap the size of the current program back to wedge even half of APP program into it. The same logic also applies if you tried to grow its middle school grades size to relieve pressure on Eckstein. And I'd rate the second option much more likely if anything drastic was done.

Ben

TraceyS said...

I was just at the last Jane Addams open house today, looking at the middle school option. They are expecting a tidy amount of growth this year, ramping up by 70-100 students, if I remember the numbers correctly, with significant growth in middle school grades. Not surprising, given the capacity problems in the northend. I also don't see how JA could continue to take in overflow students plus integrate an APP program plus maintain their environmental science focus.

Charlie Mas said...

Thank you for all of your thoughtful comments.

@ TraceyS - Yes, the ALTF will discuss program placement. That is one of its primary tasks. I just don't think that it will have much choice. They will open their menu and find only one option on it.

@ ben - You put your finger right on it. Surveys indicate that APP families are not as concerned about having the program close to home. A more central location would be desirable, but there is none available.

@ skeptical - All of the students now in the language immersion program at JSIS and McDonald will have the option of moving with the program to John Marshall. And, as an option school, their siblings will be practically guaranteed future access. They will lose nothing. International education is not synonymous with language immersion. The Board supports more equitable access to language immersion programs by making them option programs. The district cannot continue to shrink the JSIS attendance area.

KSB alone will not bring APP to John Marshall. Program placement is not a board decision. It will never come up for a vote of the board.

@ another skeptic - "What's best for the APP program seems to be an afterthought." We have a winner!

Charlie Mas said...

@ wants a home - "In order to make the splits work, you need experienced staff. They don't have it at Hamilton, and they won't have it at Lincoln for at least a few years." This is not the way the District thinks.

The B-T kids could go to middle school at either Hamilton or B-T. The Lowell kids would to to middle school at Hamilton. There is an outside possibility that the District may re-open Meany as a middle school (I have heard rumors along those lines). In that case there would be plenty of space at Hamilton. The District could also decide to put all of middle school APP at Meany. Either way, it's not a part of the District's process for making decisions about elementary schools.

I absolutely agree that co-locating APP with an attendance area school will lead to conflict, but the APP families will go wherever the District places the program, and right now every APP site except L@L is co-located with an attendance area school.

@ David - Jane Addams isn't a good choice as an APP site because the District wants students from overcrowded northeast schools to go there. That capacity, like all capacity in the northeast, is precious to them and they would not place a non-geographic community there.

Lincoln is also precious to them. In the coming years the District plans to use Lincoln to temporarily house the World School, NOVA, the new middle school at Wilson-Pacific, and various north-end elementary schools undergoing expansion. It is true that the space is huge and could accommodate even the largest of these and Lowell @ Lincoln, but the District has a strong bias against it. They also have themselves convinced that they absolutely need Lincoln as an interim site and that Lincoln is simply unacceptable as a permanent location for anything.

Charlie Mas said...

@ Constanze - No, this is not satire. Yes, this is band-aid thinking. The District is conducting triage, and they see north-end APP as only needing first aid while the operating room is reserved for those in life-threatening danger like north-end middle school crowding, northeast elementary school crowding, and West Seattle elementary school crowding.

Folks, you may not like this solution, but it does work. You may not think it works particularly well, but it does work. When the District can get a solution that works at no cost in time, money, redrawn attendance areas, precious capacity, or disruption to any students who are not directly impacted, they will take it and they will take it every time.

Will it inevitably fail? Probably. But it won't fail for another two or three years. By that time they will have some BEX IV money and some new options may appear. This is not their most urgent concern. They will be happy to put it off for two or three years.

Charlie Mas said...

Here are some novel ideas to consider:

1. If, as I have suggested, the language immersion programs at JSIS and McDonald are re-located to John Marshall, wouldn't that create space available at JSIS for a north-end APP cohort? Could north-end APP be located at JSIS and Lowell? At B-T and JSIS? Or, if we were really ruthless, wouldn't it allow for the consolidation of the McDonald and JSIS attendance areas and free up the McDonald building as a potential location for north-end APP?

2. If the District doesn't move APP back into Lowell, then they can close Montlake and consolidate the attendance areas. That would leave the District with a number of under-sized buildings scattered about. Add in some available space at Broadview-Thomson and they could be tiny APP sites. B-T for the Whitman service area, Cedar Park for Eckstein, Montlake (or available space in JSIS) for Hamilton, Mann (or Montlake) for Washington, E.C. Hughes for Madison/Denny, and Columbia for Mercer/Aki Kurose. On the down side, these programs might be too small to form the needed critical mass to be viable. On the up side they would all be stand alone.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"International education is not synonymous with language immersion. The Board supports more equitable access to language immersion programs by making them option programs."

Quite the interesting discussion on this issue at the Audit & Finance Committee meeting yesterday. I'll get a thread up soon.

David said...

Great point, Charlie, about Jane Addams and Lincoln, thanks for the response.

Sigh. I suspect you are right about everything on this one. APP is about to get disrupted again and the most likely solution will put APP in an unstable situation that will require further disruption just 2-3 years later.

Only thing I'd add is to expect the standard pattern of crisis politics from the district on how this decision gets made. We'll all be warning about this problem and pushing for a permanent home for APP north all year, but the district admin will delay and delay deep into next year, then rush through an "emergency" solution in spring 2013, which will be a solution they talked about internally for some time, and most likely will be the one Charlie outlined here.

Catherine said...

At it's height, Lincoln HS housed 2,800 students. I'm sure it was tight. Can it not be used to house multiple programs at the same time? I'm sure there would need to be some modifications/adaptations made, but the one program at a time thinking for that site just doesn't make sense to me.


Plus - there's a bunch, like millions of square feet, of contiguous vacant office space in this town. The PATH building in Ballard comes to mind. Parking, covered play space, ADA accessible, easily segmented into classrooms, cafeteria, on bus lines, not too far out of the middle section of the city.

Or heck, SSD still owns OakTree. The movie theater there is all but abandoned. Those theaters are already small lecture halls.

Neither of these are perfect, but even when spending way over budget, the SSD can't build great buildings that last anyway. I'd rather see kids in the PATH building than in filthy carpeted portables with no running water. PS - anyone needing a science fair project for their kids, do swabs of those carpeted floors and grow the bacteria cultures.

Lori said...

I'd like to see APP stay at Lincoln for 3 more years, primarily because that would allow the kids who moved from Lowell to "age out" and go on to middle school without yet another school change.

My 3rd grader has now been in 3 buildings in 4 years. The current plan would have her move to a 4th building for 5th grade, then off to another new building (most likely, unless they do a 1-8 program somewhere) for middle school.

It's just too much change to ask of one group of kids. A new building every 1-2 years?!

I also think that it's prudent to go slow with a long-term plan. The district needs to beef up its advanced learning offerings at ALO/Spectrum schools first, which if done well, could result in less demand for APP. It just seems like there are too many moving parts to try to tackle all at once. A step-wise approach makes sense to me.

Anonymous said...

I am getting very tired of the APP kids getting shifted around to under-enrolled schools to help boost both attendance and test scores/reputation/parental support. APP needs to either have its own school or be co-located with an option school. It can't be co-located with a neighborhood attendance school because then you have two programs that both have guaranteed admission in the same building - resulting in overcrowding. I don't understand why the school district doesn't think APP kids need the same stability that all other kids need - and that it's ok to keep moving them from school to school.

Also Charlie - as an APP parent I absolutely would not support Broadview Thompson because it is no far north. I'm not willing to settle. I work - so I need before/after school care - which means I need to drive my kid to school. I'm happy to do so - but the school needs to be in a somewhat central location. This is more of an issue for elementary school (in middle school, my kid can ride the bus and then be home on his own before I get home from work).

Jane

Charlie Mas said...

APP families shouldn't be deluded into thinking that the District gives a damn about their convenience or preferences when it comes to program placement.

Furthermore, APP families shouldn't be deluded into thinking that the District gives a damn about what is best for APP students when it comes to program placement.

Program placement is not a priority for the District and neither is APP. You will have two choices: you can like it or you can lump it.

If you want some option instead of B-T, Lowell, and Thurgood Marshall, then you had better find one that you like better that also costs the district no more in time, money, or precious capacity. Because with the B-T, Lowell, TM option on the table you'll have to be just as cheap to succeed. The District shops price, not value.

Anonymous said...

Charlie-

I have been an APP parent for 5 years - all of those in elementary. Believe me when I say I am under no delusions that the district is interested in my opinions or concerns. I do hope that the school district cares about the kids. My kid has been though a split and then a mid-summer move to another school which included a loss of most of the teachers they had and liked to still see. They have been through a lot of changes for such a short time.

APP kids should get some of that stability promised under the NSAP.

-needs a home

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

wants a home-

It's a school, not a marriage. My junior high had students going to three different high schools. I was in all Honors classes (more like Spectrum than APP, but it was a high-achieving group: almost all of my friends got 99 percentile on at least one section of the PSAT), so with the few who took Honors math but not English or vice-versa, I really only knew about 40 people in junior high.

I didn't cry "oh, I'll never see Scott R. again" when we went to different high schools. Deal with it. Some people leave your school. Some people leave the state or the country. We lose touch with some friends, we meet some new people.

My daughter will start at Hamilton this fall. Which high school she goes to will not be decided based on a cohort, but rather what's happening at the schools at that time, if we have any choice left by then.

I agree that co-housing seems to create instability, and that a more stable situation for each school (faculty/staff/building) is very badly needed, as is having the capacity for qualified students at all levels (Spectrum, APP, SpEd). Keeping a cohort of students inviolable as they move from school to school should be the least of our concerns.

-Scrawny Kayaker

Anonymous said...

Scrawny Kayaker-

Your story was truly touching and it warmed my heart.

I am talking about my elementary-aged children which to me is much different than middle or high school. I think the younger kids do need more coddling because they are younger.

I don't think anyone can look at the Lowell/Lincoln situation of the last few years and say that it is the way an elementary school (or really, any school) should be treated. The school district needs to look forward more than five minutes and give these kids a real, long-term home.

-needs a home

Anonymous said...

Lori is right, beef up AL opportunities at all elementaries. What happened to the walk-to option. Simple, cheap and palatable to most. Many parents want neighborhood IF it can be rigorous.

Fred

Anonymous said...

As I understand it, Hamlin Robinson's lease in the T.T. Minor building extends through 2015. The district can't take it back before that. So moving the current Lowell general ed students there during the next two years simply is not an option.

Correct me if I'm wrong but it sounds like Charlie is proposing his three-way split as a solution for fall 2013?

- An Observer

Charlie Mas said...

Any reaction to the idea of multiple APP cohorts in mostly stand-alone sites:

Co-housed at Broadview-Thomson for the Whitman service area,

Stand alone at Cedar Park for the Eckstein service area,

Either stand alone at Montlake or co-housed at JSIS for the Hamilton (and perhaps McClure) service area,

Stand alone at Montlake or Mann for the Washington (and perhaps McClure) service area,

Stand alone at E.C. Hughes for the Denny and Madison service areas,

Stand alone at Columbia for the Mercer and Aki Kurose service areas.

On the downside, these cohorts could be quite small. I wonder how a school for 30-50 students would be organized. It could be better in a lot of ways with a lot more independent study and individualized instruction.

It wouldn't require the District to alter any attendance areas.

It wouldn't cost the District any capacity that they wanted to use in any other way, but it would require them to open closed buildings. Did they want to preserve some of these buildings as the locations for new "creative approach schools"?

Can I get a response to this proposal? With a stand alone model do we still need a 200 student cohort?

Incoming Parent said...

Is there enough room at B-T for half the north end cohort? Right now they have like 650 kids and the building can hold, what, 750? There isn't a ton of space on their grounds for portables if expansion were necessary.

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