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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

BEX IV - Full of Mysteries

 Finally had my first look at the BEX IV preliminary plans.  I'm sure there is a rhyme and reason to this plan (actually 4 scenarios) and it all revolves around....portables?

As we learn from page 8, there are 170 portables (of all kinds) being used in our district.  Most are general classroom portables at "active" schools - 114.  There are 14 at closed buildings.  The rest have various uses.

Keep in mind they are only talking about middle/K-8 and elementary school buildings for BEX IV (except for Lincoln, Mann and wherever they put the World School).

They have many tantalizing projects but no explanation of what some of them might be used for. 

The projection out date they are looking to is 2021-22 (how old will I be then?  don't scare me like that).

They do not list possible costs for buildings (could be too soon) but those better be costs that reflect the building costs around the region.  We cannot keep spending on buildings as we have in the past.  

The cost range is from $545M to $825M.  To note, the last BEX was $490M and they are out of their minds if they think they can ask for $825M plus the operating levy of about $250M in Feb. 2013.  I cannot see going to the voters for this amount when (a) some of this is their own doing by not tracking demographics well and (b) not maintaining buildings so they wear out a lot faster and little problems become big problems.

So they have three scenarios:
#1 - w/current level of portables@$545M
#2 -w/portable use reduced to 5% @$725M
#3 -w/portables removed at elementary level @825M

Yes, I know I said 4 plans.  So there is a 2A comprehensive middle school plan and a 2B K-8 "mushroom" plan.   

I won't walk through everything but here are some first impressions:
  • they need to find homes for Lowell APP, Nova and World School.  It appears they would fix up Mann in every scenario so I would assume that is where Nova will go.  It is less clear where Lowell and the World School will go.  They are going to replace Meany (arguably the worst building in the district along with Arbor Heights) but who will be in there?
  • BUT they only have John Marshall down as "interim" and not as renovation or moderization.  Makes me think it won't be a permanent location.
  • unbelievably, at least for me, they have a notation for "South Lake Union-New" in every scenario.  No, no and, did I mention, NO.  Look, that's a wealthy area with a lot of building going on.  Have a company lease/donate a couple of floors in a new building for a school but the district has no business buying land/building a school in that area.  Where is the money for that when we have so many capital needs elsewhere?  This is not a burning need except they are getting pressure from downtown.  That's politics, not good capital planning.  If South Lake Union businesses need a school so badly, then they need to front money/land.  I'm sure if that happened, the district would be glad to plan a school but use capital money now?  NO.
  • Under the K-8 Level 2B scenario, we would get three new K-8s; Thorton Creek, Olympic Hills and Wilson Pacific.  We would end up with nearly as many K-8s as middle schools. 
  • What is interesting is that in the scenarios, several buildings remain on the list but have different notations.  For example, Wilson-Pacific is a K-8 or a middle school and sometimes is new but then might just be "replaced".  Fairmount Park might be opened/updated or modernized. 
  • As I mentioned Arbor Heights should be on the list and is on two scenarios but not the others.  It also has an interesting notation "Roxhill/Arbor Heights@Arbor Heights - New".  That would signal to me that they would close Roxhill and move it to Arbor Heights.
  •  It looks like Rodgers bumped View Ridge out of contention.
  • And look who's on the list: TT Minor.  Really?  And oddly, on the K-8 Level 2B list, McGilvra is in there instead of TT Minor.  Someone is going to have to explain that to me.
  • Mercer is the only current middle school to get anything done to it (addition).   If we didn't have so much need out there, I would have expected to see Eckstein, Whitman or Washington on this list.  
 I'm going to have to listen carefully today at the presentation because I don't get some of what is being put forth.  

14 comments:

David said...

I thought portables were cheaper short-term but more expensive long-term? In that case, in Level 2-3, in addition to better classroom space for students, we're talking about spending more on construction now to save on leases and maintenance later?

Jet City mom said...

The K-8s. Being added are all north of the ship canal? Is that really where the seats will be needed?

Anonymous said...

Why do the maps show John Marshall in the wrong location? It's west of I-5 and due west of Roosevelt, but on the map it's shown east of I-5 and near Lake City Way. Weird.

Is the plan for North end middle school overcrowding to create K-8s instead of a comprehensive middle school? Why? And is it really enough added capacity? If they are option schools, will they really draw the needed numbers?

Argh.

Eric B said...

Some explanations:

Mann will house NOVA. Meany will house World School, and I believe a substantial middle school. Presumably, this takes some pressure off of Washington. The new north end middle school at W-P takes pressure off of Eckstein, Whitman, and Hamilton.

Rumor has it that there is a donor who is interested in fronting money for a school building in SLU. Before we take it, we'd need a hard look at operating costs.

TT Minor vs. McGilvra is interesting because of the relative costs involved. TT Minor is substantially less expensive per seat. Similar comparisons can be made to the Bagley/Viewlands addition and the option of adding on to Mercer vs. putting more capacity in at Meany as it is rebuilt. Unless there are compelling population/demographic or building renovation needs, it seems that the cheaper option per student seat is better.

Adding on some capacity in a new building will (almost) always be cheaper than renovating or expanding an old building.

elementary parent said...

Will a new north end middle school mean redrawn boundaries, or will it be an option school (possibly language immersion)?

Not too crazy about the mushroom K-8 option...what is the general support for a comprehensive middle school vs a K-8 model? Is it evenly split, or are the majority of families in favor of a comprehensive middle school?

Jan said...

Very interesting questions, elementary parent. First, there are capacity issues -- can they afford NOT to do a K-8 if they need more elementary seats.

Even more interesting are the issues around comprehensive middle schools or K8s. If you have a kid angling for the Roosevelt A jazz band, he may well want/need to be in a big middle school with an established jazz program. If you have a kid who doesn't do well in a school where "kid culture" trumps adult culture (too many kids per adult, with too few adults who truly know each kid) -- which is what happens at middle school, a K-8 may be a much better model, even if you give up some music, sports, etc. opportunities. And while kids may not get as lost in a k8, there are often fewer opportunities for electives, advanced work, etc. Doesn't matter to some kids. Big deal to others. I have no idea where the true "split" in preferences comes down.

Anonymous said...

It seems that there should be some data regarding K-8 school north of the ship canal. Besides Salmon Bay, are any of them full with wait lists? I don't think so. That should give an indication as to the interest.

Kitty

Chris S. said...

Although Harium proclaims that there are lots of "mushroom" K-8s outside of Seattle, it's important to note that ALL OF THE RESEARCH FAVORING K-8s over comprehensive middle schools do not really include the mushrooms. And much of the advantage appears to depend on the relatively small size of K-8 cohorts. So it may be a "model", but it's clearly not an evidence-based one. Not a horse I would jump on wholesale.

Anonymous said...

Where does the new West Seattle STEM school end up after its two years in the (interim) Boren site? Is the district planning for that at all?

-yumpears

Anonymous said...

They pretty much decided against the mushroom K-8 schools in their planning meeting tonight
beth

David said...

On portables costing more in the long-term, I found an article summarizing a report from the Washington State Auditor. It says, "The Auditor concluded that while the initial cost of portables is about 50% less than permanent school buildings, the long term cost is about 52% greater."

If the district uses portables, not only do students have crappy classroom space, but also the district faces much higher ongoing costs in future years. The only benefit is that the cost today, the cost of construction, is less.

Anonymous said...

We might lament portables - and the long term costs, but at least the cost is predictable. It's hard to believe that portables are more expensive than the gigantic cost overruns at places like Garfield palaces. I bet the portables are cheaper in both the short term and the long term - if only because they aren't palaces.

-reader

Jan said...

reader --

Is Garfield the only one? It seems to me that a combination of trying to do historic preservation, building during the last gasps of the real estate bubble (expensive, bubbly construction costs), and some element that I have never been able to quantify of other cost-overruns (either district mismanagement, contractor errors, work changes relating to the two), caused a huge financial hit. But weren't the other rebuilds (Ballard, Roosevelt, etc.) better? Because it seems to me that the particular bad brew underlying Garfield is not likely to happen again, at least within the next 5 years or so. Am I way off base here?

Charlie Mas said...

Jan,

Garfield is not the only one, just the most egregious one.

It was a combination of things that caused Garfield's costs to soar out of control. They included intentionally wrong plans at the start to create a low-ball cost estimate. This also happened at Roosevelt where the original plan failed to include the legally required parking space. Then there were change orders. There were two kinds of change orders. There were ones that everyone knew would have to be made because the original design was a feint to lower the cost estimate and there were actual changes made to the plan. Then there were the "unexpected costs" such as the cost of removing concrete - except that the contractor who was surprised to find the concrete there was the same contractor who put the concrete there years and years ago. Then there are the high end fixtures that were chosen and one thing after another. They each happened with other projects, but they all happened at Garfield.