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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pinehurst Parents' Response to BEX IV Levy

From the Save Pinehurst group:

We hastily formed a new Pinehurst K-8 BEX Levy Committee in response to the following in a letter sent  to the entire School District on October 9, 2012 from Superintendent José Banda.

The Seattle School District (BEX IV Levy Team and School Board) has yet to talk with the Pinehurst K-8 community on next steps. We are aware that they have meet with Jane Addams K-8 and other schools over the last few months, including this week. We request the same courtesy and consideration to meet with them ASAP and collaborate on a solution for preserving the 40+ year history of the Pinehurst K-8 alternative school.

We are aware that time is of the essence since the Board will be voting on the BEX IV Levy soon.

"Jane Addams K-8: Move to Pinehurst K-8 and open Jane Addams building as a middle school by 2015. We will work with the Pinehurst community on next steps for the school."

Solutions proposed by our school community:

•Keep Pinehurst K-8 in our current building and foster enrollment growth without frequent threats of closure.

•Move other programs into the Pinehurst K-8 building to fill its 240 capacity. We currently have 147 K-8 and 34 developmental preschoolers for a total of 181 kids.

•Move into a smaller building in a different location to keep our school intact.

•Retain Pinehurst K-8 as an alternative program in a new Jane Addams K-8 building on our location.

•Convert into a neighborhood school to draw from the large number of kids in the Pinehurst community and relieve overcapacity at local assignment schools.

Why you should support Pinehurst K-8:
  • Our Kindergarten enrollment has doubled in the last year despite frequent threats of closure.
  • If we are dissolved we would burden our already overcrowded assignment schools with an additional 181 students.
  • We have raised test scores and are recent winners of the Schools of Distinctions Award and the Washington Achievement Award.
  • We meet the needs of parents seeking an alternative teaching model who might otherwise support charter schools.
  • We emphasize physical activity and our kids ROCK at Rock Climbing and Ultimate Frisbee.
  • We are the only neighborhood school that is walking distance from the Pinehurst community. I have lived in Pinehurst for 9 years and most kids are bused to assignment schools.
  • This is the fourth attempt to close us in seven years and Board Members acknowledged that frequent threats to close Pinehurst K-8 has adversely affected enrollment.
Thank you for your support of Pinehurst K-8 to keep our 40+ year alternative school thriving!

52 comments:

Anonymous said...

I want to ask a naive question, that partly informs my fears of charters. It seems to me that almost every school inspires this kind of response when threatened with closure. This letter is well written and makes me sympathetic to Pinehurst, though ultimately, I don't believe SPS can sustain a school with enrollment of 147 or a building with capacity of 240. What motivates the attachment? Is the response teacher/adminstrator driven (people who want to continue working in the school where they work, and/or might loose their jobs if the school is closed)? Is it parent driven? And if so, is it a belief that one's kid really would do worse elsewhere? an attachment to a particular location? or to a particular cohort? or to a particular set of teachers? a reluctance to see change?

The connection to charters is that I think a big problem with "experiments" in charters is that it is pathologically difficult to close a school once the school exists. Closure seems to require cold-hearted decision making that sounds ugly to practically everyone.

(zb)

AreYouKiddingMe said...

147 students in a k-8? That's an average of 16.33 children per grade.

So. Not. Ok.

They should be threatened with closure. Actually, it should just be closed.

Anonymous said...

@AreYouKiddingME....

First response. WOW. I guess I appreciate any form of compassion towards the families and faculty facing a school closure. Your response is really just in poor spirit. They have offered some solutions and I believe that shows much more character than your petty response.

There are ways to be much more constructive and supportive. They are entitled to some ideas and collaboration from the district just like all of us asking for support either from being over crowded, being homeless or being moved to a new location. We are all suffering here and need to be nice and supportive to each other!

-not a pinehurst parent

AreYouKiddingMe said...

@-not a pinehurst parent

My desire to see efficiency at a school has nothing to do with my compassion for families. Those are two unrelated things that everyone seems to think should be one and the same.

It's ok to say "that school should close" and not be deemed as a negative person. If all underenrolled schools remained open, we would not be fiscally responsible.

The District is in charge of stewarding taxpayer dollars. An average of 16.33 students PER GRADE is basically a private school education.

Do I wish all students in the district could get that? Absolutely. But we can't. And we should, therefore, shut it down.

Anonymous said...

@AreYouKiddingME....

First response. WOW. I guess I appreciate any form of compassion towards the families and faculty facing a school closure. Your response is really just in poor spirit. They have offered some solutions and I believe that shows much more character than your petty response.

There are ways to be much more constructive and supportive. They are entitled to some ideas and collaboration from the district just like all of us asking for support either from being over crowded, being homeless or being moved to a new location. We are all suffering here and need to be nice and supportive to each other!

-not a pinehurst parent

Anonymous said...

@AreYouKiddingMe - Consider re-reading the suggestions from the Pinehurst community, and re-reading the reasons they suggest not just closing their school, but coming up with other solutions. They know they don't have enough enrollment and have suggested ways to improve it - including becoming a neighborhood assignment school. They also bring up the very valid point that there isn't any where to put the current 181 students in the North End if you just shut it down.

Unless each year you happen to have buildings with capacities that exactly match the number of students, you are going to have either severe over-crowding, or most schools full with one or two that "take the over-flow" and are subsequently too small.

- not a pinehurst parent 2

Patrick said...

Are You Kidding Me, be aware that all the classrooms in Pinehurst are multiage, so you do not have classes of 16 children.

-- Not a Pinehurst parent either

Maureen said...

Just because they are at 16.33 per grade doesn't mean they are being inefficient. Pinehurst has lots of splits, so their student teacher ratio isn't necessarily any different than any other schools. It is the empty space in the building that is the problem and I bet if SPS would just give them a principal who had a background in Waldorf or Summerhill type of education they could draw more families. (I don't see anything about Roy Merca's educational philosophy on the Pinehurst web site, I am assuming he would mention it if he had it.)

Ok, here's an idea, Co-house them with the Home School resource Center (Cascade Parent Partnership). They seem to be at Wilson Pacific, so will need to get out. I don't know how much space they need, but someone posted here the other day that they get 90% of state funding for 200? kids.

ConcernedSPSParent said...

Patrick,
as each split grade appears to be allocated one classroom they appear to be overcrowded on a class basis.

Anonymous said...

The Pinehurst K-8 program was "promised" a reprieve from threatened closure to allow them time to boost enrollment. They deserve the chance to do that.

We looked at Pinehurst when we were evaluating schools, in fact we had such a hard time NOT choosing Pinehurst that we visited 3 times, including a classroom visit for my child.

The poor program has been stepped on, walked on and kicked to the curb so many times that it is hard to see past the blemishes caused by years of threatened closures and complete and total neglect from the school district.

This program needs to continue to offer an alternative to the traditional teaching model, it is a vital aspect of truly serving all of the different diverse needs of the student population in the city of Seattle.

Rally the troops AS1/Pinehurst. Get down to SPS Headquarters and be seen/heard. There is a board meeting tonight, and while you need to be on the agenda in order to address the board and give public testimony, you can certainly get down there with your school spirit, signs, kids, shirt, whatever. Get down there and be seen.

-Parent from the other NE K-8

Eric B said...

Would moving to Cedar Park be acceptable? Cedar Park is about the right size for this school, is landmarked (and thus unconvertable to other purposes), and is at least nominally available. Moving there may be cheaper than other options.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see Pinehurst K8 offered a place at Cedar Park. It makes sense, too: Doesn't displace students into already overcrowded north and northeast schools. The one thing I think could be a problem is that the site isn't middle-school ready is it? Does it HAVE to be or can Pinehurst waive that right or minimize the retrofits?

I think downtown owes it to the most trampled-on program in the district in recent years to do right by it if any solution can be found. Especially given its academic improvement and downright successes and its important role in serving a diverse group of students which frankly the majority of the other schools east of I5 do not.

SavvyVoter

Unknown said...

Well, ZB you brought up an incredibly valid point. As someone who had to think about closing schools, I can tell you NOBODY wants their school closed, charter or traditional.

That's why the feds report that more than half of charter autrhoizers report difficulty closing low-performing schools. No matter how badly a school may be doing, there are reasons people like/love their school.

There was one charter study where they foundparents who had come from traditional schools to a charter school and showed them that the charter's academic results were no better.

The answers the parents gave were largely "I picked this school", "it's our home/community", etc. There are deep, deep feelings engender at schools from the community to the activities to the neighborhood.

Pinehurst has worked very hard to prove they should exist and even made changes to please the district. But they, like Summit, suffer from this cloud of closure. It makes it very hard to enroll students.

Pinehurst seems to be making progress so you have to wonder if the district was ever going to give them the chance to succeed.

I like Maureen's idea and the Cedar Park idea as well. But tick-tock, the clock is ticking and the Board may push back against any new ideas.

Krichelle said...

@Anonymous - I am a Pinehurst Kindergarten parent. Our motivation to remain as a community, either at our site or a new site, is parent driven, with support from our principal and teachers.

We currently have 21 kindergartners in their own class, and the rest of the classes are split grades with I believe at least 20 kids per class. I'm new to the school and understand that we have a separate Special Ed class which may be why it seems we have 16 students per grade but it's actually more like 21+.

We received such great responses to our "campaign", and we are now meeting with our Board Director Sharon Peaslee next Friday. We also reached out to the BEX Team to ask that at least one of them join us.

@Eric B - We are open to having the option to move to Cedar Park on the table and would like to discuss possible solutions with the School District. Are you on the BEX Team? If so, are you available to meet with us next Friday, October 26th at 3:45pm?

Josh Hayes said...

I'm a Pinehurst parent (No! Really!), and I'm not opposed to moving the school at all. Cedar Park is pretty inaccessible, however (Pinehurst is relatively easy to reach via Metro; it doesn't look to me like CP would be anything like as easy), and is also a LONG way removed from city center. Option programs really should be more centrally located, right, since they're in principle an all-city draw?

I don't think the Pinehurst community would be thrilled with having to move, but it would be nice to at least have the chance to do so. So far, nobody from SPS has intimated that any such proposal is in the offing.

Anonymous said...

Josh,
How about co-housing at Lowell or Madrona? Both are more centrally located, and with extra space.

-random idea

Anonymous said...

AS1 is not Waldorf. Thorton Creek and Salmon Bay are closer to Waldorf. AS1 is much looser.

Waldorf Parent and Hale Parent

Anonymous said...

Roy Merca's specialty is throwing alternative schools under the district bus and closing them.
-slp

Pinehurst Neighbor said...

I think allying with the Home Resource Center is a good idea, and it would seem a pretty good fit. One of my friends home-schools and was telling me about their situation. Make sure to discuss it with Sharon Peaslee.

Kristin said...

Pinehurst parent here too...my daughter's class has 28 students last count I believe (2 grades as mentioned)...there is barely sufficient staffing for the number of students that we DO have. Ironic we are experiencing some growing pains while going through this building drama. I'm glad we will be meeting with SP soon. I like the idea of working with homeschooling center...

To the poster saying just shut them down? You obviously don't understand how much the district has hurt our enrollment/morale and options by threatening to shut us down oh so many times.

I would also like to point out that this school has been around for a long time, started in face well before many of us parents were borh in 1970. Do you all realize that this was called AS#1 because it was the first alternative school? I'm surprised that kind of legacy doesn't get any sort of clout at all in a city like Seattle. Been around for over FORTY YEARS. Sure there have been good and bad times, but where's the love? Where IS the love?? We have teachers that have been teaching there for most of that time too, when you ask why people are so atta

Kristin said...

...attached, you need to realize there is generations of families that have been through this school. We have even lost people who have memorials up in the school. We have lost people that people still remember and it is very uncomfortable to think of these loving memories of lives we have lost being "torn down and replaced" with a new building. I hope they are at least respected and remembered in some other way if this really happens.

Anonymous said...

As a family that lives west of I-5
I believe it would be a mistake to convert to a neighborhood school. Many Pinehurst students live over here.You can find student disbursement info on the SPS website.This side of I-5 only has one option school Salmon Bay.
East of I-5 has Thornton Creek Jane Addams and Pinehurst.
I believe one thing to do to up enrollment at Pinehurst would be to actually bring the option school tag back to the SPS website it has almost dissapeared from the vernacular in the past two years.
Cedar Park sounds like it might be a good location, but how about finding a site west of I-5. Anyway wherever Pinehurst goes I'll go. If it's closed I'll go to Shoreline just like all those Viewlands families.

Doh Driver said...

Hi zb,
Regarding...
What motivates the attachment? Is the response teacher/adminstrator driven (people who want to continue working in the school where they work, and/or might loose their jobs if the school is closed)? Is it parent driven? And if so, is it a belief that one's kid really would do worse elsewhere? an attachment to a particular location? or to a particular cohort? or to a particular set of teachers? a reluctance to see change?

I can say with a hearty laugh that our response is not teacher/administrator driven. Although our teachers are wonderful, they are not saying much, and our principal is doing absolutely nothing to "drive" the community. (Though I'm not sure I agree with slp that Roy throws alt schools under the bus. I think it's more of dumb luck and his lack of paradigm-level belief in alternative schools that is his problem.) Our response is definitely parent-driven, even student-driven: last night someone tagged our school's wall. The graffiti artist wrote "We heart AS1!" and "AS1 Might Move!" (In case you don't know our history, AS1 was our name before Summit joined our community.)

For many of us, it has been our actual experience that other schools (within our reach) do not/will not serve our children's needs; many of us came from other SPS schools where our children were not treated well, or given a good education. Others of us hold a strong belief that the traditional education system is badly flawed, and this school offers a different model (we'd be home-schoolers if we could afford to be). Some of our kids would, at other schools, be considered problem students, but are able to be themselves without constant fear of being labeled and tracked as a bad kid.

For people intrigued by what charter schools offer but prefer to keep public money in public schools, Pinehurst K8 is a great option. It is flexible enough to incorporate new ideas in teaching quickly - hence our rapid test score improvements and awards - and incorporates social responsibility in every class/grade/project.

Thanks to almost everyone for recognizing the disservice that SPS has done to our school. I was beginning to feel like no one else notices the damage the District does to us, continually.

Kristin said...

In case anyone is interested in the history of the Pinehurst/AS#1 school... http://pinehurstk8seattle.wordpress.com/a-long-history/

Floor Pie said...

I would add to the list of reasons: SAVE the Pinehurst developmental preschools! They are doing great work to help give students on the autism spectrum a strong start in school. Early intervention is very effective. The earlier, the better. Don't let them put these kids out in the cold.

Floor Pie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jan said...

The possibility of positive synergy between Pinehurst and the Home School Center is interesting. While some homeschoolers opt out of what they term "government schools" (public being to benign for them) because they are looking for religious based instruction -- or want to go with the classical/trivium model or other curricular routes that may not match AS1's style, there are actually a fair number of parents who homeschool because they just want education that is more child centered, has less of a "herd" feel to it, permits more of a child- or inquiry-led emphasis, etc. For many of these families, it might be interesting to see if increased exposure to AS#1 offerings leads to greater cooperation, the possibility of shared resources or experiences, etc. Ideally, because our kids' needs and learning styles (to say nothing of their parents' politics and preferences) vary so much, public schools should offer a continuum that goes all the way from magnet schools that are highly focussed on academics or fine arts, through "comprehensives" with broad offerings and appeal, to "traditional alts" (is that a contradiction in terms?) such as The Center School, NOVA, Middle College, to homeschooling -- and the shifts should be pretty seamless. In the end, it is all about delivering and environment (and guidance) so that kids can maximize their learning and grow up into undamaged, healthy adults.

The problem is -- where to site it (since we seem to be doing way to much shuffling around and way too little new building). I had thought Cedar Park was unavailable because of the cost of getting it usable (but we have heard that before, about Sand Point and McDonald -- so maybe not). Let's find a way, though. The job of the district isn't just to "run schools" (meaning a bunch of big, cheap comprehensives do the trick). It is provide the tools for its children to learn (meaning when kids need an alt environment for that to happen, the District needs to make (or keep) it available).

Josh Hayes said...

Jan, I would think that if Cedar Park was useable the district oughta get it fired up regardless of whom they plan to put in it. It's space, and we need space, right?

Maureen said...

Looks like Cedar Park was being used by artists in 2004? The lease was up for renewal in 2006, but in a quick look I couldn't see what is going on there now.

Anonymous said...

We loved Pinehurst and would have chosen it if 1. it was just a bit closer to us and 2. we didn't keep hearing they were going to close it down! They are a great option school.

-Save Pinehurst

Anonymous said...

The reason Pinehurst has a reputation of under-performing is b/c families opt out of the standardized testing. As is their right. The district can't deal with it, and has saddled them with a bumbling Principal and frequent threats of closure. I love the program's academic approach & wish that this school had full district support to operate as designed. I am for charters so that schools like these, schools with unique vision and enormous parental energy and a strong sense of community, can operate as designed without district interference. SPS kills innovation. Charters are the only way to bring new ideas and alternative education approaches to this inefficient, incompetent, and insular district. We would have chosen Pinehurst for our kiddo two years ago if the district had not been so obviously hell bent on killing this school.

K5 stem mom

Miki said...

If the district is so gungho on having a downtown school, I'd actually love to see them move Pinehurst/AS1 downtown. Despite the district's ever changing numbers, I don't see good evidence that downtown can support a neighborhood school, but I definitely do think downtown could very easily support a k-8 option school.

Then they would have the transit access that would allow them to really serve all the kids who could most benefit from their model. Plus they would undoubtedly take advantage of being downtown and what that means in terms of opportunities for experiential learning.

Anonymous said...

It's discouraging to read threads that buy into the Board and Sup-Driven churn. Move them here, co-locate them there. The instability we've inflicted on our kids is criminal. Debates over whether it's a school or a program? More lies.

If charters meant the end of this crap, I'd vote for them. I don't and I won't but that should scare you because there are thousands of disaffected voters who have kids, or who are former SPS students, who only see SPS as broken and WILL vote for charters. Just like the Costco law. Did voters understand the full implication of the law? NO, and as a result we're paying more for liquor. Do voters understand the full implication of the Charter law? Probably not, and once again, we'll pay more for less.

Mr White

Eric B said...

The biggest problem with Cedar Park is its size. It has too few classrooms to be an acceptable building to open a "standard" elementary as-is. I don't remember the numbers, but I think it's about the same size or smaller than Montlake. Now that CP is landmarked, the district can't cost-effectively add on to the building to make it a usable size.

The problem with small schools is that the overhead costs (principal, janitors, admin, nurse, etc.) that are relatively fixed no matter how many students you have make the school not cost-effective in operation. If you're moving an already-existing school that has a relatively low enrollment that fits the building, then there's no increase in operational cost. Depending on the cost of re-opening, that might work for Pinehurst.

Patrick said...

Charters would mean much more of that crap. Converted schools would require lots and lots of reshuffling to hold the kids public schools.

Julia said...

I am one of the families that transferred into Pinehurst from a private school. We have been with the school for a year, and in the course of the year, my children's scores jumped from 6% to the 41% for one child with a learning disability, and from the 80% to the 96% for my other child. We have found the school to provide dynamic teachers, a strong community, and a vibrant student body. I have visited every single other alternative school in the north end and have not found any of them to be able to offer what Pinehurst offers. This is not a school that can be easily replaced or replicated. I have worked as a professional extensively with schools in Pierce and King counties, and I can tell you that I have yet to find a school that offers such quality of education!

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Pinehurst could co-house with Olympic Hills? They are building one of those large elementary schools there (500-650). If they built up to 650, then maybe they would have space for a Pinehurst/ Olympic Hills co-location? The interim situation might be tricky, since the new Olympic Hills building won't be ready until 2017, but if they could figure that out, maybe it would work?
-North End Mom

Anonymous said...

@Maureen,
Cedar Park is still a live-in artist community (Artwood Studios).
-North End Mom

Jan said...

Josh -- you are right, of course -- but I had thought that Cedar Park (besides having "reopening costs" from being old, out of code, etc.) also wasn't large enough, or had other space shortcomings, that made it not easily used by just "any old program." Pinehurst/AS-1, because of its unconventional combination of small size AND multi-grades, might be able to use an unconventional space (or share it with the even MORE unconventional home school program) in a way that other programs, such as an attendance area elementary, or a comprehensive middle school could not. Please understand -- I don't know exactly what the constraints are (other than maybe size? -- see Eric B's post) and I am not trying to shuffle Pinehurst off somewhere awful. It just seems to me the only building that the District has NO plans for (making it a possible haven for the only school that the District seems to have NO plans to provide space for).

Unknown said...

Mr. White, as usual, you are right.

Krichelle said...

I am a Pinehurst parent and I received official numbers on our student population as of 10/18/2012. For K-8 our average class size is 25 kids. Most of the classes are split grades and the numbers tend to dip in the years we receive threats to close.

It seems the issue for the District is not our alternative program since per their request almost all our kids take the standardized tests, our scores have greatly improved, and we won academic awards. The issue I don't think is our class size of 25 kids.

The issue is sustaining the size of our school. We are open to moving to a smaller school such as Cedar Park or co-locating with another school that might have room for us such as the Home Resource Center. Thank you everyone for your suggestions!

We are still asking for the BEX Team to meet with us now, prior to the vote, so we can discuss these options and have a say in our future. I heard back from BEX that they are reviewing our feedback but made no committment to meet with us even though they've met with other schools. We request that there be a line item in the BEX Levy for costs to relocate Pinehurst K-8 into a new location. If we aren't listed then mostly likely there won't be budget allocated for us if and when the BEX Levy is passed in February 2013. Without budget we won't be able to move, and would only get absorbed by and overcrowd our local schools, such as what happened when Summit K-12 closed.

I know the District needs to solve the overcapacity issues and it is sad how that affects our kids who are shuffled around the city and how disruptive it is to their education and lives. Our kids are more impacted than the parents, teachers, and adminstration. Pinehurst has a very effective developmental preschool for special needs kids and we request their program stay intact.

Everyone, please remember that at the end of the day, we all want the best education and experience for our kids. My kindergartener daughter LOVES Pinehurst K-8 so I spend hours every day fighting to keep her school thriving. I hope my 21 month old son can one day have the same opportunity to attend Pinehurst K-8.

Anonymous said...

Pinehurst Parent here, and I want to point out a couple of facts about Cedar Park so that we are all on the same page. First some quick facts:

1. "The Cedar Park Elementary building was designed for a student body capacity of around 470 (each classroom was designated to have a 40 person capacity), with the auditorium designed to hold 500. In 1972, the school was remodeled, turning two classrooms into a library. The peak enrollment at the school was 437 students in 1968-69"

2. "In 2006, when the School District faced a multi-million dollar budget shortfall, Paisley expressed an interest in purchasing the building from the District, which at that time was considering selling off the property. Ultimately the District decided to hold the property for school use."

This from:

http://www.seattle.gov/neighborhoods/preservation/documents/LPBCurrentNom_CedarParkElem.pdf

and

http://www.seattle.gov/neighborhoods/preservation/documents/LPBCurrentNom_CedarParkElemAddendum.pdf

So it is wrong to assume that (as some people have suggested) Cedar Park is a small school. Between Cedar Park and Pinehurst, there is a capacity of approximately 710 students. This is approximately identical to that proposed by construction of a new building at Pinehurst, at a cost of $40M to taxpayers.

There is also misinformation about the historic nature of Cedar Park. It is currently under consideration for nomination to the Seattle Department of Neighborhood's status a historic landmark. I called the department this morning, and could not get confirmation that it is in fact listed (consideration only started in July of this year). It didn't show up on the list according to the person I talked to, but they were going to look into it. Even if it is listed as a Seattle historic landmark, that does not mean that it cannot be altered or renovated:

http://www.seattle.gov/neighborhoods/preservation/landmarks_faq_indiv.htm

Q: "What kinds of changes can I make to property located in a preservation district or listed as a landmark?"

A: "There are fewer restrictions than you might think since the goal is to manage change, not to eliminate it."

Right now it is functioning as an artist community. I am a historic preservation specialist. If this building is indeed historic, having it return to its original historic purpose would only strengthen its historic character. And having it be used as a school will ensure that proper maintenance is undertaken, thus helping preserve it for future generations.

I agree that it would not be a good idea to add a level – that would destroy its historic character. But couldn't we use a 470-person capacity school right now that was designed to be an elementary school in the first place?

Another question comes to mind. Middle schools are in short supply in northeast Seattle. I grew up in Spokane, and went to a K-6 elementary, 7-8 middle school (we called it Jr. High), and a 9-12 high school. Why not use that model for NE Seattle? Eckstein would have an immediate reduction of one-third of its student body. Schools like Cedar Park and Pinehurst (and Sandpoint) that are underutilized, as well as the newly proposed schools, could absorb the extra population pressure. What we are looking at is a bottleneck, with Eckstein as the constraint. Moving Jane Addams, demolishing Pinehurst, and spending $40M would provide approximately 700 seats and a lot of unhappy parents. Keeping Pinehurst and opening Cedar Park would provide approximately 710 seats at significantly less than $40M. Make Eckstein a 7-8 Jr. High to reduce middle-school bottleneck. I don't see nearly as much for parents to gripe about with that solution.

My point is there are other possible solutions to this problem than those currently proposed. I have not even started to get into why schools like Pinehurst are necessary…

-Lance

Josh Hayes said...

Interesting ideas, Lance!

I'll just add here that while Pinehurst is a K-8, the classroom model there does divide the school into a K-6 cohort and a 7-8 cohort; this seems to work really well for the students.

Louise said...

Yes, interesting ideas, Lance. However I don't think Eckstein as the bottleneck is the only problem. Bryant and View Ridge are bursting at the seams, and I think you'd get major pushback from parents who won't want their kids to do K-5 at one school, then somewhere else for 6th grade, then Eckstein for 7 & 8.

Anonymous said...

"Louise said...

Yes, interesting ideas, Lance. However I don't think Eckstein as the bottleneck is the only problem. Bryant and View Ridge are bursting at the seams, and I think you'd get major pushback from parents who won't want their kids to do K-5 at one school, then somewhere else for 6th grade, then Eckstein for 7 & 8."

@Louise: I would never recommend (nor would anyone support) moving somewhere else for just 6th grade. Sandpoint Elementary has some room and is relatively close, and View Ridge is walking distance from Thorton Creek (and aren't they planning to build a school there?). Some kids from Bryant and View Ridge would potentially be better served at one of these other places. And that is one of the great benefits of having option schools - parents could choose to send their child to one of them. Pinehurst has room and is in the bus zone for both schools, I am pretty sure. We would welcome more children.

My main point is that it would be easier to add and fill up capacity at the elementary level than at the middle school level, that it would cost less, and that it would involve less significant change to people's lives.

I don't know if people have thought about changing from 6-8 to 7-8, but mathematically it would cut the Eckstein problem in third (wouldn't that solve the problem?), and yes, increase the elementary school problem by a sixth (each school would increase one class). But it is easier to build, rehabilitate, and utilize existing elementary schools (think Pinehurst, Sandpoint, Cedar Park, proposed Thorton Creek school) than what is currently proposed.

-Lance

kellie said...

Seattle schools were originally K-6 with the middle schools as 7-8. I believe the move to the K-5 and 6-8 model was a capacity management decision from long ago so it would stand to reason to re-examine that decision.

Middle schools are significantly more expensive than elementaries. As such, I believe the decision was to preserve the more expensive secondary facilities and close (and later sell or inventory) the less expensive elementary schools. I believe that most of the excess middle schools were then made into K8's to future keep those facilities in the system.

However, the current elementary capacity issue is significant. While in theory it would be less expensive to add additional elementary capacity, that would require that the district had property in inventory (which they don't).

I have said this a dozen different ways. For all intents and purposes, everything is already FULL. This conversation is not about one full building that is close to one empty building. This conversation is about one full building that is next to an over-full building that is next to a dangerously overcrowded building.

If anyone seriously believes that some building in the NE has a mysterious pile of extra space squirreled away, you simply need to consider the Special Education factor. Many of the enrollment numbers are blurry because Sped has different classroom ratios. Moreover, the NE is desperate for additional Sped facilities.

Arguing about "Is School X as over-crowded as School Y?" doesn't solve the problem. The problem is that the district is not able to solve the capacity problem out of its own resources.

Sooner or later, this conversation is going to need to shift to other solutions. IMHO, the sooner that starts, the sooner we might be able to fix things.

John said...

@Kellie

You're right. And all we need is cash.
It looks like our state is about to pass I-1185, the 2/3 majority tax increase requirement, one more nail in the coffin for education funding. (It seems like just on principle the resolution should require 2/3 to pass, right?)

Anonymous said...

Our child was at Pinehurst for a year and had a HORRIBLE experience. The first week of school he was put on the wrong bus as a kindergartener and no one knew where he was in the city for 2 hours (I wish we would have understood this as a perfect example of AS#1's chaos and gotten out sooner). The loose oversight of teachers left him regularly bullied by peers, the disengaged principal never attended a single IEP meeting with our family, and staff had no clue how to support my son with special (but not extraordinary) learning needs. When we left after a year, he was testing below kindergarten levels at the start of first grade. We felt like we lost a whole year of education and ended up having to do incredibly intensive work and supports to get him to a reasonable place at his new SPS school (even as an IEP kid), where he made great gains with an involved IEP team and high quality teacher.

We had joined the school right after they had been threatened with closure a few years back, willing to invest in their social justice mission despite dwindling enrollment, but found that there was a huge disconnect between their philosophy and practice (for example: the "hands-on" learning include zero field trips/guest speakers that year, as the teacher felt too overwhelmed to take the kids off campus).

I'm all about cheering on the underdog, but there are times when systems are broken and I feel like Pinehurst has had a few years to turn things around. I feel for the current parents as no one wants their school closed down, but the district needs to look for ways to strengthen all our schools. I don't know enough about the options on the table to say what would be the best path, but just wanted to offer another Pinehurst experience perspective.

-Former AS#1(Pinehurst)parent

Anonymous said...

@ Former AS#1(Pinehurst)parent:

I am sorry to hear you had a bad experience and found Pinehurst to be a poor fit for you and your child.

One of the great things about option schools is that you have a choice. You can go to another school if you want, one that better fits your wants, needs, and interests. Think of how despondent you would be if you didn't have a real option to move your child from a school that you found to be unacceptable to you. Many parents came to Pinehurst because it provides that option – and it works for them. To many Pinehurst parents, the other options are "broken".

From my experience, bullying is absolutely not allowed at Pinehurst. Pinehurst is a safe haven for kids that are bullied at other schools. Pinehurst has a Holocaust program as part of its justice curriculum that nips bullying and discipline problems in the bud. I certainly haven't seen or heard of any bullying – and it certainly would be swiftly dealt with by the administration. I do not know if it is true, but I have heard that at another NE middle school (yes – it will be really difficult to figure out which one I am referring to) that some children are so afraid to use the restroom at that they hold it in all day, because bullying is so rampant.

-Lance

Danny said...

I'm a current Pinehurst/AS#1 parent and went through the closure threat of 2010/2011. I don't know enough about what the BEX proposals or issues are to comment on it other than the school board is blatantly going back on their word to let us be for 5 years by even broaching the subject of our closure/uprooting. I'm offended and disappointed in their lack of integrity.

As far as bullying and the problems the former AS#1 parent had, I find it difficult to believe that a kindergartener was bullied at Pinehurst. From my experience, the kids look out for each other and the older kids especially look out for the younger ones. The teacher's being overwhelmed to engage in field trips was a disappointment to me as well when my son started at Pinehurst, but the reality of that is the teacher's are overwhelmed and need the support of the parents to make those field trips happen. I wish I was available and able to help chaperone trips like is needed for the school to truly have an experiential learning environment. It just isn't feasible for me as I'm sure it isn't feasible for most and the district does nothing to support the school's experiential program as most trips are funded through Sir Herbert Read and parent contributions. The disconnect in philosophy vs. practice is due in large part to lack of support from the district and having to adhere to the parameters they've put in place such as the WASL and curriculum. Losing your child the first week of school is unfortunate, but blaming the school is a bit much as that's more of a district transportation problem. They do make calls and send out reminders on the first week of school telling parents to keep close tabs on your kids as the new school years transportion kinks get ironed out.

I understand your frustration, but it may be a bit misguided as most of the issues you site are district problems, not necessarily Pinehurst problems.

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