Student Walk Out over BEX IV Plan

This story in the Seattle Times, Rainier Beach students protest lack of remodel plans for their school, about students demanding a remodel of their school building.

Page 96 of this building condition report rates Rainier Beach as a 2.9 on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being the best condition and 5 being the worst. It was marked down some for having an enrollment far under capacity. From the report:
"Rainier Beach is housed in a middle aged facility that has worn very well (with some good maintenance) The current enrollment is very low, resulting in many unused spaces in the school. The traditional layout is a rigid grid, but its efficiency and logic tie programs together fairly well. Most classrooms and program spaces are traditional size and configuration. The performing arts center is one of the District's finest."
This building condition report (see page 136) gives Rainier Beach a rating of 3.3 and says:
"Rainier Beach High School was constructed in 1961 as a single 2 - story concrete building. In 1967 a single story Vocational Shop building and a single story Auto Shop building were added. These two buildings are currently hardly used. In 1998 an Auditorium was added to the main building. While the main building is generally in good condition, it could use an up-date to it's electrical systems, a modern HVAC system, replacement of the galvanized water pipe, replacement of VAT floor tile and new energy efficient exterior windows."
And this about the building's seismic retrofit needs:

"Seismic Mitigation $2,555,742
Typically, we observed no signs of significant structural distress, structural deterioration or differential settlement. At each side of the main entry, at the end of the wing walls, the exterior masonry has spalled exposing the reinforcing which is already rusting excessively. At the Southwest corner of the building, where the overhead wires are attached to the building, there is a full height crack in the veneer that is adjacent to the window. At the foundation wall on the Northeast side of the Performing Arts Center, there are minor temperature and shrinkage cracks in the concrete."

On the whole, Rainier Beach High School does not appear to belong anywhere near the front of the line for remodel, but maybe the students know something that doesn't appear in the reports.

BEX IV does include seismic improvements for Rainier Beach High School.


Unknown said…
Rainier Beach HS also has had BTA work as well (water lines, etc.)

That said, it should go on record. Every single high school got a total renovation except for three. Let's look at each.

Ingraham - they have been on every single BEX and BTA since those programs started. So lots of piecemeal work done over a long period of time. They had their math classes in underheated portables for years and years.

Ingraham finished its biggest project, an added wing, last year. Does the school look better? Sure but it doesn't have that finished look of the renovated schools. Does Martin Floe ever complain? Nope, he just keeps on smiling and being grateful.

Chief Sealth - they, too, had a lot of work done. They had to swallow the bitter pill that not only were they NOT getting a total renovation but Denny was moving right next to them and WAS getting the new building.

So Sealth agitated and rightly got some nice upgrades. They very much look like a renovated school.

Rainier Beach - again, like the other two, a lot of piecemeal work over the years (and it looks like it). The exception is the beautiful performing arts hall that was/is terribly underused. The district did very little to help a performing arts program get started. Rainier Beach could have been the performing arts powerhouse to the south (a la Roosevelt and Garfield) but they needed the district to organize it (and some angel arts person/group to help).

I'm not surprised RBHS feels ignored but, at this point in time, there is nothing else that can be done because of all the OTHER work that is so vitally needed.

Also to note,most schools experience an uptick in enrollment when the building is redone. Ballard had parents leaving in droves (and even had a fatal drive-by shooting) but boy, when they got a new building, things changed.

If the district is really serious about RBHS and its success (especially the new IB program), attention must be paid to making the building desirable. If RBHS has IB and CTE and a performing arts program in a decent and safe building, nothing could stop it.
Anonymous said…
The only thing that could stop RBHS even with the improvements you recommend is that amount of violent crime that happens near the school. The southend, and especially the area within a 2-mile radius of the school, has seen a big uptick of violent crime. Many, though not all, of the perps are high-school age. Deserved or not, many people still are not comfortable sending their kids to a school smack dab in the center of a very dangerous neighborhood.

The city has yet to really step up and make this area safer. There's not much that SPS can do until the City takes more action. Perhaps when the new recreational facility opens, things will improve.

SolvayGirl, that is EXACTLY what I tell city officials. They DO have a part in making schools better and RBHS is a great example. Parents will not send their child to a school they perceive as unsafe.
Charlie Mas said…
I have heard people say that the problem with Rainier Beach is what happens inside the walls.

I have heard folks, like SolvayGirl, say the problem with Rainier Beach is what happens outside the walls.

This news story is the first time I have ever heard anyone say that the problem with Rainier Beach is the walls.
Po3 said…
"This news story is the first time I have ever heard anyone say that the problem with Rainier Beach is the walls."

Well said.

Nick Esparza said…
Why do you hate back people Charlie Mas???
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Po3 said…
Dont make it about race. It's about students thinking that their building, with one of the nicest performing arts hall in Seattle and is 2/3s shuttered, needs a multimillion dollar overhaul.

That is called entitlement and if my children ever tried something like that...

Jan said…
There is no way to reasonably discuss BEX IV from the position of what we would "like." It is so far below the amount needed to do everything we would like to be able to do that the ONLY way is to start with the most drastic, pressing needs, and get as far UP the list as we can before the money stops. This is why the downtown school also makes no sense (unless it is 100% free -- as in private money buys the land, builds the building, and furnishes and equips it!)

I think the District has done a pretty good job of establishing the biggest fire to be put out:

1. Capacity (kids with literally NOWHERE to go, NO building that has room for them within any reasonable distance).
2. Buildings in disgraceful shape (undrinkable water, kids wearing coats to class in winter, walking across boards put down where floors are spongy, etc.) RBHS may not be a new facility -- but I trust that the RBHS community would arrive downtown with pitchforks and torches long before it reaches the disgraceful shape of faciltiies like AH.
3. Other major safety upgrades (e.g. -- earthquake improvements).

"Needing to court the kids?" Maybe that would have some appeal at some other point in time, but it can't compete with the full-blown emergencies that are driving BEX IV money allocation.

I don't pretend to know the reasons why Franklin, GHS, Ballard, and RHS got full remodels, while Hale, Ingraham, and Sealth got "incremental additions and updating" and RBHS got its performing arts facility and other upgrades. But -- while I don't expect kids to necessarily "get" this -- because they haven't had to try to manage multiple buildings on too little money -- I cannot see how RBHS's building makes BEX IV unless RBHS (like the downtown school) can find private money to pay for it.
Unknown said…
No, Hale got a full renovation. They spent $93M there over two BEX cycles.

But I agree that RBHS is not likely to get anything big soon.
Anonymous said…
I don't know who Charlie Mas hates, but I hate the pretension of people who try to draw equivalence of their cause to the civil rights movement (and the holocaust). It's as if word association and metaphor can be used as raison d'etre That's BS and cheapens these monumental events. And you wonder why media figure and elected officials are so free to say our President was elected by people who want "stuff". Why entitlement is used so pejoratively for kids who want a nice, safe school when in fact ALL our kids want nice, safe schools.

Charlie Mas said…
I don't know who the back people are, but I'm not aware of hating anyone.
Charlie Mas said…
Why is it hard for us to determine a clear, rational set of criteria for deciding how to prioritize our capital investments and then apply those criteria fairly?

I believe that the District decided, rightly, to provide space where the space is inadequate, to address health and safety concerns, and to do renovations for buildings in the order of their need.

A review of the building conditions shows that there are other buildings, such as Arbor Heights, which are a higher priority for renovation than Rainier Beach.

I am a product of Western culture so I share that culture's epistimology: I know what I know because I can count it and measure it. It seems logical to me to repair buildings in the order of their measured condition. There are other cultures with other epistimologies and other logics. I try not to presume that mine is the best, but it is the one that makes the most sense to me.

If someone wants to make the case that we should renovate Rainier Beach High School before we renovate Arbor Heights, I would love to hear it.

If someone wants to make the case that we should renovate Rainier Beach High School before we build needed classrooms in the north-end, I would love to hear it.

If someone wants to make the case that we should renovate Rainier Beach High School before we do seismic upgrades, I would love to hear it.

Is anyone trying to make any of those cases?
Anonymous said…
Charlie, your explanation is sound.

I can understand the RB student walk out for wanting to be in on BEX IV dollars. The students are advocating for their school and want to make a public point. In this climate, you don't get good schools by being passive. These kids organized and cared enough about their school to want to make a stink. I can't but grin and say good on them.

It's no difference than APP @ Lincoln parents wanting to make their case against losing a teacher on this blog. Rainier Beach may not get what it wants simply because its needs just aren't great enough compare to other schools. I think the RB kids get that.

Finally, here's hoping the district will not let itself be bullied into building a SLU school with this BEX as that will be a slap to those of us waiting our turn.

Anonymous said…
95I can understand the Rainier Beach kids' frustration. My kid attends John Rogers, and we have been bounced off of at least the last 2 BEX levies, as well as BTAIII. However, Charlie's arguments make sense, and I realize there are schools, like Arbor Heights, that are in worse condition than John Rogers, and are in more need of renovations.

This was supposed to be the BEX levy for remodeling middle schools like Eckstein and Whitman. These schools are in poor shape. Rainier Beach is not alone in being skipped by this BEX cycle.

- JR Mom
Anonymous said…
oops...the "95" at the beginning of my post (above) was an artifact of proving that I am not a robot. I'm not sure how it ended up there. My apologies.

-JR Mom
Jan said…
Two things -- as flygirl points out, good for the RBHS kids for caring enough to advocate for their school! I like the current allocation (except for the SLU school), but I admire them for speaking up and making their case.

And when Charlie says--"is someone trying to make any of those cases?" I say the same for the downtown school. I want to hear, publicly, the downtown folks make their case for why a new downtown school "trumps" any of the things on Charlie's list.
Unknown said…
Jan, the downtown folks studiously avoid any comparisons with other needs. It's like they are in their own little district and I told the DA that this was NOT so. I asked them to be heroes, find a way (a place) to put a downtown school until BEX V and then they would get a school. They didn't listen.

Their own cry is that they have been asking for a long time. I would agree but so have many other people like the middle schools and John Rodgers and AH, etc.
Charlie Mas said…
There are a lot of the questions about BEX - and other issues - that ask:

"Who made this decision?"

"When was this decision made?"

"What criteria were used to make this decision?"

"How was this decision made?"

All of these are failures of transparency. If no one can say how projects were chosen for BEX, then we have no reasont to believe that they were chosen based on actual need instead of political favoritism.

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