Waiting Until the Nth Hour

Despite the weather, several of us came to last night's Work Session believing we would see some real progress in what the interim plan for capacity management might be for 2013-2104.  I left at 7:45 p.m. shaking my head.

Once AGAIN, the district is a day late and a dollar short. 

I know staff works hard.  I know they want to get input via the public both formal (FACMAC) and informal (community meetings).  But it's December 20th (and neigh the end of the world upon us) and NOW they have new ideas?  Even as they heard, for MONTHS, that they were not addressing the north end middle school issues?

I guess I could say congratulations to all the NE parents who stood up and said, "You need to solve this."  But school starts up on Jan 7th with a "plan" to be presented at the Board meeting on Jan. 9th.   Once parents look at these new ideas (and there are five of them), how will the Board and staff know which one(s) parents believe will work best?  What school staff believe?

This is holiday break time which means no meetings and no time to walk thru each idea.  (I'm thinking of having a meeting of my own simply to gauge what NE parents are thinking and presenting it to the Board and staff.)  Having single e-mails come in will only muddy the waters (and that's if parents are even paying attention at this point).

Two MAJOR points:

- the NE has a large number of options now and those need to be vetted and carefully considered.  And that means consideration down the road and NOT just for next year.

- it appears that boundary changes are NOT off the table for 2013-2014 AND that major boundary changes ARE coming for 2014-2015.   This upheaval of capacity management will now ripple out far and wide.  Be aware of that.

I'm going to run through most of the meeting and then get to the NE which is where the real meat of the discussion is.

FACMAC had their recommendations out.  This was good but odd because my understanding is that the FACMAC committee did not see this before the Board.  I would have thought that they would be the first to read what they were recommending.  I'll have to ask the chairs about that.

One chair, Elizabeth Wong, sat with staff and Board members and gave a careful accounting of their recommendations.  She put forth that the most important thing is the alignment by the staff of short, intermediate and long-term capacity management plans.  "The community needs to see the continuum."

She called for the minimum of disruption to the least number of students from any interim plan with the maximum benefit to as many students as possible.

From their recommendations and those of the staff, it would seem that annexing kindergarteners in West Seattle is off the table.  Any problems at those schools, portables will have to solve.

One continuing issues - that I'm not sure many are totally aware of - is where schools that are having a building renovated will go to during that renovation time.  Our district is completely dedicated to moving off-site.  I have heard various reasons (and I get some of them) but I will point out that it is NOT the norm in most districts.

That this consideration is one of the DRIVING issues on capacity management is troubling.  One example is where Olympic Hills will go during their renovation.  I think it looks like they may take over the Cedar Park facility (as is the district's right but yes, it will disrupt what the community has been doing in and around it for a very long time).

I did hear an alternative idea for the Central Area (not from FACMAC or staff but by a parent) who suggested that Madrona K-8 move to Lowell and Nova takes over Madrona's building (thereby allowing for the expansion they desire).  That would fill Lowell, allow more room at Meany and move the Mann building to the END of the BEX list since it would not be needed immediately.

One good point that was made by President Smith-Blum (and I think most agree) is that the grandfathering of sibs and transportation needs to end sooner rather than later.  We need to TRULY see how the plan plays out in real time.

If we have NSAP, the district needs to get on it to full implementation and not continue to drag out these issues.  If you choose to go to an Option School, you may have to provide transportation.  Is that entirely equitable?  No, but again, the district also doesn't have money to spend on transportation.  Does that mean that some sibs at JSIS may have to split up?  Yes, but other families have had to face down that choice and I'm not sure program trumps the NSAP (and certainly not just one program.)

 The Board did ask some questions about all these portables.  The costs do NOT include operations and as President Smith-Blum pointed out, those are real costs.  Director DeBell also pointed out that the money does not include removal costs in the future nor the impacts on core facilities.

A lot has not changed since staff's last capacity management presentation for areas other than the NE.

They did include adding Hughes as a possibility for STEM K-5 since FACMAC suggested it.  They also are considering the FACMAC rec of reopening Fairmount Park as a neighborhood school but not for 2013-2014.

President Smith-Blum, upon noting a portable to be at Stevens, said that she did not believe there was space for it but staff assured here there was.  She said she believed that the boundaries in her region for elementaries had really not been thought out and I think that is a direct signal that those will change in the future.

Long discussion over Adams Elementary and the possible loss of their music room which would be a major impact to their program.  There had been a possible idea of the students using some space at a nearby community center but DeBell doesn't believe that is feasible.  In fact, he stated that Ballard is growing and with "condo towers" going up, they may even have to reopen Webster (which is now a museum).  This is the first time I have ever heard him publicly express this concern.

What was interesting on this point about music is that the Work Session prior to this one was about a grant the district is managing to put more arts - in a real and concrete way - into SPS.  (More on that later.)

DeBell also expressed that McClure has seats and like JA, needs to have them filled. 

Denny would be getting two double portables.  Didn't we just building them a new building and update Sealth and now both are full?  Amazing.

President Smith-Blum asked about the alternative scheduling and said she is for "staggered scheduling".  Interesting, I'll have to ask her about this.

There was a bright note about how some students at some schools are accessing higher level classes by merely going across the street to another school (Hay to McClure and JA to Hale).  There is encouragement that more of this might be happening in the future.

I am going to write a separate thread about the NE but here is the updated presentation with new ideas on pages 26/27.  There was a far more detailed document handed out but I will have to try to get an electronic copy of that one.   I will try to get that done by the end of the day.


Patrick said…
Is it clear to anyone else why there is a conflict between pages 26 and 27? Both pages have recommendations, and the recommendations are quite different. Which ones are the real staff recommendations?
I think they are a combo of FACMAC and staff and you'd have to cross-check to be sure which is which.
Benjamin Leis said…
Once again I'd like to see why the staff recommended a change rather than just their opaque suggestions.

Re: splitting Eckstein if that really is on the table I expect another hailstorm of protests from all the affected parents about being split. If I had to pick between the 2 camps (rollup vs. split) I'd side on the favor of rollup for the social consequences and for a more likely smooth transition. I had a really interesting conversation with Debbie Nelson where she mentioned how its hard to establish a MS culture and how that's exacerbated by starting with kids transitioning from prior middle schools en masse.

TechyMom said…
I like the idea of Nova at Madrona, especially as a 6-12.

It would require redrawing boundaries, but that's going to have to happen when Meany opens anyway.

I would like to see Lowell as something other than the dumping ground for closed schools. Could Lowell become a STEM or Language Immersion K-8 with downtown as part of it's attendance area? Madrona students could have a default assignment there, and maybe also a tie-breaker for Nova. Or could the students from both Lowell and Madrona have a default assignment to a shiny new downtown STEM K-8 school with top-notch SPED facilities?
Anonymous said…
Ben and Patrick.

Slide #27 was added to the presentation just prior to the work session yesterday. Of all the possible scenarios for NE middle school capacity, the one on slide 27 seemed to garner the most support from the Board. The expansion of the JAK-8 middle school (as an option) was criticized as being too risky, as they could only guess whether or not it would draw enough kids from Eckstein.

Here is a summary of slide 27:

2013-14: 6th graders and new students from JR, Sac, OH co-located with the E-STEM K-8 in the JA building.
Laurelhurst 6th graders and new students go to Eckstein.

2014-15: ESTEM K-8 moved to John Marshall building, with the Pinehurst program, JAMS roll-up continues in the JA building.

2015-16: ESTEM K-8 and Pinehurst still at John Marshall, JAMS roll-up continues at JA.

2016-17: ESTEM K-8 moves into new building. Pinehurst goes?

-someone who was there
Hamilton mom said…
QUestion re this recommendation:
Explore alternative scheduling options at Hamilton to
maintain current APP pathways for grades 6-8
– Evaluate the need for 6th grade academy for 2014-15 and beyond

Can someone speculate or provide feedback on what "alternative scheduling" might play out as - does that mean an extra lunch shift or would some kids have to start/end at different times?
Also wondering what a "6th grade academy" means. Thank You.
dj said…
Get out a map. Look st where Madrona is. Look at, if you take that offline, how big of a section of the city will not have an elementary school in it. That area of the city has a huge number of elementary school students in it; they just do not go to Madrona. What sort of solution is that? I suspect one designed to fill Lowell so that a downtown school can be "needed." Meanwhile, this area of the city continues not to have a neighborhood school.
Anonymous said…
Or could the students from both Lowell and Madrona have a default assignment to a shiny new downtown STEM K-8 school with top-notch SPED facilities?

Top notch sped? Spoken like a true parent without a kid with a disability. Lowell is actually something of a threat to families with disabilities. You know, "Complain too much and we'll ship you off to Lowell." Sure the facility is nice, and absolutely critical for a very few students, mostly it's just a dump where all the most disabled students can be clustered together and babysat. In many classrooms, no kids speak at all. Think about it. If your kid can't speak at all, would you want him in a room where nobody else speaks so that he never heard kids speaking? It's really completely giving up on kids. And inclusion? Forget about it. One Lowell teacher said she wouldn't have that wheelchair in her classroom because a disabled family wanted access to a few minutes of general education time, even something as simple as story time. If you think that is "top notch", we have a long way to go.

-sped parent
Anonymous said…
Hi Melissa, Could you elaborate on your comment regarding split siblings at JSIS in the context of transportation? Most siblings at JSIS can walk to school and don't need SPS to pay for transportation. Not sure I understand why tansportation costs would be a reason to stop grandfathering siblings in this case (is this what Dir. Smith-Blum implied?). Thanks

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