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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Eckstein and Its Safety Issues Addressed by District

Update:

I was notified that the Salmon Bay crossing guard was hit by a car while on duty on Monday.  His own daughter was also hit by a car when she was a student at Ballard.  That area of 65th is extremely busy due to it being an arterial as well as the presence of both Salmon Bay K-8 and nearby Ballard High School.

The crossing guard is doing well and is home from the hospital.  

End of update

So a group of parents wrote to the district about their concerns over Eckstein, its capacity and safety issues.  Actually, there were two letters.  Below are their letters outlining their concerns as well as Pegi McEvoy's reply.  

Letter 1

To Whom It May Concern,

As you know, some of our schools are facing significant capacity issues.  On January 31, the Seattle School Board voted against opening Jane Addams Middle School in 2013-2014 in an effort to address capacity issues at Hamilton and Eckstein Middle Schools. However, they voted in favor of moving Laurelhurst students entering middle school from Hamilton to Eckstein.  This decision adds additional students to an already over-capacity school.

Our primary concern is for the safety of the students, faculty and staff at Eckstein Middle School.  As it is, the hallways are so crowded between classes that students are sometimes knocked over and cannot get up; students can often not use the restroom because the lines are so long; students are left without administrative supervision in portables throughout the day; and on January 29, a pedestrian in the crosswalk (though not an Eckstein student) was hit by a car at the intersection of 75th & 35th just as school was released. The students cope with these safety issues on a daily basis.  We can't imagine what would happen if there was an actual emergency, or if the school was placed on lockdown.

There is a real and growing concern from parents with regard to the physical and emotional safety of students.

We are asking the City of Seattle, the Seattle Fire Department, City of Seattle DPD and the Seattle School District to provide written documentation that clearly outlines the following:
  • What is the official capacity of Eckstein Middle School, who determines capacity, and how is it calculated?
  • Does this capacity information take into account the portables housed on the property in addition to the physical building?
  • Based on the official capacity of Eckstein Middle School, is the current level of capacity in compliance with the findings?
  • If students are to be added to the population for the 2013-2014 school year, how does this affect compliance?
  • Is there documentation from the Fire Department that certifies the building as safe at current capacity levels?
  • Is there documentation from the Fire Department that certifies that adding students to existing capacity levels will not affect safety?
  • Whose responsibility is it to ultimately address and resolve the safety issues which students already face on a daily basis, including students being knocked down and unable to get up between classes, students not having access to a restroom because there are too many students in line to use too few facilities, and students left in portables without administrative supervision?
  • Whose responsibility is it to provide crossing assistance at the major intersections near school (25th & 75th and 35th & 75th) to ensure that another pedestrian is not hit while legally crossing in the crosswalk with the light?
If you are not able to provide this information to SPS families, how do we begin the process of requesting a formal investigation into these issues, and who is ultimately responsible?

Also, if you can indicate who is the correct point person(s) within each department for us to communicate with moving forward, it would be greatly appreciated.  It is not our intent to unnecessarily take up the valuable time of so many individuals.  We simply do not understand where the responsibility lies with regard to policy and compliance.

We believe strongly that the Administration at Eckstein does their best to manage the situation without adequate means.  As parents and advocates for our children, it is difficult to accept that students are not at risk without written documentation and assurance from the City and the School District.  The physical and emotional safety of every student in this district is a fundamental and basic right, not a privilege.

We look forward to a prompt response to our concerns.

 Letter 2


To Whom It May Concern,

We would like to thank Sherry Carr from the School Board and Bryan Stevens from DPD for responding briefly for our request for information by indicating that the request has been forwarded to the appropriate staff, and that "both the Department of Planning and Development and Fire Marshall’s Office will look into to our concerns and respond to our questions."

Unfortunately, we have yet to hear from anyone else directly, including anyone from the School District, with regard to the email we sent yesterday (below).

By mid-afternoon, we decided that we would personally visit the Fire Marshall's Office and the City of Seattle DPD in an effort to obtain the Certificate of Occupancy for Eckstein ourselves, and to better understand who is responsible for policy, and who is responsible for compliance.  Though we had fantastic interactions with employees in both departments who were as helpful as they could individually be, we are surprised by some of what we found:
  • Despite the assistance of several DPD employees, we were not able to locate a Certificate of Occupancy for Eckstein Middle School.  We were assured that, if a Certificate was on file, it would have been included on all of the microfilm documents available in the DPD Public Resource Center.
  • There is a Certificate of Occupancy (Building Permit Number 651299) dated August 9, 1993 for "E-2 Portable Classroom" on Eckstein property.  The "Max. assembly occupant load" is listed as "NA."
  • There is a Certificate of Occupancy (Building Permit Number 689865) dated January 31, 1997 for "E-1 Portable Classroom" on Eckstein property.  The "Max. assembly occupant load" is listed as "N/A."
Because this seemed out of the norm to us and to the employees helping us, we decided to check the records for Laurelhurst Elementary as well, since we knew the address of that school. 
  • We were not able to locate a Certificate of Occupancy for Laurelhurst Elementary School.  Again, if there was a certificate on file, it should have been available.
  • There is a Certificate of Occupancy (Building Permit Number 649287) dated September 5, 1990 for "E3 Classroom" on Laurelhurst Property.  The "Max. assembly occupant load" is listed as "NA."
  • There is a Certificate of Occupancy (Building Permit Number 660108) dated January 15, 1992 for "E3 Temporary Daycare Facilities" on Laurelhurst property.  The "Max. assembly occupant load" is listed as "NA."
Because it was later in the afternoon, we did not have time to continue searching for Certificates of Occupancy for other schools.

We have left a message for the DPD Chief Inspector to see if these certificates could be located anywhere else, if there is a reasonable explanation as to why these buildings do not have Certificates of Occupancy, and to learn why the capacity loads for the various portables are considered "not applicable."

The good news is that we have been assured by the Fire Marshall's Office that they are working with DPD to look into our concerns. We expect to hear from the Fire Marshall's Office by the end of this week or early next week.

We are very grateful to the employees at the Fire Department and the Department of Planning and Development for their assistance today.

We will continue to pursue answers to questions and resolutions to our concerns regarding the safety of students, faculty and staff at Eckstein Middle School.

Pegi McEvoy's reply to the questions:

What is the official capacity of Eckstein Middle School, who determines capacity, and how is it calculated?
The program capacity of Eckstein Middle School is 1269. (The calculation is shown after the explanation below.)

The capacity of a school, provided by the Capital Planning staff, is driven by four main factors: (1) the physical size of the instructional spaces, (2) the negotiated class size, (3) the schedule of uses, and (4) the programs and services that are provided at the school. Seattle Public Schools uses a consistent methodology to calculate school capacity in the following contexts:

-      Operating/Planning Capacity: A baseline figure that reflects the current negotiated class size agreement and the programs currently placed at a school. This figure is assumed to remain constant unless and until the program placement at the school is modified, and/or the negotiated agreement on class size is modified. 
-      Operating Capacity With Buy-Down: A figure that reflects the total number of students a school can house given the programs currently placed at a school, and current decisions/actions by site leadership that affect class size and space usage.  This is most commonly practiced at the secondary level.

Methodology for calculating the Operating/Planning Capacity of a hypothetical elementary and secondary school is outlined below.

A school’s capacity is calculated by multiplying the number of teaching stations, by use (e.g. kindergarten rooms, primary grade rooms, intermediate grade rooms, special education rooms, PE teaching stations, music rooms, secondary general classrooms, art rooms, etc.) by the class size limit stated in the negotiated agreement. Current negotiated class sizes are:

Kindergarten – Grade 3                         =             26 students

Grades 4-5                                                  =             28 students

Grades 6-12                                                =             30 students

PCP (loaded @ 0 capacity)                    =             1 classroom per 8 K-5 homerooms, rounded up

                                                                                             to the nearest 0.5.

The sum of the products is then multiplied by a scheduling factor used to reflect the fact that not every classroom can be scheduled to have a “perfect fit” of students. For elementary schools, a scheduling factor of 95% reflects this imperfect fit. PCP classrooms are not assigned a capacity load because those students are counted in their homeroom.

At the middle and high school levels, the District must account for a teacher’s planning period; one period out of six in which a classroom is unoccupied by students. The capacity multiplier for secondary schools is 83% (5/6). For specialty classes, the multiplier is the number of periods the classroom is in use divided by six if the space can only be used for that class.

Planning staff uses the “buy-down” capacity for secondary schools as it reflects the reality of how the school is operating.

Does this capacity information take into account the portables housed on the property in addition to the physical building?
Portables are teaching stations and therefore are part of the capacity calculation.

Based on the official capacity of Eckstein Middle School, is the current level of capacity in compliance with the findings?
The building’s original architect designed the school to hold 1,250 students in the central and north wings alone. Since then, classrooms have been created by converting space which the architect did not assign capacity to in the south wing (11 teaching stations). Also, 15 portables have been added to the campus. The overall result is a building with a lower density (students are more spread out) than originally designed. Based on the table above, with no changes to current programming and use, capacity is 1,269.

As far as restroom facilities, according to WAC 51-50-2900, there is more than enough capacity for more than 1,200 boys and 1,000 girls.
If students are to be added to the population for the 2013-2014 school year, how does this affect compliance?
The enrollment for Eckstein for 2013-14 is approximately 1,309, which is 10 more students than the October 1, 2012 enrollment count. The effects on fire systems and core facilities will be negligible. Below is Eckstein Middle School’s enrollment history for the past 15 years.
Is there documentation from the Fire Department that certifies the building as safe at current capacity levels?
The Seattle Fire Department conducts an annual inspection of Eckstein.
Is there documentation from the Fire Department that certifies that adding students to existing capacity levels will not affect safety?
The fire department does not certify the addition of students.
Whose responsibility is it to ultimately address and resolve the safety issues which students already face on a daily basis, including students being knocked down and unable to get up between classes, students not having access to a restroom because there are too many students in line to use too few facilities, and students left in portables without administrative supervision?
Principals are responsible for the safety and security of their students. They are supervised by their respective Executive Director of schools and supported by central office staff as appropriate.
Whose responsibility is it to provide crossing assistance at the major intersections near school (25th & 75th and 35th & 75th) to ensure that another pedestrian is not hit while legally crossing in the crosswalk with the light?
As shown below, the two intersections in question are near the school, but not directly adjacent to. This would fall under the jurisdiction of the Seattle Department of Transportation to mitigate any road issues and adjust the timing of the street lights, and the Seattle Police Department to enforce any and all laws. Those two agencies, along with SPS risk management, are represented on the City of Seattle’s School Traffic Safety Committee. Citizens can bring their concern for the safety of students walking or biking to school to their attention by emailing Brian Dougherty at Brian.Dougherty@seattle.gov.

End of Ms. McEvoy's reply.

Now this is interesting because frankly I thought Eckstein was already at 1300 students. 

I wish to negate none of these concerns and I applaud parents who seek answers based on health and safety concerns.  I absolutely understand the concerns over an emergency situation.


However, a little history.

Eckstein has been large for a long time.  It's been more than a decade.   And, in fact, when my oldest son entered Eckstein, the boundary circle around it had been tightened.  Many students to the south of it got drawn out of the boundary and their parents complained.   The then-superintendent unilaterally allowed 100 students in and sent their parents letters, apologizing for them not getting into the school in the first place.  (No, the other parents were NOT notified that their school had suddenly grown.)  The school was even more overcrowded and yet no parents complained then. 

Eckstein is also build on a rise and the pedestrian problem has always been there.

I will also point out that Pathfinder's entire middle school existed in portables, for years, when they were at Genesee Hill.  

I have faith in the leadership of Eckstein and the staff there.  And, I believe the district will, as promised, direct mitigation efforts their way for the next year until JAMS opens.  

The physical and emotional safety of every student in this district is a fundamental and basic right, not a privilege.

I'm not sure I know what "emotional safety" is but the district's primary role is physical safety.  I wish I could say that every single student in every single building was, in every minute of the school day, safe.  I don't think all of them are and I think a dire emergency would be a huge challenge at many schools.

But I believe the district takes this all very seriously and is working towards solutions.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

The capacity question was not answered. The district's capacity calculations seem to have nothing to do with the fire code, which will come into play for assembly spaces. Based on my layperson understanding of the code, the auditorium and lunchroom should have capacity limits posted.

From a long ago post about the Lowell overcrowding, you need a minimum of 7 SF/occupant for assembly spaces (no tables) and 15 SF/occupant during lunch (with tables). For a 60x60 space, the max. occupancy would be 514 (and 240 for lunch).

fyi

Melissa Westbrook said...

FYI, as long as they don't try to have any kind of full assembly (and again, when my son was there, they never did). They have multiple lunch hours so again, no violation.

The district is not stupid on these things but if parents really believe that the district is in violation, convince the fire department to come in.

Patrick said...

I'm glad to see the detail of how capacity is calculated.

Ms. McEvoy's letter says Eckstein's enrollment history for the past 15 years was below, is that something that you could post also?

Patrick said...

Although they quote an accident at NE 75th St. and 35th Ave, I am equally worried about NE 75th St. and 25th Ave. It's much busier, has faster traffic, and I do see middle school students taking Metro to bus stops there.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I had to delete that box, Patrick, (I was in a hurry). I'll try to reformat it.

Anonymous said...

Students frequently jaywalk to cross 75th at 28th ave NE, since there is no light between 30th and 25th. 28th leads down to Dahl Playfield where many students skate after school (in the city-designed skate spot meant to appeal to this age group). Plus down the same street is Wedgwood Pool, open May through September. The number of jaywalking kids is huge and every year I as a neighbor fear for their safety. 75th is steep there with poor sighting. There should be a light at 28th or at least a signaled crosswalk. We can't make the kids cross where we as adults think they should; in this case we have to make it safe to cross where they do anyway, and make it clear to drivers that people cross there. If the district or city officials are reading, please put a light / crosswalk there at 28th and 75th and save a child's life in all likelihood!

neighbor to Eckstein

northwesterner said...

I've been following the Eckstein situation on this blog for a few months.

I was a student at Whitman MS in the mid 90s. We had 12 portables then. The school was stuffed to the limits. The hallways during passing period were absolute gridlock and if you had to go a long distance you were lucky to make it in time. The stairs leading out the portables had a security guard posted to breakup fights from pushing and shoving.

Whitman has more portables now than it did then. I can't imagine these issues have gone away. Why don't we hear the Whitman parents crying out like the Eckstein parents are? Or is Eckstein that much worse?

biliruben said...

The building’s original architect designed the school to hold 1,250 students in the central and north wings alone. Since then, classrooms have been created by converting space which the architect did not assign capacity to in the south wing (11 teaching stations). Also, 15 portables have been added to the campus. The overall result is a building with a lower density (students are more spread out) than originally designed. Based on the table above, with no changes to current programming and use, capacity is 1,269.
As far as restroom facilities, according to WAC 51-50-2900, there is more than enough capacity for more than 1,200 boys and 1,000 girls.


Wow. I've never been in Eckstein. Does it really have room for another few hundred kids?

Anonymous said...

Something about the math doesn't add up.

The original two wings were designed for capacity of 1250.

They've since added 11 teaching stations to the other wing, and 15 portables.

And the capacity is now 1269?

They've added 26 teaching stations to a building they claim was originally designed for 1250 and they've only gotten a 19 student lift in capacity?

How does that make any sense?

--SPS Math is Suspect

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the class size agreements has changed and that is why even with more portables you don't increase the capacity that much.

HP

Anonymous said...

If these safety issues are a serious concern, and I were in charge, I'd be discussing shifted schedules. Does Eckstein need to go to shifted schedules, like these schools did when the baby-boomers were at school?

zb

Anonymous said...

If these safety issues are a serious concern, and I were in charge, I'd be discussing shifted schedules. Does Eckstein need to go to shifted schedules, like these schools did when the baby-boomers were at school?

zb

Meg said...

Eckstein enrollment, based on SPS p223 enrollment forms, October adjusted (you can also pull them from OSPI - there'll be some, but not a ton of variation):

2001-02: 1,273
2002-03: 1,272
2003-04: 1,262
2004-05: 1,247
2005-06: 1,236
2006-07: 1,250
2007-08: 1,213
2008-09: 1,193
2009-10: 1,148
2010-11: 1,213
2011-12: 1,278
2012-13: 1,298

Eckstein's numbers are pretty close to their numbers from 10 years ago. Does that make the overcrowding lovely? No. Does it mean that the overcrowding isn't threatening academics? No. But it does give some perspective. Eckstein is in a similar position to WMS - crazy over-crowded, but the overcrowding is not yet harming academics (no, I'm not saying the district should wait to do anything until it does).

In my opinion, the major worry with Eckstein is not its current overcrowding. It is the huge number of elementary school students in the region, and the fact that not only is SPS's share of the pie growing, but the pie itself is growing.

Anonymous said...
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Melissa Westbrook said...

ZB, if Eckstein parents want to go that route, they could ask the district. You're right; they did that in the '70s when Eckstein was over 2,000 students.

I seriously doubt that most parents/ students would want to do that for one year, though, but maybe the district could offer them that.

Thank you Meg for those clarifying numbers. I note that in the early 2000s the number when up - by a 100 - because many Laurelhurst and View Ridge parents complained when the boundaries tightened and their children didn't get in. The district let them in. So it seems some parents are okay with overcrowding when its their kids getting in but not so much if they perceive some students as not being "neighborhood" students.

wondering said...

I'm not discounting anybody's concerns, but it seems to me like these letters should have been written months ago. It's really late in the game. Why didn't FACMAC bring them up? Or did they?

Anonymous said...

I think they are being brought up today because the board just voted to add another feeder school next year with no guaranteed relief of capacity (more recruitment to option schools) which have families on edge of possible much higher numbers than predicted next year.

NE Mom of 3 (and was not aware of this until read on this blog so no inside info)

Meg said...

I'm on FACMAC. I missed the bulk of the meetings in the first half of 2012, so my take on FACMAC meetings has a hefty "as far as I know."

We didn't discuss pedestrian concerns because we were looking at capacity issues.

Pedestrian safety is only related to capacity in that both can have an effect on student safety. You could attempt to make the argument that the increased number of cars due to increased enrollment creates more risk to students, but in the case of Eckstein, enrollment numbers indicate that the risks now are no higher than they've been for the bulk of the last decade.

FACMAC did discuss capacity issues. Eckstein is one of many issues (and Eckstein parents made it clear that they felt capacity issues were affecting student safety).

We haven't met since December, so FACMAC hasn't said anything about what the board finally voted on.

Anonymous said...

I'll be honest and say that I suspect these issues are being raised in this way now in the hopes that "safety" will provide leverage to the goal: decreasing the number of students at Eckstein. I also think they are non-starters, because the school has considered the legal requirements of the safety issues (i.e. capacity in common areas, bathrooms).

But, if the sheer number of children is the issue (rather than issues having to do with where they are, how rooms are used, the effects on the academic program, all of which might be addressed by decreasing student populations), then shifted schedules should be one of the options considered. Are there parents who feel that such a schedule would mitigate their concerns (say, of their 6th graders being knocked over in the hallways)?

zb

Melissa Westbrook said...

I can also say that if anyone thinks that using safety as an issue is going to change the Board's decision, I think it's a non-starter. Because if they did that for Eckstein, I can think of several other schools with equally bad situations that could make the same claim.

Neither the district nor the Board would want to open that door.

Someone said...

I can also say that if anyone thinks that using safety as an issue is going to change the Board's decision, I think it's a non-starter.

That has to be one of the most depressing things you've ever written Melissa - seriously. I think it should be a hugely motivating factor for the Board - if a kid can't feel safe in school - how can they be expected to do well academically? Sigh.. I know... tilting at windmills, but wow - that is just so... wrong in soooo many ways. No wonder SPS is such a ball of dysfunctional goo.

Anonymous said...

When I was in junior high,all our teachers stood outside the classroom during passing period. When I've been at Eckstein, I have seen kids pushing each other and stopping in groups to hug their friends they just saw an hour ago. Perhaps if more teachers stood in the hall outside their classrooms it would deter behavior that leads to kids getting knocked to the floor.

Lake City Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Someone, safety is a difficult word to use here.

I believe the district is on good legal ground here with their version of "safety."

I think you could go to almost any middle or high school and ask kids, "Do you feel safe at school?" They will likely ask you if you mean physically or mentally. You would probably get a yes at almost every single school.

I think if you asked Eckstein kids if they feel safe versus uncomfortable, you might see a big swing of answers.

Lake City Parent, great suggestion. My husband had the same experience at his HUGE high school in Brooklyn (except that some teachers had bats in their hands).

Anonymous said...
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Grace | Fashion Plants said...

Peggy McEvoy is quoted as saying the Eckstein Capacity is 1269 and Meg's posted enrollment says that it's at 1298. Um, isn't *that* a violation? Or is that just the point ... that the school program capacity is still smaller than the physical building capacity, so they can just add portables etc. ?

Magua said...

Eckstein is far (really, really far) from the only school in the district over its estimated capacity. It's not a violation of anything.