Friday, February 15, 2013

Update on Eckstein Capacity Issues

I hope this to be the last word on capacity issues at Eckstein (but I suspect not as these parents are quite persistent). 

From the  DPD/FMO.  (I am not posting the entire thing but here's pertinent info.)

"During inspection, staff walked the halls and observed class sizes and hall traffic between classes.   No signs of overcrowding in halls or classrooms was observed with respect to allowing safe exiting in the event of emergency. "

"For purposes of safe exiting, the more doors you have off (classrooms and offices and hallways), the more people you can have in the building.  Based on current building code standards, the size of the rooms and number/proximity of exits, Eckstein Middle School could safely handle over 4,000 people for purposes of exiting."

"Portables with one door are limited to 49 occupants but portables with an additional exit can have more."

Re: pedestrians - "The topic of student safety is important and should be discussed with 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 e-mailing Brian Dougherty at brian.dougherty@seattle.gov.  We have notified Brian of your concerns so he is aware and able to respond. 

We understand your concerns with the future of the school and safety of students.   However, the school currently falls well below the building code maximum occupancy limited allowed for Eckstein Middle School. 

Concerns regarding reasonable school capacity during school hours and the safety of students should be directed to the Seattle Public Schools.

You'll note, they did NOT address whether Eckstein is crowded but the issues from what the City is supposed to look for.   Also, understand that Eckstein knows its building limits and does indeed, limit the numbers of people in the building at any given time for any given event.

 No one is saying Eckstein isn't crowded.  It's just not in violation of any health or safety codes either by the City or district.

Also, the district IS coordinating a mailing to Hamilton and Eckstein families to recruit new families to JA K-8.  The school is funding that mailing and all the supplies.  No district staff is working on this effort.  The district is also telling families about Option schools in their area via the Open Enrollment letter that was mailed on Wednesday.

Director Peaslee did reply to Ms. Sweet and said that she used her own  iPhone to make the JA K-8 video (no professional equipment) and was not paid.  She created the idea with the permission of JA's principal and assistant principal.  She did contact Wayne Barnett, the City/District Ethics officer and he confirmed that she had no conflict of interest in volunteering for this effort.  


mirmac1 said...

A (distastful) tempest in a teapot.

Anonymous said...

OMG! Her OWN I-Phone? How is that not a Conflict Of Interest! Let's commence impeachment proceedings immediately!

Hey-hey, ho-ho...

Mirmac: I prefer "sh!! storm."


Anonymous said...

We attended the Jane Addams tour with the middle school in mind. It seems like a nice community and the teachers seem pretty engaged. It seems like a good choice for those wanting a smaller community where your kid won't fall through the cracks. The principal made the point that she really knows her students and loves her job. The students leading the tours seemed proud of their school.

It all seemed positive, yet I think it would be a hard sell for those choosing between Eckstein and Hamilton. Academically, there is simple less to offer than the more comprehensive middle schools. Yes, a student might be walking to Hale for math, but I got the feeling it was an anomaly. They will be offering an honors level LA/SS block for middle schoolers next year, which is a plus. They talked about offering a second language next year - Chinese - which wouldn't align with languages offered at the high schools. I was a bit confused by that.

I was also surprised at some of the small class sizes. Some of the middle school classes had maybe 10-15 students. I suddenly understood some of the pleas by Eckstein parents to use the space as a middle school ASAP.

The unknowns of future plans for JAMS would make me hesitant to choose the program. I wish Jane Addams the best of luck, but we are unlikely to consider it.

a NE parent

mirmac1 said...

No WSDWG, that happened on the Carnival Cruise ship...

Jan said...

Thanks, Melissa, for following up on Ms. Sweet's accusations. It was indeed an unseemly tempest in a teapot. I don't deny that there are many reasons why many in the north end may have strong feelings about what the District should and should not do over the next few years in terms of overcrowding. But the silly brouhaha over Director Peaslee's all too admirable efforts to move the ball forward seemed to me to have the same "flavor" of some of the stupid stuff that is currently happening in national politics (where folks don't discuss their real problems and issues -- they just craft whatever nasty soundbite they can think up on any available issue -- and let fly.

Patrick said...

NE Parent, JA students walking to Hale for math is not at all unusual. There have been students doing that every year JA has been open. This year, there's an entire class of 6th graders taking 7th grade math, so in a couple of years expect an entire class of 8th graders taking 9th grade math (whether it's at Hale or whatever location JA K-8 is in by then).

There are fewer electives available because it's a smaller middle school, but as my child is now in the second semester of middle school I'm realizing how few chances there are to take electives anyway. There's two elective spots in her schedule each semester. If the student is taking PE, that's one. If the student is taking foreign language (in 7th and 8th grades), that's the other. If the student waives PE, there's several music options or drama or environmental science. Probably more choices than one student would have a chance to sample in six semesters.

Middle school is a hard adjustment for kids and I think the small school where the principal and teachers know all the kids is a big help.

Benjamin Leis said...

I'd add on that the MS at JA just started to really ramp up in enrollment last year with an influx of sixth graders.

Because of the relative newness of the school, there is a temporary set of smaller cohorts that is cycling through.

There are based on oct counts 83 6th graders, 54 7th graders and 56 8th graders and the lower grades are a year or so away from bubbling up at the 80 count.

I expect there will be a sixth grade class of at least equivalent size 80+ again next year and those smaller classes are not going to last much longer.


Anonymous said...

a NE parent

Honestly, if you think your student would do better in a small middle school, do consider JAs, they seem to actually have a lot to offer. And in large middle schools it is tough to get elective with overcrowding. My student had to repeat one elective due to space. The teacher thankfully did mixed it up so it wasn't a complete repeat.

HIMS parent

Anonymous said...

I’m the parent of a current 5th grader in the NW who could apply in open enrollement to JA K-8, go to Hamilton APP, or go to spectrum at our attendance area school (Whitman). I’m weighing many things (academics, fit for my kid, social/emotional, size, crowdedness, etc.), but this post is about stability for my upcoming middle schooler. I’m interested in input about my current thinking about stability. JA K-8: will be co-housed after next year and then will move buildings at some point. Correct? However, JA K-8 has it’s own staff and students so even if it moves buildings, the program, staff and students will mostly go with it. Correct? Not to downplay the disruption of a move from a great building, but to my thinking that may not be as bad as the possible instability for APP at Hamilton which could be (will be?) moved because Hamilton is crowded. APP at the middle school level is language arts (LA) and social studies (SS), so that means students in APP would have their LA/SS teachers move, but the district would have to find additional teachers for everything else, so math teachers and all else would change. Also, it’s possible that the students in APP could be split into different locations. Correct? Attendance area comprehensive middle school: predictably full, but otherwise pretty stable (Whitman). Again, I know that there are many considerations for MS – and definitions of stability – but I’m trying to figure out the various changes in each of these scenarios. Thanks for your input.
NW Mama of a 5th grader

Melissa Westbrook said...

NW Mama, I believe you are correct in your assessments. If JA K-8 moves, I'm sure most of its staff and students will move with it (but I'm sure to new parents two moves might be off-putting).

APP is actually more unstable and boy would it be good if someone, anyone in the district gave a damn about Advance Learning (APP AND Spectrum AND ALOs). Apparently not.

I would advise you to visit each school - with your student. Look at how the kids interact, maybe stay for lunch. What is offered, what isn't offered and how much do you believe that will really matter. Fit is key at that age and frankly, I'd take a good social fit over more academics (if the basic academics were good anyway).

To the larger issue about K-8s, I say this over and over. You will never have a K-8 compare to a comprehensive and vice versa. They are not meant to be equal, just equitable. K-8s are not meant to have a huge number of offerings and, in exchange, you (your student) gets a smaller school that is likely to be a closer community.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that APP teachers would be automatically moved if the program moves. Aren't they Hamilton teachers first? Some of the current APP teachers were Hamilton teachers that were assigned to APP classes when APP split and moved to Hamilton.

No matter the choice, there is most likely going to be some disruption for this cohort of 5th graders - whether they choose Eckstein, JAK8, or Hamilton APP. If you want Garfield as a pathway for your child, they need to be enrolled in APP as 8th graders. If that is not a priority, and you think your child will attend either Ballard or Roosevelt, or even APP/IBX at Ingraham, then your child does not need to be enrolled in APP to follow those pathways.

Of course the high school options are subject to change as the capacity crunch hits high school. It's anyone's guess how boundaries and assignment rules will change in the next three years.

APP in middle school is not just LA/SS (that's Spectrum). APP in middle school also includes accelerated science. 7th grade APP takes Physical Science and 8th grade APP takes high school Biology. If your child is accelerated in math, it's also easier to access higher level math when there's a cohort working at that level. It sounds as though JAK8 is offering Spectrum level math, but APP level math (Algebra 1 in 7th grade) would quire walking to Hale. What happens when the program moves? With APP, at least you know the same level classes should be offered even with a potential move.

-weighing the choices

Patrick said...

NW Mama of a 5th grader -- Yes, the current plan is for Jane Addams K-8 and the new Jane Addams Middle School to be co-housed starting in 2014/15. In 2017/18 the new building for JA K-8 should be ready, planned for the Pinehurst site. Depending on how full JA MS gets and other factors, JA K-8 might be temporarily moved elsewhere. Moves of JA K-8 would be for the whole program: most teachers, principal, and students.

Spruiter said...

I think stability is a reasonable question for everyone right now, and the problem is that with two new middle schools starting soon, and new service areas yet to be defined, it is very hard to know what is going to happen. I think it is likely that JA K-8 will be co-housed with the new middle school for at least one year, which would give that school a critical mass of middle schoolers to have a reasonable selection of classes to start. If the new JAMS gets too big for both schools to fit after a year (and if there is any interim space available), I assume that any middle schooler in the K-8 program who wanted to stay to be part of JAMS would have the option to do so. So I think those families will be able to choose between program stability, or building stability.

For families looking at middle school who also have younger siblings and aren't sure which service area they will be drawn into, JA K-8 is a stable choice if you want to be able to send your kids to the same middle school since sibling is the first tie-breaker for option schools.

If JA K-8 and JAMS are able to co-house for 2 years, it will be very crowded, but only for one year. Since there are not going to be enough seats until new buildings come online in 2016, we will all need to be flexible and make the best of it.

There has been much less talk of how Wilson Pacific will be started, but I think it is reasonable to assume that they will attempt similar models for both schools. So if JAMS starts with a roll-up, WILPAC probably will too. If JAMS starts with a geo-split that pulls currently enrolled kids from Eckstein, I would expect to see the same for WILPAC. Hopefully this planning (and public communication around it) will start sooner rather than later...

And to respond to the questions about middle school math at JA K-8: Algebra (9th grade math) is taught in-house. Geometry (10th grade math) is available at Hale. The number of kids who have gone over to Hale for Geometry is small, but will likely grow a bit as our larger cohorts of advanced learners start rising up.

kellie said...

Stability around middle school is a very good question for ALL families with a rising 5th grader at the moment and one that simply does not have any good answers.

There are THREE new middle school planned to be implemented over the next few years. (JAMS, Wilson Pacific and Meany). Moreover, the boundaries and feeder patterns are going to be re-drawn for the 2014 school year.

There is a serious possibility that many now rising 5th graders may start middle school at one building or one program and end middle school at another either building or program, including interim buildings. The district is moving from 9 middle schools to 12 middle schools. That is a huge magnitude of change.

The questions about geo-splits, roll ups, interim housing are all open questions that will most likely be addressed during the boundary discussions for 2014. Per the budgeting process, staff follows students and the complex questions regarding which staff move during this process will be influenced by many things.

I have a current 5th grader so I think about this quite a bit. IMHO, middle school stability is simply going to be elusive for a few years. As such, I think every family simply needs to pick something that seems to work for 6th grade. As such, JA seems to be a reasonable choice as there is already a middle school program in that building.

For families that live close to the new Wilson Pacific area, may have the most challenging of decisions as the official plan is for Wilson Pacific to start from scratch in interim housing at either Lincoln or John Marshall. I think that cold start will be less predictable than Jane Addams.

Many folks may remember that when the NSAP was first discussed there was a "plan" to move K-2 students from their choice school to their new geo zone school and only permit grades 3-5 to remain grandfathered at their school. The advice at the time for families was that they were picking a Kindergarten, not a school as there was a strong chance, they could be moved. Shockingly, there was a big dip in enrollment that year.

NNW said...

APP used to be soley housed at Lowell Elementary School and at Washington Middle School. When the district split the program, half of the teachers at each school went to the new APP schools. So half of the APP teachers moved to Thurgood Marshall Elem. and Hamilton Middle School, and half stayed behind at those schools. At the time, it seemed like it was a pretty thoughtful and even split of teachers for each site.

Yes, they are Hamilton teachers but they are APP specific teachers. Many of the newly hired teachers were hired specifically to teach APP because they had training/experience teaching advanced learners. Some teachers who were at Hamilton before APP were made to switch over to teach APP, but not many. (And it seems that those are the teachers that people tend to complain about these days.) If APP is split from Hamilton, it is a good bet that half of the APP teachers will follow the APP students. Those teachers won't be staying at Hamilton.

When the district decided to send APP students to Ingraham's IB program, there was initial concern that there wouldn't be a critical mass of APP students to make it a viable program. So the district decided to allow anyone to test into APP at Ingraham for 9th grade. Before that, you had to be enrolled in APP by the start of
8th grade in order to access the APP high school pathway. Now that Ingraham is pretty full and getting more full each year, I'm sure testing into APP IBX for 9th grade will end in the next year or two. Ingraham just won't be able to accomodate the growing number of currently enrolled APP middle schoolers and all of those NNW students who live north of 85th St who are now are assigned to Ingraham (formerly assigned to Ballard HS). The information packet that Ingraham is passing out this year during tours even states that APP IBX is "subject to capacity constraints." So you have to imagine the day is coming quickly when the district will eliminate the testing into APP IBX for 9th grade will disappear. They have to have room to accomodate APP students who have been enrolled in the program for middle school.

I think all of us who have elementary school age students can certainly expect some degree of change no matter where we enroll for middle school. All of the middle schools will have students drawn in or drawn out. Some programs will be moved and/split. Some of us will be forced to enroll in brand new start up schools with nothing established. I'd say we're all in for some big uncetainty, no matter where our students are. I'm just planning to dig in as a volunteer and do my part to make it a solid school for my kid and the rest of the kids at the school.

Maureen said...

A couple of things regarding MS stability. If Hamilton goes from 1000 to 800 when Wilson Pacific MS opens (or if APP is spun off in some other way) then they will lose about 7 teachers across all subject areas. The ones who leave will either be the ones who choose to go to the new school or the ones with the lowest seniority. They won't necessarily be teachers who have taught APP classes (math, LA whatever).

It's not clear to me what staff stability means in MS in any case. Kids would have different 8th grade teachers than 7th grade teachers anyway. Staff stability across grades is more common in K-8 MS grades. Because they are small, a student may have the same LA teacher (for example) for 7th and 8th grade.

Anonymous said...

how many billions of people do not have access to clean water, never mind clean water in their homes 24*7?

how many millions and millions in America have no real income security with their crappy job - which means their housing security is a joke, as is their health care access, as is their retirement ...?

if your kid is living in your basement in 20 years, chomping down xanex because s/he got caught up in the whirlwind of adult incompetence over planning 6th and 7th grade schooling -


Anonymous said...

Is it still expected that the new TC elementary will roll up at Lincoln starting 2014?

K in 2014

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I think all of us who have elementary school age students can certainly expect some degree of change no matter where we enroll for middle school. All of the middle schools will have students drawn in or drawn out. Some programs will be moved and/split. Some of us will be forced to enroll in brand new start up schools with nothing established. I'd say we're all in for some big uncetainty, no matter where our students are. I'm just planning to dig in as a volunteer and do my part to make it a solid school for my kid and the rest of the kids at the school."

Bravo! Thank you for saying out loud what all parents need to understand. We're in a time of change but there is nothing else to do but forge on. I love the last line - be a volunteer and do your part to make a solid school for all the kids at your school, including yours.

Chris S. said...

From a student's point of view, the three most important things about middle school are friends, friends, and friends. Well, most students. Anyway, I suspect program and facility changes can be handled by most middle-schoolers as long as there is some cohort stability. I recently talked to a HS APP mom whose kid went to 3 schools in 3 years for middle school, and kid and mom both thought it worked out well.

Anyway, trust in your kid's resilience (which I know can be hard!) Also, if appropriate given your 5th grader's maturity level, involve them in the decision. At least, make sure you discuss the benefits and risks of the various paths - and there will be both for every option.

Mr. Bubble said...

One correction: the new E-STEM K-8 building for the school currently known as JA K-8 is now planned to be ready for the 2016-17 school year, not 2017-18.
And I think it's very unlikely that JA K-8 will be moved to an interim site in the meantime. The Board majority coalition that voted to begin JAMS in 2014 instead of this year is very focused on the disadvantaged and at-risk populations in Lake City and Olympic Hills and; I can't imagine them condoning a move of 20+ K-5 classrooms from the NNE to Greenlake, especially with growing elementary population and virtually no room for more capacity at the NNE.

NW Mama,
So as you weigh your middle school options for your 5th Grader (APP vs. Whitman vs, JA K-8) next year, you can thus assume that JA K-8 will not only be stable in terms of its principal and teachers, but will also very likely be in the same building for the three years your child is in middle school.
Also as suggested above, you will find JA K-8 to be more diverse economically, ethnically, and culturally than Whitman and far more so than APP at Hamilton. Whether that's a plus or minus for you I can't say, but I thought it worth mentioning.

Director Education said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

Update capacity issues is very important for a person.
Thanks a lot....
fostering children

Anonymous said...

One thing to consider about Spectrum is that unlike APP, your child isn't guaranteed a spot just because they are Spectrum-eligible. I have a good friend whose son was in Spectrum 1st - 5th grade; Whitman was his middle school and they selected Spectrum - but didn't get in because there weren't enough spots for all of the Spectrum-eligible kids.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Mirmac: To me cruise ships represent one of the greatest human obscenities of all time. Thus, I refuse to read about them, as to do so would require me to acknowledge that they exist.

They are massively polluting, corrupt Wall-E worlds on water.


mirmac1 said...


But it was THE story on evening news channel in the nation! : 0

"This is your captain speaking, please do NOT flush!"

North Seattle Mom said...

I want to echo Jane's caution about Spectrum being space-eligible, especially since the huge number of us who showed up at Whitman's open house caught the staff by surprise. Last year the auditorium was only 2/3 full by comparison according to one mom I talked with, and I saw lots of current Spectrum (and APP) families I knew from several schools there.

Anonymous said...

Hello all,

Eastside parent here, possible will
move back to Seattle.

I am trying to understand the reasons for overcrowding.
My understanding so far:

1. Area-address based placement
2. Economic reasons by former
private school parents
3. Higher density housing (townhomes, apartments, etc) with kids
4. Gifted programs and IB
5. More people moving to Seattle
6. district not planning well and
not understanding demographics
7. Lots of kids being born
prior to the bust.

Is there some official or unofficial stats for the overcrowding? Be calm, please. :)

Anonymous said...

Ah. What's the question?

1. Yes. Everyone gets a guaranteed spot at their "neighborhood" school, just like they do everywhere else on the planet. Sometimes the boundaries might seem off.
2. There's no "economic" reasons of "private school parents". Private schools are running at capacity, same as always. None have folded.
3. ???? There's population growth in SPS. District closed a bunch of schools a few years back - and that is a contributing factor.
4. IB programs are at Ingraham, Sealth, and (new) Ranier Beach. Gifted programs are at Garfield and Ingraham. (assuming you are looking at HS)
5 - 7. Yes.

Main point. District no longer uses school assignment as a capacity tool.


Anonymous said...

I thought the new student assignment plan guaranteed Spectrum placement for those that applied on time. This was not true under the old assignment plan. Reading the 2012-13 Transition Plan, however, the wording is unclear. It guarantees middle school Spectrum placement for 5th graders already in Spectum, but it's less clear for those newly applying for middle school:

Students who apply for Spectrum at their attendance area middle school by September 30 will be assigned there. Assignment to Spectrum at another attendance area school or K8 will be based on space available and tiebreakers.

Does "there" mean Spectrum at their attendance area middle school, as opposed to simply their attendance area middle school?

SPS parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, there has never been any guarantees of being in a Spectrum class. You are eligible, for sure, but if there are too many spots, they draw for spaces and you might not get one.

"Is there some official or unofficial stats for the overcrowding?"

I'm not sure what you are looking for. Of course there are hard numbers of which schools are overcrowded (or will be).

dw said...

There never used to be any guaranteed seats for Spectrum in the past, however, there were supposed to be changes this year.

I don't know how things actually rolled out at the individual buildings, but the AL web site seems to imply that some kind of policy changes with regard to guaranteed seats did happen.