BEX Changes - Thornton Creek to Move Into New Building On-Site

I had understood that the district was reviewing the plan for Thornton Creek.  What I believed I had heard was that it did not appear to the community that the district had considered all options.  (I also believe there were real differences of opinion within the community about what would be the best plan.)

The district DID do analysis and here it is. 

There is a comparison of two projects - the one at Cedar Park and the one at Thornton Creek.

The analysis for Cedar Park was versus using Lake City property (an old school building that has been coverted into offices).  They still believe Cedar Park is the better option (cheaper) but looking at the breakdown, CP would have to have 8(!) portables to be viable.  I am also confused at the high price to redo Lake City as it is a lovely building that just needs some renovation (although it needs a gym)  and yet is is double the cost of updating CP.  And Lake City would have double the classrooms. 

The analysis for TC had three ideas. 

One was to put additions onto Bryant, View Ridge and Wedgwood.  All are popular schools and all are full. 

Second was an idea for a new elementary on the TC site PLUS an addition at Wedgwood.

Third was an idea for a new building for TC but adding enough space for another 150 students (making the population about 650). 

The district has recommended to the Board that they continue the work at TC and move TC into the new building when it is finished.  The building would be finished in 2016.

 It is unclear to me if they would move TC off-site and demolish their building OR build new while TC continues on in its old building and then demolish the old one.


Eric B said…
Maybe they would have to buy out leases if they did the Lake City building? That could up the cost. I don't actually know anything, just something that's possible.
Eric, yes they would but that was not even included in the costs.
Anonymous said…
At the meeting Pegi said they would keep TC in the old building, move them to the new building when done, and then decide what to do with the old building, since they aren't 100% that it should be demolished. Plus, since this wasn't the actual design or construction, they'll be back to the Board again for those steps, and hopefully more definitive answers.

Home Viewer
kellie said…
Here is the text of the selected option.

Option 3: Replace 1961 Decatur building, 1940s annex buildings and five portables at Thornton Creek with new 650 seat elementary school and recreation/athletic fields. Transfer current Thornton Creek program/community to the new facility, and grow program to fill the school capacity.

Total program budget for this option is $600K more than the current program budget for the new Northeast school ($1.5M demolition cost - $900K budgeted for field at View Ridge). Still provides a K-5 seat surplus of 274 seats in Northeast Seattle in 2021-22.

The text is clear about the sequence (which interesting is nearly the same plan that had been proposed during BEX III).

Essentially this plan acknowledges that two elementary schools on one lot was never a viable option. In essence to run either school, you need to coordinate bell times, playground usage, bus arrivals and departures, etc, etc, etc. By the time you achieve that level of coordination, you are in effect one school.

However, it is not credible that the original building will be removed because of some mythical 274 seat surplus. Every single building in the NE is full or beyond-full.
kellie said…
The Cedar Park vs Lake City analysis is also very confusing. At a minimum, it is not an apples to apples comparison.

They are comparing Cedar Park with Maximum portable placement to Lake City with Zero portables.

Cedar Park is landmarked and I am not confident that they will be able to place 8 portables within the landmarked designation. However, even if the landmarked designation is managed, that creates a crazy portable to homeroom ratio. 11 homerooms to 8 portables. That has to over-tax the core facilities, which are noted as "below standard."

However Lake City has 20 homerooms as well as room for portables. Only the front of the Lake City building is landmarked so it should be possible to either build an addition or place portables to the back of the building.
Patrick said…
What's left of Lake City's common facilities -- Cafeteria, gym, large bathrooms? Would they have to be rebuilt?
Anonymous said…
They will never demolish the old TC. This a bait-and-switch. TC didn't like being in shadow of new school, didn't like having fields consumed. So the district instead is promising them the shiny new pony to mollify. Neat trick. Still the same plan: 2 schools on one plot. Building more capacity in the south NE while the north NE remains underserviced. We will all be stuck with the bill for the school buses that will have to ferry the kids to the schools because there will be 5 schools within 1 mile of each other. Smart!!

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss...

I think our District could teach the Prince of Machiavelli a thing or two.

-cynical plan
Anonymous said…
i think this plan is still not thought through well enough and has HUGE ramifications on the neighborhood. what happens when all of the neighborhood kids are in high school with overcrowded roosevelt/hale, and there aren't enough young kids to fill the new school? we've been through this before.. Decatur was a traditional ES, Addams a JH, in addition to Sand Point, Bryant, VR, Wedgwood, Eckstein, etc.. enrollment went down and schools was closed. sand point, decautur, and aadams should have been re-opened as traditional K-5s and MS 4 years ago to help with capacity then.. so now the alt programs @thornton creek and aadams are moved into the backyard (the whole 2 schools on 1 site thing is ridiculous!), seats will be created that will be used for a few years until the capacity shrinks again.

why is there no ebb/flow planning? it seems to be such a no duh in neighborhood school planning. seattle is such a provincial city, so many of us have parents, grandparents, etc that went to these schools, and have experienced school closures in the past. does no one on the school board get this cyclical nature of capacity planning???

Kellie, I sure wish you would put on your turban and look into your crystal ball and tell use what you think of Diane's comments.

For the record, I think Diane is mostly right (and Director Carr has expressed this concern about moving too fast to create seats that might not be needed in several years).
Anonymous said…
To piggyback on to diane's comment, couldn't Wilson Pacific be planned with that very conversion need in mind? It's a big space and more centralized for the North end.
Anonymous said…
The post above, uh sorry to sign off with a fake name.

kellie said…
@ Mel,

It is extremely unlikely that we are over-building. I say extremely unlikely because there is always the possibility that things change. For example, if Seattle does indeed need to move to split schedules, we may wind up with a "self-correcting" problem.

However, outside of a major unpredicted change, like split schedules or another assignment plan change, it is improbable that any of the current projects will result in overbuilding. IMHO, we are significantly under-building. The challenge at hand for BEX is that additional capacity added by BEX is LESS THAN the current over-crowding. There is no NEW capacity for any new growth.

There are three pressures driving upward enrollment. For there to be an "ebb" all three would need to diminish.

1) We are in the natural baby boom echo. This is a cycle of increased demand for schools. At least another 10 years, probably 20.

2) Seattle is planning for substantial increased density. All of that density creates additional demand for schools. Again, at least another 10 years.

3) The choice assignment system pushed students out. This is because the last seat in a choice system is always not desirable. Therefore, the geographic assignment plan means that Seattle has at least six years of absorbing the enrollment that was "deflected" under the choice system.

Between these three drivers of enrollment, it is nearly impossible to "over-build." That is before you take into consideration any relief for the already existing over-crowding.

I think this current vote was terrible. But not because of over-building. Because it was too small. Cedar Park is tiny; minuscule is probably a better word. The building itself is only 11 homerooms. The fact that Cedar Park is being pushed into service should be a warning sign of how bad the capacity issue has gotten.
John said…
But if seats are needed now, and then possibly not needed in several years, what are you recommending? What would good ebb/flow planning look like in the real world of imperfect information and inadequate funding? The current situation is a mess, but what's the alternative?

Obviously I have more questions than answers.
John said…
My last post was directed to Melissa and Diane, mostly. Kellie's excellent post actually provides some good answers.

All we need is cash.
kellie said…
The traditional answer to John's question is Portables! Portables are the traditional response to capacity that you need NOW but might not need later.

From an economic point of view, portables tend to cost about 10% of the cost of long term permanent capacity. So when you know that you need seats, and you either need them fast or you don't know if you are going to need them long term, you get a few portables.

The issue is that Seattle has placed over 30 portables a year for 4 years now. That is not a few portables. That is the equivalent of one high school worth of capacity per year. Portables are a short term strategy, because eventually you over-whelm you core facilities and you ... just run out of places to put them.

That is the issue we are hitting, the end of the road for places that we can put portables. At the Wednesday board meeting, someone from Hale was testifying about the planned placement for Nathan Hale portables to be put at Jane Addams next year.

I do not know a clearer sign of how severe the lack of seats can be when you are considering putting portables for one school at the adjacent school. Except maybe building two schools on the same property. Oh wait ...
kellie said…
@ scooter,

Wilson Pacific was indeed planned with that flex in mind. It is a large campus and by placing two different types of schools at different parts of the campus, you give yourself a lot of flexibility to expand or contract either program independently.

However, there is now a plan to "merge" the buildings so that they can share core facilities (ala Denny/Sealth) and build essentially a HUGE K8. IMHO, that plan is a disaster.

You get flexibility with schools on opposite sides of the campus. You lose all the flexibility when they are combined.
Kellie, where did you hear about this "merge" plan for W-P? I'm with you, no, no, no. (I think this might be coming from Smith-Blum - she likes K-8s.) But building two schools allows maximum flexibility.

John, well you hit the nail on the head. We are in a sticky wicket and we have to move forward. Kellie is right - it's go time.

BUT what also needs to happen is an acknowledgment of this "kick the can down the road" and "I'm blind, I'm blind" attitude at the district. They cannot continue to look down the road a couple of years or refuse to listen to reasoned, data-driven arguments (like Kellie was doing Monday night to the Super - it was funny to watch).

Forget history and you'll rue the day and our district does this over and over.
kellie said…
They have been talking about combing the projects at the BEX oversight committee. It is reasonable to have that conversation as there are some up front cost savings from less construction.

However, the Denny Sealth co-location was also pushed because of those up front cost savings and now just a few years later, those savings are now dwarfed by the added costs of running two schools on one property.

Just one of those costs is the unbalanced feeder patters in West Seattle so that two pairs of schools act as 6-12s.

Anonymous said…
At Wednesday's School Board meeting, Director Smith-Blum spoke about the opportunity to create a "community campus" at Wilson-Pacific. Does this translate into more of a K-8 approach, with a shared gym, cafeteria, etc...rather than separate elementary and middle schools?

A "K-8" campus, with 650 elementary kids and 1000 middle schoolers? That is mind-boggling.

-North End Mom

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