West Seattle K-5 STEM Debate Goes On

Over at the West Seattle Blog, they have a story about the K-5 STEM location debate, complete with links to two "viable" proposals.  More good reading on this subject.


mirmac1 said…
There you go. Give STEM Boren, then they can go charter and SPS will be up a creek.
StringCheese said…
No one at STEM has any intention of going charter. My apologies if your comment was meant as a joke. We're all in hyper-serious-go mode on the siting situation.
mirmac1 said…
No apology necessary. Likewise I mean nothing personal by my remark. This occurred to me as I read the WS Blog posting. This kind of scenario should be considered a possibility, in light of 1240's razor-thin passage.
StringCheese, you need to understand - ANY school could be converted AND because it can be by teacher vote, you may not see it coming.

I wonder if parents know how teachers at their school really feel? Is it possible that half (plus one) would vote to go charter? I think it entirely possible.

Parents might not do it but 1240 was written to take it entirely out of your hands.

What webinar was I listening to this week at Ed Week? Oh yeah, the one where charters were complaining about how hard it is to get facilities with the proper areas like real public school buildings.
Anonymous said…
I just read the STEM @ Boren post and comments on the WS blog.

I personally think that a STEM, or even better, a STEAM curriculum (with strong Art and Music, as well) should be the foundation of ALL comprehensive middle and high school curriculum, since ALL students should have the opportunity to develop a strong Math and Science background.

It doesn't make sense to me that a STEM school would need its own grade 6-8 pathway. STEM classes should be offered at all comprehensive middle schools.

It is frankly annoying to me that SPS now has a neighborhood assignment plan, but instead of making a concerted effort to strengthen ALL elementary ALO programs and enhance Math and Science offerings at ALL middle and high schools, SPS, instead, creates special boutique schools with Spectrum, STEM, etc... as avenues for families to opt out of their neighborhood school.

The Boren STEM discussion feels like a bit like deja vu, for me (I live in NE Seattle), in that STEM families are suggesting that SPS could help solve West Seattle's immediate elementary and middle school capacity crunch by creating an option K-8 program with a pretty-much traditional curriculum, but with a STEM focus.

What happens if, in a few years, the middle school capacity of the STEM K-8 at Boren is not enough? What happens if the Boren building is needed to house a comprehensive/assignment middle school or high school?

Will the STEM option program then be moved, intact, as a K-8 to a new site, with a new or remodeled building tailored to their program?

I don't know how bad the impending middle school capacity issue is in West Seattle, but if it is anything like what we have experienced in NE Seattle, I certainly hope that SPS Staff and the Board think long and hard about potential capacity issues if they are considering the placement of a STEM K-8 at Boren.

-been there...
Charlie Mas said…
@ been there

What makes STEM different is not a set of classes as you suggest, but project-based learning. Don't worry. All middle and high schools offer math classes and science classes.

Despite your belief to the contrary, the District is trying to strengthen all schools.

You are mistaken in much of your understanding of the situation. The option K-8 is only part of the solution to West Seattle's immediate elementary and middle school capacity crunch. Please do recall that the District is also rebuilding Genessee Hill and Arbor Heights and re-opening Fairmount Park.

been there asks "What happens if, in a few years, the middle school capacity of the STEM K-8 at Boren is not enough?"

There is no reason to be concerned about that. There is no enrollment projection that suggests any such thing.

"What happens if the Boren building is needed to house a comprehensive/assignment middle school or high school?"

Again, this is a false concern. There is no reason to worry about any such thing.

"Will the STEM option program then be moved, intact, as a K-8 to a new site, with a new or remodeled building tailored to their program?"

That's actually the District's plan - to move the program to Schmitz Park - an unsuitable site which would have to be completely renovated (eventually) to suit the program.

"I don't know how bad the impending middle school capacity issue is in West Seattle,"

No. Clearly you don't. So stop the absurd fear-mongering.
Anonymous said…

I'm aware that the District is adding more elementary seats to West Seattle (expanding Arbor Hts, opening Fairmount Park, and opening Genessee Hill to accommodate the now-overflowing Schmitz Park Elem).

Correct me if I'm wrong, and I'm sure you will, but I don't think these new elementary seats would be coming on line in West Seattle if they weren't expected to fill, and these would be kids on the elementary to comprehensive middle school track, so, presumably, comprehensive middle school space would be needed for them.

Are you saying there is enough building capacity at comprehensive middle schools in West Seattle to absorb this enrollment increase? If so, that's fantastic!

I think project-based learning is great, and it serves students well if they choose science-related or other technical careers. If SPS is on a mission to improve the quality of their schools, then project-based learning would be a wonderful thing to incorporate into the curriculum.

-been there

Anonymous said…
@ been there,

Wikipedia has some good information on project based learning. While K-5 STEM's program is great for kids interested in science and technology, not all project based learning programs have a STEM focus. PBL is a teaching/learning method - not a curricular focus.

On to capacity issues. SPS expects between 1,000 and 1,200 middle school students in the Madison assignment area in the 2022-23 school year and between 1,250 and 1,450 in Denny's assignment area. (This is as far as their projections go.)

Current capacity is:
1,000 at Madison
150 at Pathfinder
1,200 at Denny
2,350 total seats

At most we need 2,650 seats - 300 seats at K-8 STEM could solve the problem.
We lose 5-10% of the Madison-area kids every year between 5th and 6th grades. I suppose their estimates could be too low if the district does something to make Madison more attractive to families in the area.

The enrollment data area of the district website is full of information.

Anonymous said…
Thanks for the info, Lynn.

I thought I heard that West Seattle might be getting its own APP pathway? If so, would it go into either Madison or Denny (APP is currently housed in comprehensive middle schools)?

If West Seattle gets an APP pathway, then it seems entirely possible enrollment at whatever middle school it is put into will increase fairly dramatically (at least that is what happened when middle school APP was put into Hamilton...APP became amazingly popular). It seems possible that the double whammy of more kids plus middle school APP could put a lot of strain on both Denny and Madison. How much room is there for expansion (portables?) at Denny and Madison, just in case?

-been there
Anonymous said…
been there,

If it's an APP option program, it would not have to be at a comprehensive middle school.

Those population projections include APP students living in West Seattle. If they choose to open an new attendance area APP site in West Seattle, it would not affect total numbers for West Seattle schools. (Unless it brought West Seattle kids out of private schools.) If located at a comprehensive middle school - only Madison makes sense as there are more than 200 empty seats there.

Heidi A said…
We do know what the teachers at K5 STEM think - no charter, but perhaps designation as a creative approach school. They are not doing standard curriculum with a STEM focus. Each of our teachers were hired for their STEM and project based learning background. They are committed to creativity and our diverse PUBLIC school. many went to additional PBL in STEM training this summer. Our teachers have no interest in being taken over by a private company's agenda.
Anonymous said…
For readers not familiar with WS, the new elementary schools don’t mean a correspondingly net gain in elementary kids. We'd had growth but not as much as you might think. In part, the new seats are just replacing the seats in schools that were recently closed (Fairmount Park, Genesee Hill). In addition, many of the seats in the new buildings are not new capacity; they are replacing portables with real buildings. No HS or MS was closed here recently. Madison MS and West Seattle HS have been under-enrolled for some time. Boren has not been used as a permanent West Seattle Middle school since the 1980’s. The Boren building has a great design for housing two schools in one: 2 gyms, separate wings, huge cafeteria, good traffic flow off a major arterial, lots of parking, athletic fields, etc.
Currently students leave WS at middle school for private or other public MS to seek advanced learning that has not been offered here. As Madison continues to strengthen their relatively new Spectrum program and there is a WS MS APP campus we may see an increase in WS MS enrollment.
But….what about Fairmount Park?!? Are we really going to put K students there by assignment to be without a comprehensive program for years, a weak PTA, and nothing comparable to what other established K-5 programs have due to the weighted staffing standards? This will not lead to a successful new school.
STEM had many struggles getting the resources they needed in their first year, and this was with full K-5 program, very involved parents and PTSA, and families who chose to take on the challenges of starting a school for the benefits the STEM program offered. When FP closed is was unsuccessful, avoided by neighborhood families, and had no PTA. We need a good plan for Fairmount Park if we wish to learn from this recent history. -Was There

Anonymous said…
To answer another concern: YES, strong math and science classes should be offered at every middle school, but a STEM school can offer more electives, extracurricular activities, and more teams (think engineering, advanced programming, elite robotics) than a standard middle school does. STEM shouldn’t offer decreased arts or humanities, but those offerings could be taught through a STEM-lens at least part of the time. For example, STEM could use more digital art media or explore the chemistry of pottery and photography processes while doing those arts, etc. The STEM school can also offer more exposure to STEM careers than the norm with field trips, guest speakers, and partnerships to allow this.

You can draw a parallel that supporting an arts-focused choice school with more opportunities for performance and exposure to professional artists, theater etc. doesn't mean you don't favor strong arts in every school. K5STEM was imagined as a place that could pilot, test, and develop better STEM curricula, projects, etc. that could then spread to other local schools. It could also be a place with STEM events, like evening speakers, summer-camps, etc. that the whole community could attend and benefit from including students at other schools. -Was There
kellie said…
This conversations sounds oddly reminiscent of the Jane Addams conversations in the NE not too long ago.

The "data" showed that the the NE was really only going to need another 300 middle school seats so one more K8 should do the trick and we were NEVER going to need another middle school because Whitman and Hamilton were historically under-enrolled. Well, that has not worked out so well as you fast forward a few years and the north end needs not one but two new middle schools.

The decision to create a K8 was based on the idea that if they were "wrong" a K8 can be repurposed. That decision has wrecked tremendous havoc in the NE. No school should be subject to endless repurposing to address capacity needs.

Here is a quick way to check to see if any of the West Seattle enrollment numbers make sense with regard to a long term use for Boren. Take the current K enrollment for all of West Seattle. Multiple by 3. Does that number look like it should be in two buildings or three buildings. If two, then a K8 might make sense. If it is even close to three, then look out. That means a K8 will make sense for a few years only and everyone can look forward to lot of uncertainty about "repurposing."

Anonymous said…
There were 955 K students living in West Seattle last year and enrolled in SPS. That gives us 2,865 middle school students five years later using kellie's method. That's 515 more seats than we currently have. (This assumes nobody leaves for private school in middle school.)

Anonymous said…
Hmmmm. Using that method, we will need 3,800 high school seats and we've only got 2,700 now. What are we going to do about that?

Anonymous said…
In WS we also lose students to Vashon Island public schools in MS & HS. I don't know how that compares to the numbers who leave the north for Shoreline and what the future numbers will be. HS and MS students leave WS for schools in greater numbers than K-5. Any data on that available? Another factor when making a comparison with the NE is available buildings and land. WS has Hughes, Current SP, and Old Denny. -Was There
kellie said…
@ Lynn

IMHO, I think high school is the big question. High schools take much longer to plan and are more complex to execute than an elementary school and we are soon going to be in desperate need of more high school seats.

While there is a little space at WSHS and space at RB, all of the other schools are full and adding portables.

So there is another potential need for Boren, as a home for Denny if Sealth winds up taking the rest of the campus to provide more high school seats in a few years.

kellie said…
@ was there

Yes, there is a significant out of district migration in West Seattle to Vashon. There is also significant out migration to all of the neighboring districts. (Bellevue, Shoreline, Mercer Island, etc). This out migration does take away some pressure on middle and high school enrollment but ... that is changing.

Under the old choice plan, there was cohort decline from K to 12. In other words, all of the other grades were smaller than the K cohort that had enrolled. However, under the new plan, that decline is shrinking every year.

Under the old plan, families that moved to Seattle, got whatever seat was left at the middle and high school level. That could easily mean that families that moved to Seattle after open enrollment were assigned Rainier Beach and Aki regardless of where they lived. As that is no longer the case, there are new students that move into Seattle that are by and large replacing almost all of the out migration.

The out of district information is publicly available as there is a paper trail of funds that accompany the student that leaves.

IMHO, West Seattle is going to need to seriously plan for student growth. The good news is that West Seattle does have inventory. The other news is that West Seattle has a very steep growth curve and it is possible that enrollment growth could outpace the inventory, or at least the ability of the district to fund bringing that inventory on line.

The planning for the next BTA is already underway. I would expect that West Seattle is going to be major focus for those funds. An option that is not on the PTA's current list is to secure funds under either the next BTA or the next BEX to expand a location to a K8.

I don't know the inventory in WS in that much detail but if there was an elementary that was a good candidate for expansion, I think that would be a much better home that staying in Boren.

mirmac1 said…
kellie, thank you for your always thoughtful analysis.

As a Denny and Sealth graduate, I've always felt the combined campus made little sense, and the demolition of the Denny building premature (granted it was not an ideal layout). It never occurred to me that Sealth might need to reclaim its site for high schoolers. Interesting.
Charlie Mas said…
There are immediate capacity problems and future capacity problems.

The immediate problem is the need for additional elementary capacity which is being addressed by re-opening Fairmount Park and Genesee Hill, by expanding Arbor Heights, and by providing for a lot of capacity at STEM by leaving it at Boren. We could also keep Schmitz Park open as a small program – either a neighborhood school or an option school.

There is a capacity need in the short-term future for an APP option for 1-8 in West Seattle which could be met most easily with a K-8 STEM at Boren, with a stand alone APP/Spectrum site at Schmitz Park, or with great disruption and the creation of new capacity problems at any existing neighborhood school. STEM at Boren is the only elementary or middle school with space for these students without serious disruption.

There is a need in the intermediate-term future for middle school capacity which could be addressed quickly and cheaply by extending STEM to a K-8 at Boren or with more effort and cost by adding capacity to Denny.

There is a need in the long-term future for high school capacity which could be addressed by moving Denny to Boren (which will create new problems with elementary and middle school capacity) and expanding Sealth to include the current Denny campus. Other solutions to the future high school capacity need include building additions at Sealth, creating a pathway for STEM students to Cleveland, or the creation of a boutique high school (such as The Center School, The NOVA Project, or Aviation High) either in West Seattle or close to it.

A new high school program could be located at Schmitz Park, if it isn’t used as an elementary school, at E C Hughes, if Roxhill doesn’t re-locate there, at Roxhill, if Roxhill does move to E C Hughes, at the former Denny site, or in some new space not currently in the District’s inventory.

Yes,there are upcoming capacity issues, but the extension of STEM to a K-8 at Boren doesn’t leave us without means for addressing them.
Charlie Mas said…
You want to know what would really appeal to me as a solution for the future high school capacity crisis? A Port of Seattle high school that has some classes and opportunities, like Aviation High, around aviation careers as well as a maritime program such as the one at Ballard. An international trade focus would be a natural for this as well.

I imagine it would be a fairly small program - maybe 100 students per grade - and it could be located somewhere on Harbor Island, which is plenty convenient from West Seattle. I think the Port of Seattle would be willing to partner with the District on it. There is a real shortage of qualified people to work in the maritime industries.

I haven't heard, but can anyone report on the success of Aviation High? If it's working well and there's plenty of demand for it, then I don't see any reason not to duplicate it.
Anonymous said…

The kids we know at Aviation are happy there - though the workload is heavy. It's got a reputation for being hard to get into - so I think the demand is there. If SPS opened it's own Aviation, more seats at the current school would be available for students living south of Seattle.

I would love to see an APP elementary at Schmitz Park with either language immersion or pre-IB elementary, then an pre-IB middle school at Hughes with an APP option and IBX at Sealth. Maybe other South End or Queen Anne/Magnolia families would choose those elementary and middle school programs?

I would like to know what's going on with Madison and West Seattle High School. Our north end elementary schools are full and parents like them. I don't hear anyone raving about the middle and high schools.

I don't know about Madison but here are my observations about West Seattle High.

Ten years ago, West Seattle High was more the powerhouse and Chief Sealth the lesser school. My observation is that a switch has happened.

West Seattle got a new building, it had a good principal and, has had a foundation and long-time supporters.

So the district, maybe rightly so, turned its attention to Chief Sealth who had quite a leader in Principal Boyd. They finally got an IB program, got a lot of capital attention (although not a new building) and more of a working relationship with their new neighbor school, Denny. And Denny has had a very strong principal as well.

I think West Seattle High went through too many principals, was never a strong academic high school and is a decent (if basic) comprehensive high school.

I don't know if I think West Seattle is a lesser school to Chief Sealth but clearly Sealth has had a lot of attention and strong leadership. If the goal is to more evenly spread out high school students in West Seattle, maybe WS High needs more attention.

kellie said…

I agree that there are long term capacity issues and immediate ones. I also agree that there is significant new elementary capacity being added to West Seattle.

Something that is often overlooked in this analysis is that the original BEX plan called for Schmitz Park to be moved to Genesee with the original Schmitz closing. Keeping Schmitz Park open was quietly inserted down the road once it became clear that an expanded AH, a new Fairmont Park and a new Genesee Hill were not enough. Adding those extra 300 elementary seats after an aggressive add of almost 1000 elementary seats should be an indication of WS growth.

And while it seems impossible to believe some days, those elementary students do eventually move to secondary schools and the capacity "crisis" follows them "on schedule."

However, I disagree with the rest of your analysis. I disagree that adding a K8 is a cheap and easy fix for a possible middle school issue. That was the "thinking" around making Jane Addams a K8 and it has been neither cheap nor easy. The K8 is now being relocated at great financial expense as well as the loss of Pinehurst.

I also agree with you that at least WS has some property so that another community would not need to be relocated to make space.

The high school issue is going to be here much sooner than people think. I have been quite surprised at how few folks are agitating about high school. This year there were ZERO choice seats for high school during open enrollment for any school other than WSHS and RB. That is as clear and indication I can find that high school enrollment is in trouble. There has been some movement post open enrollment but ... I imagine there are going to be a lot of surprised families next year.

High School enrollment is now so challenging that they are not even going to try to address it with the upcoming boundary changes, because it won't help. Except for WS. The high school boundaries will be changed as part of the middle and elementary school re-boundary process. My guess is that when the re-boundary process is done then both WSHS and Seatlh will be full.

IMO, it is just premature to take one more secondary school building (Boren) for long term use for elementary students, just because the building is there. Secondary schools are just more expensive than elementary.

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