Seattle Capital Programs

I attended the Board Work Session yesterday on Capital Programs and Plans.  It was both informative and annoying.

Attending were Directors McLaren, Patu, Blanford, Peters, Peaselee and Martin-Morris.  Director Carr, like at last week's Board meeting, was not in attendance.  Staff included Superintendent Banda and the head of Capital/Facilities, Flip Herndon.  Dr. Herndon gave the entire presentation.

There was a good laugh before the meeting when Director Blanford said that he had a lot of people asking him if he was Richard Sherman or Marshawn Lynch of the Seahawks (the only similarity is that they are all three black men with long hair - they don't look like each other at all.)  I later asked Director Blanford if anyone asked him if he was Lawrence Fishburne - a joke based on an entertainment reporter who this week was interviewing Samuel L. Jackson and thought he was Lawrence Fishburne.  Jackson's reaction was priceless.

Dr. Herndon did two good things.  He did NOT read the presentation and he skipped parts that were widely understood (like BEX and BTA).

  • he spoke about "diminishing" numbers of interim sites.  He's right - pretty soon there will be none.  There two issues around that.  One, the district does not like to build on-site - they like to move the entire population out.  Well, if you have no interim sites, it's not possible.  Two, if you have a catastrophic event, there is nowhere to put a school population (example: a school being rebuilt in the '90s burned to the ground).  
  • here's an annoying part.  He referenced the high amount of backlogged maintenance.  He admitted it was about $500M.  Director Patu asked if it had been higher and he said yes, they had made some inroads.  Can I just say that's a little disingenuous to say?  I say that because the district has spent huge amounts opening and reclosing buildings (as other buildings that needed work themselves continued to wait) and I'm sorry, but there is nothing good to be said about a $500M+ backlog.  He said, "We can't get to it fast enough."  Well, if we brought up the maintenance budget, there might be a way.  Oh wait, I forgot - every non-contract employee at headquarters is getting a raise.
  • he said that the district is going to run out of high school space.  (All you that said this was coming - they now admit it.)  He said Hale and Garfield are full and even with Lincoln brought back, it won't be enough.  (One thought I had is to see how long the lease is at Oaktree.  If you have an elementary and middle at Wilson-Pacific, going just down the road a couple of blocks to a high school at that site might be good.)  
  • he also said the district was having trouble finding a demographer
  • he said they were talking with the City about a downtown school and the idea of universal preschool "a little bit." 
  • he said that the class size reduction taxing is already limiting space (more on this in the questions section)
Director Peters thought that the class size issues should not have been listed as a threat/risk but rather an obligation and challenge.  Dr. Herndon agreed.  She asked what effect a reduced class size for K-3 would have on Facilities.

He said that there are no dollars from OSPI for class size reduction.  He said you could put another person in to reduce the ratio but that legislators seemed to want to see a classroom at 17-1, not 34-2.

He said he was asked at a legislative committee meeting this week about how many new classrooms SPS would need to get to K-3 classes of 17-1.  He said they would need 350 classrooms districtwide (about 12-13 new elementaries).  And, he said you couldn't do it through the use of portables.

Peters also said the downtown school was more of a challenge than, as it was listed, as an opportunity.  She said the district is behind in space and where would be the room for the other wish - pre-K?  She said she had talked to Councilman Burgess about if they went to voters for the money for Pre-K, that there would be challenges to find the room.

Herndon said he had put that in the Opportunities because SPS supports the idea.  He said, though, that SPS does not have the space to take on that responsibility.  Superintendent Banda agreed saying that SPS wants to help but the City cannot look to SPS for the space.  Everyone around the table nodded and seemed in agreement on this point of lack of space for any pre-K services in SPS.

Dr. Herndon also went on to say that the cost of construction in Seattle is much more than other parts of the state.  (Capital has said this for more than a decade and frankly, I didn't always believe them. However, given the volume of building now, I believe this to be true.)

Blanford pointed out that OPSI seems to think that SPS has more building footage than they need.  But Dr. Herndon explained that OSPI applies their formula to EVERY building that the district owns including leased space.  He said to call back many properties (and there aren't that many now) into use also has a cost because of the amount of time they have not been used as schools.

He also said something somewhat disturbing about the self-help policy #6807.  He said that they try to make sure all district policies and procedures are followed but sometimes schools decide to do things on their own.  That they say, "We have a plumber parent who will fix this for free."  He did say that this can be problematic when later renovations come and the district does not know of changes made.  (He also neglected to say that this is in violation of union contracts and that schools should NOT be bringing in any help that the district did not approve.)

Director Patu brought up the sensitive subject of the NW Center Kids and that they claim they did $250K on renovations in September and the district knew and did not say they would be claiming the building in January.  He says that some work appeared to be volunteer and that NW Center Kids may have assigned more of a value to it than it was worth.*

He also said that they would likely keep the Wilson-Pacific name for that area and follow naming procedures.

Dr. Herndon made his way through to the end of the presentation with plenty of time for questions.

Director McLaren asked about routing slips for maintenance.  He cited an example of a fence at North Beach that had not been fixed for - wait for it - 10 years.  He claimed that there were some neighbor issues about height/look of the fence, blah, blah.  Seriously?  And yet, no one one on the Board challenged him.

Director Blanford asked about the Board seeing a list of maintenance issues and what the prioritization is.  Dr. Herndon did hesitate and said they could print it out but he would like to sort them by impact, location and cost.  I would love to see this list as well.

And then, 20 minutes early, it ended.  I was quite surprised that no directors had any other questions.  

* Here is what NW Center Kids is saying about the issue of their building (partial).  

In October, NAIOP (the WA State chapter of the Commercial Real Estate Developers Association) made Northwest Center Kids beneficiaries of a significant donation and labor to refurbish the building; can NAIOP help us in this issue?
We are so honored by NAIOP’s donations. We believe they did not have knowledge of the School District’s immediate plans for this closure. Because they assessed and found Northwest Center Kids worthy of their work and generosity, we hope we could include them among our supporters in the community. 

I’ve heard that Northwest Center has known about this potential move since last summer. Why weren’t parents informed sooner?
It is not true that we have known about this move since last summer. We were as blindsided by the six-month notice as every family and every child in this process. We have been diligent in checking in with Seattle Public Schools about the status of the facility. In June, for example, when we spoke with the Seattle Public Schools facilities group about the NAIOP project we were reminded that although they might need the building back at some point and that the lease calls for six months notice, there was no mention of any project in the works, no levy funding for North Queen Anne, and assurances that the site is too small to meet district requirements for an elementary school. Then in October when Northwest Center initiated a meeting with Seattle Public Schools to express interest in buying the North Queen Anne facility, we were told that there had been general conversation about possibly re-purposing North Queen Anne Elementary for stand-alone programs but that there was no specific project in the works and no funding available. We were also assured that Seattle Public Schools understands the critical importance of the work Northwest Center does, that our work supports and complements Seattle Public Schools, and that Seattle Public Schools values its 28 year relationship with Northwest Center.

Does the NAIOP donation have any impact on the School District decision?

In press accounts and public forums Seattle Public Schools has repeatedly denied knowledge of the NAIOP donation. But both Northwest Center and NAIOP contacted Seattle Public Schools repeatedly to discuss this project. We are working to put together detailed records of our correspondence with Seattle Public Schools. We believe they were well aware of the project.

If the NW Center Kids does have documented proof that they did correspond on a regular basis with the district on this issue, then that may change things.  It is just unclear who knew what when and what it all means. 


Anonymous said…
Well, at least someone is actually saying these things out loud.

Still no demographer? Wow.

- North-end Mom
Jon said…
The lack of a demographer is a very big deal. They're flying blind without one. Not that flying blind is anything new for this district, but c'mon.
Anonymous said…
Running out of room for high school? Who knew? (We all did.) I was wondering if anyone else was thinking about the Advanced Learning delays in getting letters out, and if it was tied to capacity. If record numbers applied, wouldn't that mean record numbers could potentially get in? Does anyone else think AL might be panicking as they realize they have yet again failed to predict a surge that will have capacity ramifications, for all the APP designated schools?
Anonymous said…
There is a strip club just down the street from Oaktree. Like, literally, between Oaktree and 105th. Also, the gas station at 105th is an open air drug market and a great place to find a hooker. Not an ideal location for high schoolers to be catching the bus home. We live not too far away and plan to move out of the neighborhood before our oldest is old enough to be riding a Metro bus alone...but perhaps if the district builds a school there, the city might be forced to make an effort to clean the neighborhood up?

A parent
Anonymous said…
Wilson Pacific really should be a high school/middle school campus, but they are apparently too far down the road of the elementary/middle school planning to switch gears?

Was there any mention of adding wings to any of the existing high schools?

Of course, both Hale and Ingraham recently had renovations, but not ones that generated significant capacity.

- North-end Mom
Josh Hayes said…
I too live about a block from Oaktree; the footprint is actually pretty small. There'd be no room for athletic fields, but I suppose they could use some of the space at the nearby Wilson-Pacific site. I'm sure, with the North Precinct mere blocks away, the city would cooperate in pushing the unsavory elements a few blocks away (probably north, toward Ingraham. There's already a lot of prostitution and drug dealing in the blocks between 105th and 130th and on up.)

Mind you, as a soon-to-be-teacher it'd be awesome to potentially be able to walk a block to my classroom!
A Parent, there's a strip club near Ballad as well.

Hale has always wanted to stay small so I wouldn't think they would be happy with much growth. That said, if everyone has to be full to the max, then that means everyone.
Louise said…
Still think they should make Blaine a high school and remodel the old Magnolia elementary to be a K-8. Blaine wouldn't need to hold 1600 kids, it could hold less than 1000 and work for the QA/Mag/Belltown areas.
Anonymous said…
The city is moving its north precinct to 130th and Aurora. Should help with Ingraham, but maybe not so much with Ingraham but maybe not so much with Oak Tree.

Is the strip club near Ballard within a couple of blocks? I thought there were rules about siting one near a school. The one by Oak Tree is literally the next block up the street from the Oak Tree property. I thought there were zoning rules about opening a strip club within a certain distance of an existing school...but if the strip club is there first, I wonder if that impacts it?

A Parent
Po3 said…
Chatting a bit about a downtown school with a preschool?

How about chatting a bit about a downtown high school.

Maybe time to look into expanding the Center schools footprint and focus?
Anonymous said…
Wow, looks like the police can get things done. What's going to happen to the old precinct? Wish SPS would lobby for some eminent domain for new sites. Why isn't anyone contacting the mayor? And what is happening to the old precinct?
Jamie said…
There is a strip club two blocks from Whittier Elementary - we used to walk by it every day on the way to school. At first I was angry about it but honestly it wasn't open in the mornings and I think i saw someone going in it in the afternoon twice in 4 years. Not that I think strip clubs should be near schools but it was a non-issue as far as The Sands being near Whittier.
Anonymous said…
To Po3's Comment.

I couldn't agree more. While preschools are a key part of the equation, the discussion should be focused around a downtown K-12.

-Downtown Dad
Anonymous said…
Heck Hale has pot shops and strip clubs near it all up and down Lake City Way. My son went to school near the Seattle Center and had to wait for buses in some pretty seedy areas as a high school student. I found it to be character building and not dangerous at all during the day. He is a very independent young man now soon to be off to DC for college.

mirmac1 said…
Running out of interim site? Then why did they give away the Boren site on his watch? Doh!

Increase HS capacity? Boren has housed HS students in the past. Or else kick Denny out of the space next to bustin'-at-the-seams Chief Sealth and place it in Boren.

Oh wait. That's too sensible and not as appealing as STEM 1st graders at board meetings in Sounders scarfs.
Anonymous said…
What about a HS at the Lawton site that the city is proposing for housing on Magnolia?

I think it's a better site than Interbay, personally, and maybe the city and SPS could switch b/c the Interbay site owned by SPS could have lots of uses - industrial, etc - but the Magnolia/Lawton site (the buildings left by army) can't really be all those uses. And I think the HS is less of an impact on Magnolia as a whole than a lot, lot more housing units would be.

Signed: Thoughts?
Lynn said…
Was there any discussion of the Mann building construction delay? They're going to have to either keep NOVA at Meany until winter break next year or accelerate the construction schedule (which sounds expensive to me.)
No Lynn and naturally no Board members asked about Mann. Sigh.

Well, yes, the logical place for a high school should be in or near downtown for Mag/QA.
Parent said…
Responding to Lynn's question about Nova: at the February 13 meeting regarding the new Meany Middle School, SPS staff said that Nova is scheduled to vacate somewhere between December 2014 and June 2015, depending on when the Mann building is finished. Seattle World School is scheduled to vacate in June 2016 (to the T.T. Minor building), and Meany is planned to reopen in fall 2017.

I don't see the slides from that meeting on the official SPS page (, but they have been posted by the Miller Park Neighbors group:
Lynn said…
I wonder how much the construction delay will cost and if the Nova community knows they won't be in their building next September as scheduled. Honestly, I don't understand why more people aren't outraged at how badly Superintendent Banda handled that situation. All of that time and money lost, the risk of damage to the building while it was 'occupied' and there was no benefit to anyone. What a mess.
kellie said…
Wait, high school might be a problem? They are adding THREE middle schools. If we take out all the noise of what might be, the baseline for a planning cycle would generally then line up three high schools to follow the three middle schools and you would adjust up or down based on other capacity factors.

The only high school in the works is Lincoln for 2019. We are going to need a minimum of two new high schools and that would be assuming growth at Rainier Beach as well as "increased utilization" at all the other high schools.

To make this even more complicated, IMHO, I believe a planning principal for a new high school should start two years before the high school itself.

SPS has shown it can open an elementary school in 6 months but that it needed a planning principal in place for the middle school at least 12 months in advance because a comprehensive school is more complex. High School is much much more complex than middle school.

The "point" of middle school is to be ready for high school. But high school needs to set up so that students are ready for college and college entrance requirements are not fungible.
Lynn said…
Project status updates from the January BEX Oversight Committee meeting:

 Horace Mann (Mike Skutack): A sixty-day acceleration plan is being developed to compensate for the delay caused by the extended tenant occupation of the building. Current considerations are to either pay for acceleration or negotiate to keep Nova at Meany an additional three months. A change order of $82,000 resulted from the contractor not being able to start the project as scheduled. This delay was caused by tenant occupancy. Acceleration would be an additional cost beyond the $82,000.
 Schmitz Park/Genesee Hill (Eric Becker): The project is about $1million over budget. It has been value engineered to the bottom line with nothing left to cut. The only way to reduce cost would be to reduce program area.
 Jane Addams Middle School: The budget does not fully cover FF&E; additional funding will have to be found elsewhere.

Anonymous said…
FF&E? Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment? Does that mean things like library books and equipment for science labs? Textbooks?

Lynn, thanks for this.

First, I KNEW that the costs from the Mann takeover (tenant occupancy, very funny) were not just $82k. To get it done will cost money.

Second, why is Schmitz Park/Genesee Hill over budget.

Third, they didn't build in F&E into JA middle school?

Again, the City should run our faciltiies because clearly, clearly something is not right.

No more excuses.

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