Laurelhurst Elementary Fighting Back on Portables

The Laurelhurst Blog has done a notable job in covering the issue of portables at Laurelhurst Elementary.  This is an issue that many schools have struggled with, both recently and long-term.  Here's one school's story. 

They got their first portable last June. 
Some neighbors and school children were heard commenting about why the portable was put right in the highly used kickball/soccer area and not in a four square court right beside the Laser portable, since there are already several four square courts.

One student said "I can't believe it was put in our soccer field, where so many of us play. Now what will we do?"
The district never did say why the portable was placed where it was.

But then, it disappeared.   From a letter from the Laurelhurst PTA in late August 2014:
You may have also noticed that this same new portable recently disappeared. What happened?
Before it was fully made ready for occupancy, the City of Seattle informed the school district that the portables actually put our building 3% over the 35% maximum lot coverage allowed for a school in our neighborhood.
The district intends to proceed with the departure request, but this process will take some time. Since new portables are in short supply and badly needed at many schools, rather than leave it unoccupied at Laurelhurst, it has been relocated.
 By November, the district didn't just want one portable; they wanted to put in four.
The Department of Neighborhoods (DON) is seeking neighbors, living within 600' of Laurelhurst Elementary School to apply by December 17, to be on the School Design Departure Advisory Committee, to help with deciding if up to four more portables in total, should be added to the North and already small South playground.
Seattle Public Schools (SPS) is requesting a zoning departure that, if approved, would permanently increase building lot coverage to up to 45%, significantly above the current limit of 35%, allowing the addition of up to four new portables, resulting in significant loss of playground space at the school.
 In speaking out, neighbors and Laurelhurst parents noted that Laurelhurst has the smallest lot size of all 11 NE elementaries and the highest building:lot ratio.

Echoing the conversation that is currently on about lunch/recess time, they also point out:
Loss of recreational space for existing children cannot be minimized or dismissed. Healthy bodies and healthy minds are linked. Obesity rates are climbing, and kids need more movement. Playground social skills are also a place where academic rankings are set aside for good fun, and away from electronics.
 By Feb. 2015, a committee had been formed by the City to serve on the Design Departure Advisory Committee.  

There were a couple of meetings for public input and then there was the meeting this week.

A packed room of almost 200 people attended last night's Design Departure Committee Meeting, at Laurelhurst Elementary School, where the Seattle Public School District (SPS) presented their reasons in requesting a waiver from City zoning regulations to allow up to four additional portable classrooms, increasing the allowed lot coverage of 45% on the two playgrounds.

Almost 2 hours of public comment was heard, about 50 speakers, including students, who were each given two minutes for their testimony. Every single speaker spoke passionately against increased lot coverage at the school which would have resulted in a significant decrease in playground space, as well as permanent livability impacts to surrounding neighbors.
The outcome (bold mine)?
The Committee passed two motions, both 6-1 (School District representative voted no on both):
1) in favor or making a decision at the meeting last night, thus voting against no further meetings
2) in denying the proposal for additional portables at the school
Holly Godard, Department of Development (DPD) Land Use Planner, said at the close of the meeting that DPD is not required to accept the recommendations of the Committee. DPD will review the meeting summary report that Steve Sheppard, with the Department of Neighborhoods (DON), will prepare within 30 days, that will first be circulated to Committee members to review and approve.

The report will then be submitted to DPD who will makes its determination on the proposed departure and SPS can accept or reject it. One attendee said there was some talk of the School District going to the Hearing Examiner to appeal the decision if it stands as it did last night.
 As for Principal Sarah Talbot, she was a no-show:
 Noticeably absent from the important meeting was the School Principal, Dr. Sarah Talbot, placed at the school this year, who was in favor of additional portables. Several teachers and administrative staff were in the audience.
Parents told the Blog Staff that Principal Talbot should have attended as the leader of the school and liaison with the Seattle Public School District, where such an important, long-lasting decision was being discussed and voted on, even though she and the majority of parents "were not all on the same page."
Parents also remarked that they were disappointed that Principal Talbot was not present to hear the numerous thoughtful and articulate public comments , including those from the student body, that pertained not only to the specific issue but to her overall role as principal, which "could have helped her on so many levels to better understand parent issues and work with the community in the success of every student's education."
 Fascinating reading as well as one more reminder that our buildings and the land they sit on are being worked into the ground (with little routine maintenance being done). 

Consider this when those BTA IV meetings come up and the district proposes spending more money on technology than buildings. 


Anonymous said…
Do the kids at Laurelhurst have access to the park (connected by a bridge over the street)?

I honestly don't know what the solution is to the demands on the school buildings. New facilities just aren't going to come along quickly, and, unlike 15 years ago, I don't think there is much excess capacity anywhere. We used to talk about shifting boundaries but that doesn't seem like it's going to work anymore.
Anonymous said…
Will the departure request just apply to Laurelhurst if approved? Or, will it be a departure release for any school within SPS?

Portables at Bryant?

Anonymous said…
oops, that was me, zb
StepJ, I would assume it would only apply to Laurelhurst but I suspect if the district gets it for one school, they will feel they can try it for other schools.

I agree there is not time/money for updates for many buildings. But, as has been pointed out in the past, the district could take on leased space for short-term alleviation of the problem.
Lynn said…
I understand why the community doesn't supoort permanent placement of portables on the playground. Where do they prefer to place their children? Can they put up temporary walls in the gym and cafeteria and turn them into classroom space? Would they prefer to run two shifts so that some of the students attend in the morning and some in the afternoon?
Lynn said…
Maybe they could bus some of their kids to Lowell. Isn't that the nearest school with space?
Anonymous said…
There is a gigantic park across the street. Huge. To say that the kids lack recreational space is untrue. It is true that they will lack a place where they can play unsupervised, as the park does not have a fence. But it is above grade from the street, and set back by a sidewalk so it's not as though a kid is going to trip and fall into traffic. There needs to be supervision at recess so someone by law needs to be out there anyhow.

Mostly I get the impression that Laurelhurst doesn't want portables because once they arrive they don't leave. Plus they are ugly. They're right. But given the capacity issues in this city, it's not a compelling reason to hold off on providing more learning space. If any Laurelhurst neighbors want to visit Schmitz Park they'll realize their situation is not as untenable as they think.

West Seattle

Anonymous said…
There is adjacent Laurelhurst Park, grassy fields, playground, etc across the pedestrian overpass. Likely no kids would ever be allowed that way, similar to View Ridge Elementary and their adjacent field. At VRE, kids aren't even allowed into a large, grassy, fenced-in field just steps below the playground, because "it's too difficult for staff to supervise" (not sure if there are ownership/liability issues at play too?) It bothers me that this huge grassy field is right there, but kids have to stay on the overcrowded asphalt instead (which parents have recently turned into a fantastic playground despite the limitations). But that shouldn't be a substitute for a large area where kids can just run, play fliers, soccer, football, etc and not get yelled at by staff for playing in the wrong area. (Yes, [perhaps a manifestation of overcrowding] kids are constantly told they are playing in the wrong area. "You can't bounce your ball there.", "Don't run here.", etc.) While we still have big open spaces, let the kids use them!

VRE parent
West Seattle, when this info was sent to me, I did mention "Schmitzville" as a prime example of portable excess.
Anonymous said…
part Two some of these people are probably the same ones who fought endlessly to keep one of this city's most valuable and critical assets to this city's children from expanding: Children's Hospital. Biggest case of NIMBYism in recent years. It was covered sporadically in the newspaper, so people can go look it up for themselves.

My child arrived by ambulance at Children's. Children's saved my child's life. But the neighbors didn't want more ambulances, more helicopter emergency flights or bottom line more patients. My feelings of empathy are this: Pound sand. Take the portables. Go pick a fight that could do all of us a little good. Global warming? Social service funding? Clean the Sound? World Peace?

West Seattle
Anonymous said…
Bravo to the community to fight the inappropriate placement of excess portables.

Just because the district has done this to other school communities, does not make it right. As my mom always said, two wrongs do not make a right.

The solution? Better planning and transparency.

The solution is not to punish Laurelhurst for failing to take one on the chin in service to a district that constantly fails to plan and be honest about what's going on.

And, how is preschool going to be shimmied into the NE? Not the SpEd or Headstart, but the City preschool???

The district has to lease space. That is the only answer. The only thing that solves a capacity problem is more capacity.

Remember when Laurelhurst was switched out of Eckstein to Hamilton, and then switched back only a few years later?? What did Laurelhurst do to be stuck with such boneheaded district largess? One wonders....

Facilities Planning?
Anonymous said…
The lot coverage argument made by the Laurelhurst community can be deceptive. Like VRE parent pointed out, just because a school has a big lot size (usually due to a field), doesn't mean that there is an excess of usable space (for portables or playground use).

John Rogers has a large lot size, but it includes a lower field which, despite BTAII-funded improvements, is a still a swamp. It is a muddy mess for much of the school year, and has horrible sight lines from the upper portion of the property where the school building and asphalt playground is located.

The 5 portables (with more on the way) at John Rogers are placed on the asphalt playground adjacent to the school. We've lost a lot of our play area in the past 3 years.

Due to the inclusion of the lower field as part of the John Rogers lot size, there isn't even an opportunity to hold departures meetings and rally the community against more portables.

I know this pales in comparison to what Schmitz Park has experienced. My sincere condolences to the Schmitz Park community.

It's time for better capacity planning throughout the District...or at least an acknowledgment from SPS and the School Board that BEXIV was not enough.

- North-end Mom

Jon said…
New buildings tend to cost more short-term, but less long-term, than portables, so portables only make sense if the enrollment increase is temporary.

Is the District assuming the enrollment is temporary? I thought Seattle was growing and Seattle's public schools are expected to need to serve more children permanently. Is the District projecting something else? Or are they just using a temporary solution where a long-term solution is needed?
Anonymous said…
Bravo to Laurelhurst. And no, the kids can't use the park. Ask the city. Or View Ridge or Lincoln or any other school adjacent to a public park. Don't you think they would if they could? Geez, enough with the haters. And it's a big leap to say "these are the same people who didn't want the hospital expansion." Based on what? Why would you say that? I bet most parents with KIDS would be for that! You're just hating on Laurelhurst because it's an affluent neighborhood. Doesn't mean their kids don't deserve a decent playground just like anyone else who would fight a portable farm. I don't live there, but am sick of the vitriol and accusations about anyone who is less than poor. It doesn't mean they are bad people.
-Just saying
Anonymous said…
Schools can use city parks. Fairmount Park School just reopened and uses the city park as their playfield. I believe the principal said that the process was remarkably simple to get access to the city park during the school day.

FPE Falcon
Anonymous said…
@ North-end Mom

Laurelhurst (and View Ridge) have adjacent fields, but they are not part of the "school campus" the way the field is at Decatur (AEII/Thornton Creek).

The fields near Lhurst and VRE are City-owned and just happen to be adjacent (or for sure the Lhurst one, and I assume the VR field is City vs SPS owned, as the "upper fields" portion of the City park). It would be difficult to supervise younger kids at the Lhurst park, it's a regular busy public park. The VR field is fully fenced in, and separated from the main VR City park by the hillside and street.

VRE Parent
Anonymous said…
"Maybe they could bus some of their kids to Lowell. Isn't that the nearest school with space?"

That's tough with the Montlake mess -- it can take 30 minutes to navigate Montlake from Laurelhurst across the Montlake bridge, and the timing is broad, from 6:30-9:30 AM and 4:30-7:30 PM (at least).

Apparently in Sept 2103, Laurelhurst was expected to shrink to 300 kids, and they were talking about re-drawing boundaries to increase the number of children at the school.

I guess we can blame past planning, but that doesn't really help us deal with short term needs.

Anonymous said…
September 2013, of course. Have no idea what will happen in 2113, but sometimes I suspect whoever is here will be talking about exactly same things.

Where can space be leased? and what would costs be v portables?

I do think people are going to have to deal with portables, especially if they want to continue to keep their neighborhoods and programs intact and don't want to switch to split shifts or other radical solutions.

The principal said it was easy to use city parks?

How come she didn't come to the meeting? She's the one who asked for the portables and yet, didn't come to the meeting.

Anonymous said…
Laurelhurst Elementary has a pedestrian bridge directly from a corner of its campus over the street to a 13 acre park. No greenspace for the kids to play? Hardly.

Near north

Anonymous said…
The park cannot be used period. Look it up on the SPS site, plus it is a public park, meaning the public is there - dogs, homeless, etc. And supervision is tricky.

Regarding Children's and not wanting patients or helicopters - expanding the hospital was based on patient numbers and forecasting that. It has nothing to do with neighbors deciding it. The City appointed Committee had numerous meetings for the last 8 years or so to decide about that expansion. It has nothing to do with NIMBY and everything to do with hard facts and numbers - provided by the hospital, overseed by the City's DPD.

Regarding helicopter landings, it is in Children's contract how the helicopter landings are to be used - how frequently, what type of patient, landing at Children's or UW - again all mandated by the City, nothing to do with NIMBY.

All this information can be found in the Children's and City website.
Jean said…
Neither of the two School District reps or the hired architect speaking admitted to never having been on the school playground before, during, or after school to observe how it is used and by how many. Thus they cared little about the location or effect of plopping down a portable (or should we call it a "permanent").

Also, nearby city park is out of the question. Not fenced, loose dogs, open to public at all times though bathrooms often locked, and big tree branches fall when windy. Plus time constraint for basic recesses.

Long time Laurelhurst resident
Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
The two District reps and the hired architect had never even visited the school playground before, during, or after school, or weekends to see how this playground is used - well used on weekends as well. The principal not showing up reinforces fact that no one from District really cares. So let's just blop a portable (more accurately title "a permanent") down. I was embarrassed for the incompetent district reps who could not show need for additional classroom space (without easy access to bathrooms); enrollment prediction for 2015-16 is flat.

As for use of nearby park. It is not fenced. There are loose dogs. Recess times too short. Big branches fall in wind storms. So not feasible and should not be counted in school lot size.

Signed: Longtime Laurelhurst Resident who believes a viable neighborhood public school is vital for families. Thank heavens for the Dept of Neighborhoods so we have a voice in this big, becoming bigger, city. It takes a village!
Maureen said…
TOPS uses a city park as well (Rogers field). It is not within sight of the building (down the hill) though you do not have to cross an active street to get there. It does require extra supervision, but surely Laurelhurst could drum up some parent volunteers for that.
Anonymous said…
The park is not a playground. Currently, the Seattle School District does not give Laurelhurst Elementary enough funding for playground supervisors (I am one such spupervisor). The PTA has to raise money to ensure there are enough adults to keep students safe. It would be impossible to supervise students in a public park with all the variables that exist: dogs, trees, fire pit, broken glass, PEDOPHILES, many exits and places to hide. We have many kids in the EBD program who would bolt given the opportunity. Would you send your kindergartener, along with 60 other 6-year-olds and 4 adults, to play in the bushes and trees of a city park? And why does the Seattle Parks Department have to take on the liabilities and responsibilities of the school district?
If the school district is serious about creating more space, they would have proposed a plan to expand the second story of the school building. It is dehumanizing to keep small children far from bathrooms and other basic school facilities.
Anonymous said…
Madrona also uses a city park for recess, from what I have observed. I am not under the impression this is an unusual thing in our district, given how many people have so far posted about such arrangements on this thread.

--same all over
Anonymous said…
1. The Laurelhurst Community was opposed to Children's original renovation including a large skyscraper being built up in a neighborhood. There was a process and a great compromise happened. There are still several floors of that renovation that remain EMPTY due to a lack of needed space. I don't think a soul opposes the care of children. I suspect the majority of us have spent at least one visit to Children's and find the value to be huge. Please don't lump everyone into that statement. It's definitely okay to be pro-Children's and still ask that they keep their remodel to align with zoning laws. It was going to look like the huge tower in the U-district, but loom over residential homes.

2. The park solution is ridiculous on many levels. Manly, it's not a solution. There are a variety of reasons why I wouldn't want my child being in a PUBLIC park instead of a fenced in, supervised playground. The main reasons would be the lack of supervision (and again, presumptuous and ridiculous to be told that Laurelhurst should suck it up and provide that-nope! that's the job of the district to supervise kids-everyone should remember that and remind the district of their obligation), the off-leash dogs, and the horribly maintained trees that fall down all the time.

3. The biggest issue is that the SPS admitted in the meeting to FLAT enrollment. Explain why 4 portables need to be added when enrollment isn't expanding there. The SM3 and Access programs were brought in secretly over the summers without any information to the community about what that entailed. It moved two classes out to portables. I think 4 more portables means 4 more classes of programs that they want Laurelhurst to take on. At least be transparent if that's the plan, because they didn't have a reason for the portables.

Didn't the SPS have some cash to plunk down to buy the asbestos-filled Federal Building in a zone without any kids? How about spending some of that money and the distressed building funds ($33million) they're requesting from the state to increase some of the SPS schools with crowding issues?

Every school in SPS deserves equity and access to "educational excellence and equity".

~Laurelhurst parent
Anonymous said…
Many schools use city parks for their playground. Madronna, TOPS, Fairmount, and Alki are four that I know of.

Your school needs to figure out how to properly supervise the area. All these other schools have educated their children about staying away from strangers, regularly ask people with dogs to stay away from the children, and Fairmount even has a public bathroom in the middle of their play area. This is not that challenging of a problem.

FPE Falcon

Maureen said…
And lack of funding for recess supervision is not unusual either.

Would you send your kindergartener, along with 60 other 6-year-olds and 4 adults, to play in the bushes and trees of a city park?

Um, well, TOPS has a little playground for the kindergarteners (and maybe Laurelhurst could do that too) but I happily sent my 1st grader along with 60 other 6 year olds (and several hundred older kids) to play in the bushes and trees of a city park. And I'm thinking we were lucky if there were two adults out there at any given time (shh don't tell).

I am thinking that if the Laurelhurst kids had been playing in that park for the last 20 years and someone was threatening to restrict them to the asphalt slab they have now, all of these same people would be screaming bloody murder.

You guys could put up orange plastic fencing and tell the kids the limits and 98% of them would listen, then the 4 adults could patrol the perimeter and look for strays and PEDOPHILES. (Which, I take it, are some exceptionally horrific type of pedophile that lurks in Laurelhurst.)

Anonymous said…
Agreed that a Principal should definitely attend such an important meeting especially when it is what she is asking for. She showed her true colors and it is a huge disappointment.

Seems someone posted something about her a few months ago saying "Good luck Laurelhurst" or something along those lines, when she was moved to Laurelhurst, and now that "luck" is apparent.

What are other people's experiences with her from her previous schools?

She was placed at Laurelhurst without any school community input and her lack of experience on so many levels shows to the detriment of the school and most importantly and sadly the students with unhappy teachers, families leaving during the year and more talking about leaving next year. It is truly sad.
Anonymous said…
OMG to the Laurelhurst adults who can't fathom walking over a separated from traffic bridge and into a big green park that has ballfields and grass and trees and more play area than the vast majority of schools in this city. This is another TOPS alum. The kids at that school go play in a smallish city park with the homeless who slept in the corners of the field and a restroom that sometimes had needles in it. The adults kept the area safe. The young uns learned at a young age about social services and social justice.

Further, from what I remember, the more the kids were outside in the park, the more the community was interested in being involved in the school.

It is OK, dare I say beneficial, for school kids to leave a caged slab of blacktop during the day, even if the gigantic green park across the street isn't - gasp - gated.


Lynn said…
Maybe if kids use the park at recess the Laurelhurst community will choose to follow the law and leash their dogs.

As for the homeless, I find that people are generally on their best behavior when kids are in sight.

You could try it with the oldest kids first until the community is comfortable. It really is easy to put out orange cones and tell them not to pass that point.

It's curious that enrollment isn't expected to grow. Is there another school nearby that is more crowded and has a preschool or special education program they might move?
Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
Elephant in the room much? The children of Windermere and Belvedere Terrace attended Sandpoint Elementary for the entire history of the school before it closed. For some reason when it re-opened, those affluent families were VERY vocal about not being taken out of Laurelhurst and mixed back in with those Sandpoint kids. Sandpoint opened with hardly any kids, including one classroom that contained grade 2 through 5! Seriously! You say Laurelhurst is overcrowded? hmmm...look a few blocks North for a bit of breathing room.

open ears
Anonymous said…
Laurelhurst has private patrol manned by off duty SPD. It's a very safe and lovely neighborhood. We have a similar situation and use parent volunteers along with PTA paid staffer to do recess duty.


Anonymous said…
on kids using parks for recess, the story i heard at VR that the lower field is "too difficult for staff to supervise" (can't recall who exactly said this, but it was said more than once in meetings regarding the current asphalt playground reno, meetings that included school staff, can-do parents, and the SPS administrator in charge of playgrounds - a huge fully fenced in field, not even the lower park with bathrooms, etc. i've never heard a parent say it wasn't safe/possible, this has come from school administrators.

VRE parent
freerange said…
If the city and Sps really cared about kids they'd come up with a blanket policy to let schools use nearby parks.

As city parks go, Laurelhurst is great and the school parent community is wasting that resource - regardless of the portables, which I agree are just horrible.
Lynn said…
Do we need an agreement? I think anyone can use a park anytime it's open. You just have to be willing to deal with the other people using it.
Kindermom said…
Are you all kidding? Use a park for recess when we can't even afford playground monitors to watch the kids on the school grounds? Instead, you want them to have kids walk to a park where there aren't sight lines for the volunteers to see all of the kids at once? And parent volunteers??

In a 20 minute recess, how much of the time is dedicated to walking to the park and back? Have you tried crossing a street with 40 six year olds? Getting them off the school property would take all 20 minutes.

I don't have kids at Lauralhurst, but I'm totally in agreement with their concern about using a park for recess. If there was SOME support for longer recess times, more PAID support staff, a viable way for the support staff to monitor the kids, then getting kids to a park and back for recess is reasonable.There are kids that can't handle the transition to free space and back on a playground, and you want to take them off property??

I'm about an free range a parent as you can get, and I totally understand why there's pushback from this community.
Lynn said…
You might be surprised by what kids can handle a year or two out of kindergarten Kindermom. They could always have those K or K and first graders use the playground.

There's no reason recess has to be limited to 20 minutes either. Recess times are (unfortunately) entirely under the principal's control.

Laurelhurst's staff will have to decide for themselves what they can handle. It's not an unreasonable suggestion.
Anonymous said…
@ open ears

There is no "breathing room" at Sand Point.

Sand Point may have opened with low enrollment, but that was because it was opened as a kindergarten roll-up, back in 2009. Those 2nd-5th graders in one classroom were there because, even though it started as a kindergarten roll-up, anyone who moved to the attendance area was assigned there...regardless of grade level.

Sand Point now has over 250 students, plus special ed preschool, with a parking lot full of portables, because it is a very small school building. Like lots of other schools, the size of its upper grades is significantly smaller than the size of its lower grades, so they will probably continue to receive portables in order to accommodate growth.

- North-end Mom
Bones said…
Talbot and portables... A bad movie we've already seen.

The district dumped a portable at Broadview Thomson when Talbot was principal there last year ... no meetings, no chance to comment or object. It just showed up taking up a part of the playground where older kids had used it for active, cooperative games that kept them active, engaged and out of trouble. Gone now.

A long-time special ed. teacher had her work area taken and she was banished to the portable. She quit to work for another district that was thrilled to get her.

Talbot announced it was the teacher's choice. An outright lie.
Anonymous said…
Using nearby parks is nice in theory, but it's important to acknowledge their can be legitimate safety concerns. Two of my kids have experienced concussions at recess. One lost consciousness and went unnoticed by the playground monitor, then the bell rang and the rest of the kids ran off to line up and head inside. Luckily a straggling student noticed my kid and helped get him up and back to class. I hate to think how this might have turned out had he been lying in a park somewhere instead, with double vision and confused about where to go. Strategies for monitoring off-site recess would need to be pretty solid for me to be comfortable with this, with multiple adults in place, phones for emergency calls, protocols around makins sure the area is clear for kids when they arrive and clear OF kids when they leave, etc. All doable, but they require some planning and training.

Safety First
Anonymous said…
"The district dumped a portable at Broadview Thomson when Talbot was principal there last year ... no meetings, no chance to comment or object."

This is happening EVERYWHERE. The only reason Laurelhurst has the opportunity to "fight back" is because of the lot coverage code...a CITY code.

Schools with larger lots don't get a say in whether or not they get portables, even if the portables are placed on playgrounds.

There are apparently no building codes restricting the number of students per square foot of lunchroom or gym space or bathroom stall.

- North-end Mom
Bandana said…
I'd love to see some information on what programs typically get relegated to the portables. It would seem that it's disproportionately special education programs moved away from the rest of the school to make room for programs principals find more valuable. It's troubling to see the continuing -- even increasing -- segregation of special education students.
Anonymous said…
There are apparently no building codes restricting the number of students per square foot of lunchroom or gym space or bathroom stall.

Wouldn't the district have gone though a permitting process in order to place the portables on site? Did they show their placement would not violate fire codes (assembly spaces like lunchrooms) or health and safety codes (minimum number of restrooms)? Did they get waivers from the codes? There are codes. International Fire Code, for example, says classrooms should have 20 SF per occupant and assembly spaces (with movable tables and chairs, like lunchrooms) need 15 SF per occupant.

just fyi
Anonymous said…
@just fyi

I have no idea what the portable placement permitting process involves.

As for the codes you mention...placing portables theoretically reduces the number of kids per classroom, since they are adding classrooms. As for assembly/lunchroom space, in over-crowded schools, these are handled in shifts, or at least they are, in theory.

Bathrooms are a big issue at schools with large numbers of portables. Many of the schools where portables are being placed were only built to house a small school (by today's standards), 250-300 kids. When you add 50, 100, 150, etc... more kids, there just aren't enough toilets.

As far as I know, none of the portables being placed at schools have bathrooms or running water. At John Rogers, the PTA paid for a portable, outdoor sink, so that the 5th graders housed in a portable were able to do their "Land and Water" science unit.

On a positive note, the newer portables come with good HVAC (heat and AC), so at least the kids in the portables had heat when the heat was out in the rest of the school (really ancient boiler).

Schmitz Park was built for something like 300 kids, and is housing over 600 in a portable farm, so I really don't think it is that difficult for SPS to place portables, as long as they comply with the City's lot coverage codes. Schmitz Park must have a relatively-large lot.

- North-end Mom
Anonymous said…
City codes are funny things. Dealing with that office can leave you befuddled. Exceptions abound. Decisions deliberately muddled and capricious at times. Just look through builders and developers dealings with the city and the city council vs. citizen Jane getting an addition built. Power matters.

One reason poor Laurelhurst isn't feeling the love in their fight isn't as much as 2 wrongs don't make it right, but the sense some neighborhoods feel they have just as much, if not greater, cause, but their fight failed unlike Laurelhurst.

Hard to explain I know, but it's like worrying over possible injury over children walking to a nearby park or having sufficient qualified supervision in case you may get a homeless person in Laurelhurst vs. unable to play in the park because of frequent shootings or muggings in the park across from the school.

It's the sense some people feel regarding the unevenness in the decision applied. It's not even about handing out guilt trip as much a vast difference in perceptions of what constitute threats and peace of mind for individual parent.

Such separations in the lives we lead.
Anonymous said…
I think we can all agree that portables provide a poor learning environment and that all children deserve as much safe outdoor play as we can provide them.

This isn't about Laurelhurst so much as it is about the district's pathetic planning, and our legislature's inability to adequately fund all our schools. We all need to fight back.

Good on Laurelhurst for standing up for what's right. Other schools should do the same - we have to force them to come up with better solutions.
For now our priorities seem to be low taxes and sports stadiums. Until we change that we will continue to see portable farms and crowded playgrounds.
Anonymous said…
So, if Laurelhurst succeeds in their fight against portables, will SPS convert other spaces in the building, like art rooms, music rooms, etc... into classroom space? That is usually what happens when space is needed and portables aren't an option. Maybe this is why the principal was not joining in the fight?

- reality check
Anonymous said…
No, we don't all agree that portables are poor learning environments.

A new portable is a much better learning environment than holding class on a stage with curtains closed and the gym in use on the other side of the curtains.

A new portable is a much better learning environment than using a giant auditorium with auditorium-style seating, but no desks, for some classes - I've heard that's going on in buildings.

A new portable with 24 or 28 kids in it is a much better learning environment than a classroom with 42 kids and 2 teachers b/c you have to double up. 42 kids and 2 teachers is a 1:21 ratio, so it's a 'small class size' --- but do you want that?

--Careful w/wishes
Laurelhurst resident said…
Laurelhurst ONLY has a space problem because 3 classrooms, previously used by regular classes, were precipitously taken over for use by new special-ed behavior disorder classes. This program expanded by the district over the las,t 3 years, at Laurelhurst is the reason why the school is short on space. Large classrooms with a small number of children, albeit ones with severe behavior problems are the cause of the lack of space. Furthermore, teachers and parents at the school are extremely frustrated that the school district placed these children at the school without adequate support. The school population is not expanding and we do not need portables. We need better planning and oversight by the administration.
Sorry, but portables do not add bathroom/gym/lunchroom space and it's just more pressure on those spaces.

Anonymous said…
Hmmm....Wow! That's pretty amazing! A whole neighborhood that has no kids with disabilities. And those poor Laurelhurst folks doing such a great public service.... donating their God given entitlement to a seat in a coveted, yet crowded school over to special ed charity. Such magnanimity!

The real solution? Redraw the line. Sand Point elementary will be happy to have you.

Sped Parent
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
So Laurelhurst has a certain level of lacking local empathy around SPED kids, compounded by bad JSCEE management and wrapped with a big bow of capacity crisis. Seems par for the course in the crazytown that is SPS.

Anonymous said…
Here's something to consider about the 3 SpEd classes at Laurelhurst:

So, when you put SpEd classes w/the 1:8 ration into a school, you decrease the overall numbers of students in the school by a lot. A lot. B/c not only do those class rooms only have 8 kids, no 26 or whatever, but the same 8 kids have a second seat in the gen ed class.

The result: less money on the weighted staffing standard to get PE, art, Music, librarian, etc from the district. A LOT LESS MONEY. Like, lose half a PE teacher and lose half a librarian less money. Or if you only had half a librarian, lose it all.

And of course, bigger/richer schools can make some of that up w/PTA "buying" half a librarian, or half a PE teacher, or whatever.

But a less well off school, where the FRL is higher or a lot of the parents are above FRL but not that much above -- well, that kind of a school doesn't have the PTA money to make up the loss.

The SpEd classrooms must go somewhere. These are students. They get to attend a school. Period.

Placing these classes in schools with a lower per-capita student income, or higher FRL numbers, is, frankly, immoral in the era of not-full-funding of education.

The better off schools can absorb the loss of WSS money that comes from the loss of students. The more struggling schools cannot.

So - please - look at the big picture, and ALL the schools, before decrying any one placement.


Laurelhurst, you're falling victim to the classic SPS trick of pitting your school against other schools, and then all the other schools will turn against you - remember, we're all in this together.

The main needs? More capacity everywhere, at every level - at Elem, MS and HS - if you think Laurelhurst is crowded, think about these kids getting to Roosevelt.

And more money. For everyone.

When we rely so much on PTA to make up the difference, of course we get crazy in our little huddles - but we have to, we must, demand more funding for everyone, more capacity - but that costs even more money - and we must NOT start to point fingers.

Everyone's getting or has portables. Try to make the best of it without isolating yourself as a school, and turning others against your school - it's a team effort to fix these problems.

(And re facilities - there are supposedly 'wet' portables that are supposed to come with every 4 dry ones. FYI).

Signed: Careful w/Wishes
kellie said…
The "reason" Laurelhurst is getting four portables is because once again the entire NE is out of elementary school space and rather than addressing the systemic problem, we are debating the symptoms.

We have a
*sped capacity issue AND
* general education issue

Not to mention a looming high school problem that will eclipse them all.

Boundary changes won't help and indeed an entire neighborhood was re-drawn into Laurelhurst so Laurelhurst will only get more crowded.

I am very glad that Laurelhurst is pushing back, because they have a small window to push back because of the lot coverage issue. Please keep in mind, most schools have little or no ability to push back on what are truly some draconian capacity decisions. The Schmitz Park situation is the inevitable outcome of the lack of realistic capacity planning and we can expect more situations like Schmitz Park.

Socio-economic inequities are both real and a distraction when it comes to capacity issues. Capacity issues are equal opportunity with the wonderful bonus that when you stretch a school far past any reasonable capacity, you can always call the parents whiners.

Back in 2008, when Laurelhurst had over 30 students in the K classes, the District officially said on the evening news as their official response that parents were just complaining and that other schools with the same issue did not complain.

The last time buildings had capacity numbers that were in alignment with educational outcomes was in the now defunct 2020 facilities master plan (circa 2007) The plan was made in the era of "we have to close buildings" and those were the numbers used during the choice era to turn students away. Those numbers were considered valid numbers for twenty years and we are so far past those numbers, almost nobody remembers what a safe, sane elementary school, with one lunch and a recess looks like.
kellie said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said…
And so we come to the inevitable conclusion with the fingerpointing. Laurelhurst parents are vilified for advocating for their school (and now they are responsible for the hospital expansion protest too, based on zero evidence). Face it, if you inserted another school's name, there wouldn't be quite so much hate, but it would still be there.

We are at the point that no one can conscientiously advocate for their students, as some other group or school has it worse. And thanks to SPS, that seems to never change. Also, the district's utter failure to serve SpEd makes anyone asking for any fix besides that one look churlish.

This is why we left the district. We felt we could no longer even ask for legit things for our kids (a decent curriculum, adequate class size, a safe playground, a sane lunch/recess/start time, a plan for a high school path, insert whatever legit concern you have) when things were so awful elsewhere.

As others have pointed out, when you go to another district, you realize the insanity that we just accepted as "normal" at SPS is not the norm anywhere else.

Finally, I want to address the question that inevitable comes up, from Melissa and Charlie and others: Why didn't we become activists to force change, beginning with the egregious problems like sped or Schmitz Park? 1) We made our attempts and went to meetings, but honestly it seems to be pointless. Look at Charlie's countless hours: have they done anything? Kellie's thoughtful analyses? Anything? We served on committees and task forces, and not. One. Thing. Changed. The problem is too big it seems. 2) We all have limited resources of time and energy and different skillsets. It is unrealistic to ask us all to be activists. We shouldn't have to explain whether we are busy with ill elderly parents, or long term illnesses of children, or just struggling with full time jobs as a defense of why we don't take on SPS full time, with Charlie's suggestions of media battles etc. (and I dont' think they would even work). For what it's worth, all my limited time for activism goes to gun safety issues - in the end, more important to me to keep them alive, than well-educated.

That's my long winded defense of why we assessed the situation and decided it was just better to take our kids out of SPS. For those of you that can't, please stop turning on each other. Support Laurelhurst, support SpEd. Support each other.

-Rare Commenter
Anonymous said…
I can somewhat understand why SPS placed the SM3/behavioral classes at Laurelhurst. Their reasoning was probably along the lines of:

- Laurelhurst's enrollment is "flat" and it is best to place SpEd programming in a school that is not experiencing growth, rather than potentially to have to move/disrupt the SpEd kids in the future.

- The only other SM3/behavioral programs north of the ship canal are located at Northgate and B. F. Day. We need to place a program in the NE for "equitable access."

- Other NE schools already have portables.

These seem like rational reasons, but the reality is that there just isn't enough capacity in the region.

Like Kellie said...we have both Gen Ed and SpEd capacity crises.

Melissa pointed out that portables are not good, because they put stress on the core building. This is true, and is why portables should only be used for temporary fixes.

A previous poster mentioned that for every 4 portables a "wet" portable is to be placed? Is that in writing somewhere, because I don't see that happening at all during the last few years of rampant portable placement.

It is certainly not happening up at Cedar Park where 8 "modular" classrooms are being added. Cedar Park will open this fall, as an interim site for Olympic Hills, then is slated to open as an assignment/attendance-area school in 2017. Cedar Park is a small, landmarked, building that doesn't even have a dedicated space for a library.

I've looked through the project presentation, and can't find any references to additional bathroom facilities, or an expansion of the core spaces, to accommodate the extra 8 classrooms of kids.

The 8 modular classrooms "fit" at Cedar Park, because SPS owns the adjacent park, and it is calculated into the lot coverage formula.

The modular classrooms differ from typical portables in that they will sit on foundations, thus becoming permanent structures, and they will have shed roofs to tie into the MCM architecture of the Cedar Park building. The portables/modulars had to look nice to get approval from the City's Landmark Preservation Board.

- North-end Mom

Again, unless it's a "wet" portable, you then max out the bathrooms, lunchroom and gym. Portables add class space and that's it.

Notable quotes:

"Capacity issues are equal opportunity with the wonderful bonus that when you stretch a school far past any reasonable capacity, you can always call the parents whiners."

"Support Laurelhurst, support SpEd. Support each other."

Anonymous said…
The lot coverage by code fight is right on target and good for Laurelhurst for fighting if that's what they feel is best. It's not as though SPS and the city have synched up anywhere else in a coherent manner.

The arguments around SPED placement - when those programs need to be in all parts of the city - and around lack of playspace - with the huge park across the street and a pedestrian bridge leading to it - are likely to cause more damage rather than to further the community's cause. Important to pick the most defendable talking points then stick to your guns visibly.

Agreed that it is SPS long time lack of central management instead of any one school or neighborhood that is at the root of the Laurelhurst problem and 85 percent of the rest of the SPS issues.

Fellow fighter
Anonymous said…
"Again, unless it's a "wet" portable, you then max out the bathrooms, lunchroom and gym. Portables add class space and that's it."

Melissa - I totally agree. The frustrating thing about Cedar Park is that by using "modulars" with foundations, instead of portables (as originally proposed during the very brief community engagement period for Cedar Park), structures that were meant to provide short-term capacity become permanent, without the addition of more bathrooms, lunchroom expansion, etc...

Unlike Laurelhurst and other schools, Cedar Park doesn't yet have a community to put up a fight. The fact that the Cedar Park attendance area incorporates the lowest-income areas of the current John Rogers and Olympic Hills attendance areas just compounds the issue.

- North-end Mom
Joe Wolf said…
Additional information around the three schools discussed upthread.


Bryant's lot coverage is below the legal maximum for multi-story buildings (35%). What this means: Portables could be placed on the site without going through the Departure process. There are no plans to place portables at Bryant for 2015-16, The expanded Thornton Creek campus opens Fall 2016 and will begin to draw more students from Bryant, View Ridge and Wedgwood.

In past work with the community staff has stated portables could not be placed at Bryant. I had staff vet lot coverage at all sites after the issue was raised at Laurelhurst, and we determined the coverage at Bryant is below 35%.

Sand Point

As of the 2015-16 school year the existing space at Sand Point will be fully utilized.


The legal lot coverage of 35% has been exceeded since the placement of the oldest portables currently on-site in the mid-1960s. In the early 1990s other portables - some owned by SPS, some owned by LASER, the child care provider - were placed with City approval. The current lot coverage is between 38-39% (I am writing this at home and do not have the exact figure here.)

It was not until SPS began the permitting process for a new single portable in summer 2014 that it was told the lot coverage exceeded the legal maximum, and that an approved Departure would be required to place the portable. This portable was intended to house a GenEd class. For 2014-15, this class is being housed in one of the LASER portables under a one-year agreement between LASER and SPS.

If a SPS portable cannot be placed before Fall 2015, the class in the LASER portable will have to be located within the existing building footprint at Laurelhurst not owned by LASER. Capital staff is researching potential options.

Anonymous said…
@ Joe Wolf

Thank you, as always, for your input.

- North-end Mom
Lynn said…
Could the LASER portable be replaced with an SPS portable to avoid reconfiguring/repurposing interior spaces of the school? I don't believe a school is required to have a dedicated space for before and after school care.
Anonymous said…
Maybe the before/after care could be relocated to the lunchroom, as it is at other schools with capacity shortages? Not ideal, but doable.

- North-end Mom
Anonymous said…
Great post Kellie. The sad thing is that so many of us have given up complaining. The district and the board would be sorely mistaken if they interpret the lack of complaining for satisfaction. I am just so tired and one ends up wondering if worse things happen to you when you complain.

Chris S.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lynn said…
Reposting for Anonymous:

First, you cannot categorize Laurelhurst is generally affluent then personally attack the entire neighborhood. There are numerous modest homes, just drive along the streets around the school. Madison Park and QA have higher per capita "affluency" than Laurelhurst.

Second, Laurelhurst is fine with SPED, as long as it is managed. And with SPED, we are talking about the EBD program, the kids that have serious behavioral issues. The police were at the school 3 times last year for a child and there were other incidents. So EBD has to have its own classroom for that reason, and the principal gave them a large classroom in the main building for about 5 kids.

And EBD has one more classroom.

Access and the "Resource Room" share a classroom which shouldn't be.

Principal Talbot was placed at the school to grow SPED, namely EBD, hence the surprise portable. She said she wants all EBD kids in the school proper and gen ed in the portables. Word is she cares more about EBD than gen ed.

That is the true story. So the school said no to more portables and no to growing EBD.

Laurelhurst has the smallest lot of all the NE schools so it's a given EBD can't grow at the school. It can grow and fit better at another school. There is no room at Laurelhurst just looking at the lot size and number of kids.

3/23/15, 12:30 PM
Lynn said…
And now a question for Anonymous: Which school has room for new EBD classrooms?

I know Kelli is right - arguing about who has it the worst is a distraction from the actual problem. These kids need to go to school next year though. Now that Laurelhurst has successfully fended off a portable, where will they go? Who loses their playground?
Anonymous said…
Laurelhurst has the smallest lot:ratio coverage of all NE schools so that is your answer of why it shouldn't be at Laurelhurst.

Also there are so many layers to this - why was it put at Laurelhurst in the first place 3 years ago - no letter went out to parent community over the summer, no meetings, no communications at all.

Was the program placed at Laurelhurst in return for something - more $s? No one knows. It seems to be very hush hush why all of a sudden it landed at the school.

Then Dr. Talbot shows up as the new Principal, with little experience under her belt, but a higher ed degree in SPED. Then with a portable shows up a few weeks before school was to start and a gen ed teacher is seen moving her stuff on a cart out to the new portable. All under the radar until it all got in front of the City who said the portable must be a City process.

And listen these SPED kids are doing their best with their circumstances. And they are bussed into the school, bussed out when the bell rings, don't get to mingle with the others, play on sports leagues, in and out they go. That must be hard.

But they should be where they have space AND where gen ed has space.

And Principal Talbot should be looking at the school wholistically, not just how to further the SPED kids only, but her whole student body. Everyone counts.

Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
Commenter said "And listen these SPED kids are doing their best with their circumstances. And they are bussed into the school, bussed out when the bell rings, don't get to mingle with the others, play on sports leagues, in and out they go. That must be hard."

That must also be poor inclusion commitments. The point is not to isolate, but to integrate.

If you want to talk about the layers of factors here, what about the d*#$ language immersion schools (JSIS, MacDonald) where kids with special needs are completely pushed out the door to place like BF Day and Laurelhurst. There is no reason to pack these programs into these schools, except that SPS behaves unlawfully in ignoring that students with special needs have a right to attend the the school closest to home that they would have attended if not for the disability.

Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
@ Commenter, you do realize that program placement decisions happen all the time without community notice and input, no? I doubt the growth of EBD at Laurelhurst was part of a big conspiracy plan. More likely it's due to poor planning re: capacity management. Your idea that "they should be where they have space AND where gen ed has space" sounds great--but where exactly might this be? We have widespread capacity shortages.

And just because the principal wants the SpEd kids in the main building, how does that somehow prove that only the SpEd kids count? I'm sure one could just as easily argue that those kids need to be in the main facility, closer to administration in the event there's a serious problem.

Anonymous said…
It is widely know that the Principal has made many off the cuff remarks about how she wants to up the numbers for SPED kids by focusing on them - so her visibility looks positive.

No that's not a bad thing - but every student counts. And it seems her interests lies in a very narrow area of her entire role at the school.

Just like you said - many layers to this. It would take hours to give you all the supporting evidence, but it's there.

This is much more than the portables issue - it's also a Principal Talbot issue. Families leaving mid-year and more next year which has never happened with the previous Principals. It's a very large issue and very complex unfortunately.

Afternoon commentator
Sacajawea Parent said…
Sacajawea Elementary has faced similar issues. Last year, the PTA worked hard to raise money for a new playground -- it was a joint grant between the school district and Seattle Parks and Recreation because it includes a wetlands area. Then the district decided to add portables, removing our existing playground in the process. They LOST the portable they were going to add (maybe it was sitting at Laurelhurst?) and so the playground project could not proceed as planned. (Oh, and it took Boys and Girls Club by surprise too. They didn't have time to find an alternate site for the safety of their kids while construction was going on.) We've spent the whole year with no playground equipment for grades 3-5. This has been really hard on our kids! However, I don't think the district has any choice, really, and until the legislature starts funding schools, it's probably only going to get worse. Be on the lookout for the House and Senate budgets that are coming out in the next few weeks!
Anonymous said…
IMO, it is completely within reason to locate SpEd kids, especially those with behavior issues, inside the building, and hopefully in close proximity to the office, staff lounge, that in case an incident should occur, staff can respond - immediately. It is what is best for the safety and well-being of all kids.

The absolute LAST place these kids should be placed is in an isolated portable!

- reality check
Same Boat said…
Something else just struck me as I was looking at Careful w/Wishes post:

"The result: less money on the weighted staffing standard to get PE, art, Music, librarian, etc from the district. A LOT LESS MONEY. Like, lose half a PE teacher and lose half a librarian less money. Or if you only had half a librarian, lose it all."

That's right - you can fit more gen ed students in a classroom, and that pays for more than just the teacher. It also pays for librarians, cafeteria managers, counselors, etc, etc. So in that way, when special education classrooms are placed, less money goes to the school, and therefore to the students.

That's a flaw with the weighted staffing standards: they're designed to be inequitable!

Anonymous said…
Such wrath about special education. EBD - the big, bugaboo. And OMG. The police were at the school. And the evil Sarah Talbot - she actually thinks EBD students are part of the program.... This banter speaks volumes about the neighborhood.

All this talk proves to me - is that the Laurelhurst community NEEDS the EBD program, and needs it badly, AND needs it to expand. The sooner the better. Bring on the portables! I'm sure the higher ups in the district see this too. It is so transparent, and so weak minded. Special ed should be in the main building, not in a portable. Gen-ed kids can spend a year or 2 in a portable. Special ed kids will be stuck there for their entire tenure in the school, AND, the district has already been sited for this sort of crap. ALL kids, including EBD kids, should be included - everywhere possible. I give massive credit to Dr. Talbot for doing this. It isn't "prioritizing" special ed first - it's simply acting in a non-discriminatory way. Incredible that a bunch of neighborhood moms would think of anything less than discrimination against disabilities - as an affront to their privilege. (Listen folks, we got private schools for that!)

There are students with every disability, in every quadrant of the city. A neighborhood assignment plan includes having ALL TYPES of special ed, in all regions of the city. Hey Laurelhurst. That means you. If there's any real culprit here - its with the "international schools". The huge number of those in the north end, has essentially meant that there's a vast, sped-free zone in North Seattle. Guess what? The KIDS... (the animals that take up space) still have to go somewhere. I can't think of a better place than Laurelhurst. And you know what else? The sped kids are entitled to transportation to and from afterschool activities. So instead of whining about how impossible it is to include them, and how they can't be a part of anything... why not help them assert their rights to transportation to afterschool extracurricular activities. Sounds like a win-win - for anybody who actually wants that.

And if the Laurelhurst community is STILL irked by having to accommodate and make room for sped kids - they should take it up with the "international school" movement. How much research did the district do in figuring out how to support intensive special education services in an immersion setting. (hint: none) How many intensive special education programs (you know, like EBD, Access, etc) are in the "international schools"? How many programs? I'll give you a hint. It starts with a Z.

Sped Parent
Anonymous said…
Oh and btw Afternoon Commentator - special education students ARE general education students first. There is no "separate" special education place. You can't simply find a school with a nice closet, or a nice basement - where they can be hidden away. Get used to it.

Sped Parent
Anonymous said…
@ same boat

FYI, SpEd kids are weighted an extra 1.0 or 2.0 when it comes to funding counselors and assistant principals.

- reality check
Sped Parent, calm down.

You are certainly casting a lot of aspirations that I don't see evidence for. You know how all Laurelhurst parents feel?

As well, huge number of international schools in the north end? It's the same as the south end. Go count.

I understand the upset about movement of Sped programs but put the blame where it should be - on the district.
Anonymous said…
Sped Parent, I think Hamilton International MS does have intensive SpEd.

Many non-international elementary schools don't have intensive SpEd services. Surely the "international school movement" (?) isn't blamed for all program placement decisions in the district? In any case, it's certainly not parents who have any say.

Anonymous said…
And if the Laurelhurst community is STILL irked by having to accommodate and make room for sped kids - they should take it up with the "international school" movement. How much research did the district do in figuring out how to support intensive special education services in an immersion setting. (hint: none) How many intensive special education programs (you know, like EBD, Access, etc) are in the "international schools"? How many programs? I'll give you a hint. It starts with a Z.

SPED Parent nails it. The inequity overall is a district leadership issue. The international schools movement is an example. In the right world, our kids with disabilities are not shipped off from their n'hood schools to make room for choice programs such as immersion.

Anonymous said…
So getting rid of international schools would create additional capacity in the district?

Anonymous said…
Moderator - there are many in the school community that would like to comment on this issue, but do not want to - due to the personal attacks that are demeaning, sarcastic and have no foundation in facts, and put down a general area of Seattle.

It is so unfortunate when we are all parents, yet people put another down or where they live or their views.

Is there a way to delete rude comments or ask people to comment respectfully? Thank you in advance.
kellie said…
Capacity issue by their nature are Accountability-Resistant. This is why it is so easy to point fingers and why pointing fingers at other parents, other students and other schools is a complete and total distraction.

Capacity issues ALWAYS result from MULTIPLE drivers and the entire system design itself. There is never just the one thing.

Sped parents have a right to be angry and no right to be angry at Laurelhurst the school or the neighborhood. For at least 20 years now, Special Education program have been used as ballast to load balance capacity issues. Plain and Simple. In the choice era, sped went to schools with "empty seats" aka schools that the choice students did not choose. I first became involved in capacity issues in 2002 when a friend's autistic 3-year-old son was bussed over an hour each direction from Lake City to West Seattle because that was the closest school "with space" in a developmental pre-school. That was typical.

This terrible practice was one of the primary drivers for the current attendance area assignment plan, that guarantees special education must be placed close to home. Very very few current parent know this any longer. Hence the strong defensive reaction on the part of sped parents and advocates that the sped students should not be ballast for general education capacity issues.

We have a capacity problem - plain and simple and there is NOBODY who is accountable for solving the systemic drivers of this problem. We have lots of good people like Joe, who are thoughtful and diligent and managing the impacts of the problem but nobody who is in charge of load balancing the system so that there is the right amount of capacity to optimize for education.

This is partly a funding issue in that WA State does not fully fund education but it primarily an Urban Planning failure. The city of Seattle has been planning for extensive growth for 20 years now and school capacity has NEVER been on the list.

Seattle Master Growth plan has planned for traffic, parks, housing, affordable housing, utilities, police, fire, and lots of other types of basic infrastructure and ZERO PLANNING FOR SCHOOL CAPACITY.

With the notable exception of the ONE time, school capacity fell on their radar - that a downtown elementary school would be a wonderful City amenity that would help sell condos downtown.

Once again, the school capacity is accountability-resistant raised it head and the City of Seattle and the Downtown Association was convinced that a polite ask about how it "would-be-nice" was more than sufficient for SPS to generate a new school.

The amazing irony that the same folks that have worked on Growth Issues with the City and who are painfully aware that it takes 5-years to accomplish anything capacity related was lost on everyone. Somehow, school capacity is supposed to be just there. It isn't

We have a deep and wide, systemic capacity problem. Putting portables at Laurelhurst is like putting a bandaid on gushing wound. It is better than nothing but it doesn't fix the systemic issue that got use here.

Anonymous said…
Thank you, Kellie.

- North-end Mom
Anonymous said…
thank you Kellie - for being a reasoned, intelligent voice in a difficult situation.

I hope everyone can "hear" what she's saying. Please realize that while you may be angry at whats happening in "your" little corner of Seattle, the issues behind that are much much larger and much much more complicated than just your school. See the forest for the trees and advocate for each and every student at SPS. It's the only way anything will change.

Anonymous said…
@Bones, teachers so traumatized by nice big portable that she quit her job. OMG, my children &> 50% of their classmates and their teachers and also counselors and therapists who are working in 5×5 closets and the teachers working on the stage and sharing the gym and the lunchroom must be about to quit en mass! Maybe even have psychotic breaks and be broken 4EVARRR!!! Those poor untouchables have to WALK across their former playground to go to the BATHROOM and get some MEASLY INEDIBLE LUNCH (OMG, OMG, the HORRORS, amirite?)
If this putative teacher is too fragile to work in a spacious portable, cleaned daily by someone else, with no loose ceiling tiles, no asbestos floors, no cyanide contaminated water, no broken window or heater, no toilet smell etc etc etc ad infinitum, she was more fortunate than >50,60,70,80, 90%+ of her peers. Where is she working now? Weschester, NY(average property tax $14,000+)? Essex County ($12,000), NJ? Bergen County, NJ (11,000+)?, tutoring the Gates' and Allens' children? OMG, OMG, , light bulb moment, maybe we should pay, like, more taxes for school? Pass an income tax?
Apparently the park in Laurelhurst is more dangerous than Baton Rouge: Pedophiles! Homeless people! Killer DOGS! Who knew! No wonder the families there can't afford playground monitors to protect their kids at recess, they're like being driven into poverty paying for their PRIVATE Police Force.
I saw kid dropped of at school by a Hummer today. Wondered if they live in the Gaza war zone.

1stWorld's Dangers
Anonymous said…
Melissa, here are the facts:
Fact: International immersion schools, the elementary schools, Do indeed exclude students with intensive special education needs.
Fact: Two of these are side by side in the north end, taking up attendance area seats.
Fact: The district has done no research, and has no plans to provide immersion special education. So it doesn't.
Fact: Students with special education needs, intensive AND resource, will be displaced to surrounding areas because of ELEMENTARY international immersion schools. (Who is complaining about Hamilton? Not me.)
Fact: Laurelhurst bloggers are complaining that "their kids" shouldn't have to share space with students with disabilities and that the big, mean principal is making them. And, they should just get to vote them off the island.

These are facts, not "casting aspirations". What a joke. Look up your language usage, to be taken seriously.

The reality is, this type of ideology needs correcting, and "inspiration". Discrimination has no place in our public schools. Laurelhurst get a grip. Yes, your snowflakes can play in the park. Yes, your staff can arrange supervision. Yes, students with disabilities can share your space. No, you're not special. Welcome to public school. It's an opportunity for your growth. Embrace it. The rest of us aren't going away.

Sped Parent
Anonymous said…
Dear readers

Anybody can go to the OSPI website and develop a map of where special needs kids are going to elementary schools in Seattle. Many many special needs students are NOT attending their neighborhood schools if these are immersion school. Here are the #s from 2013-2014:

SPS SPED: percentage sped 14%.5

John Stanford International School (immersion) percentage sped 5.8%

MacDonald (immersion) percentage sped 7.5%

In contrast:

Laurelhurst: 11.2%
BF Day: 16%
Bagley 13.5%
Sacajawea: 15.7%

Fact checker

kellie said…
Sped Reader and Fact Checker,

You are not wrong. However, your postulates about the International Schools are missing enough pieces that it is a tiny bit misleading.

The two International Schools - JSIS and McDonald are creating MULTIPLE capacity problems.

* Displacement of Special Educations students - these schools serve far less than the district average, thereby causing other nearby schools to absorb more.

* Displacement of General Education students - these schools are unable to serve neighborhood students who do not start in the lower grades. Therefore the boundaries of all the adjacent schools are far too large and every single connecting schools has a capacity problem.

* The geography of two specialized schools, adjacent to each other warps all of the middle school feeder plans. Right now, Greenlake is going to Eckstein where there is space but the language immersion students are going to Hamilton. Confused? So is most of the neighborhood.

* Generating increased demand. It is no surprise to anyone that the demand for international education is far greater than the supply. The JSIS area has the HIGHEST birth to K rate in the district. The birth to K rate is the rate of students who are born in that attendance area and then later attend a school. If it is over 100%, you have in-migration. In other words, clear evidence that people move "for the school" This in-migration, further intensifies the above three issues.

The bottom line: While the placement of these international schools is primary driver of capacity issues at Laurelhurst, Hamilton, Bryant, West Woodland, etc, the schools themselves, the students, the parents and the faculty are NOT the problem.

Likewise, Sped is NOT the problem at Laurelhurst. Laurelhurst has a reasonable amount of sped and that information should be clear and transparent. I say reasonable because even with a lower than district average percentage, percentages are not the best way to measure because programs with intensive needs, often have enrollment numbers that are generate a funky percentage.

However, poor handling of the situation by the principal and a principal that does not ACTIVELY make it clear that a public school is for both General and Special education, could be making the problem worse. In the Kathy Jolly era, that would never have happened.

SameBoat said…
@RealityCheck - smaller schools have neither counselors nor assistant principals, so the staffing formula doesn't have any impact. and what about office staff, cafeteria workers, tutors for helping with inclusion? it takes a whole school to teach a child.
Anonymous said…
This is not a fact - you are incorrect:
Fact: Laurelhurst bloggers are complaining that "their kids" shouldn't have to share space with students with disabilities and that the big, mean principal is making them. And, they should just get to vote them off the island.

The Blog post does not say any of that - those are your words, with a bit of rudeness and sarcasm, which is offensive and not constructive at all.

Read the Blog post and you will understand the facts, and that's what most of us are going on is facts, most of the people who have commented are giving helpful FACTS, not unkind, defensive remarks.

We are talking about Laurelhurst having the most lot/ratio coverage of all NE Seattle Schools, so hence the City mandated process to have a Departure Committee where SPS presented facts, then the Committee discussed them for almost 3 hours and voted against more portables, the need wasn't shown.

Has nothing to do with SPED and GENED "sharing space" which they don't. SPED has 3 classrooms on the campus, so there is no sharing. GENED has their own classrooms.

But space is tight, so hence the issue.
Anonymous said…
Wrong again, Anonymous Laurelhurst.

Pissing and moaning about the Special ed in your building, that doesn't belong IS INDEED a complaint about sharing space. "Those kids", not only get a seat in your lauded behavior program, they also get a seat in the general ed classroom.... sitting right next to your special snowflake... Did not get it? ALL SPECIAL EDUCATION STUDENTS ARE GENERAL EDUCATION STUDENTS FIRST AND FOREMOST. So maybe Laurelhurst community thinks it can split up sped and genedu. It can't.

Kellie is also not completely correct. Laurehurst underserved sped as a district average. It is close though, BECAUSE it imports an EBD program. It clearly exports more though.

The issue isn't that space is tight.... It's that YOU, Laurelhurst poster, think you're entitled to a private school. If that's what you want, plunk down the 30g, and have a great life. Not much community though. Can't imagine why.

Sped Parent
mirmac1 said…
I've not been tracking this thread which may have been a good thing.

It is not "immoral" to place SpEd classrooms in Title 1 schools. Why would it be? Thanks to the inbred lawbreaking, insensitive culture in this district, many more children in Title 1 schools are also identified as requiring special education services.

Here's the thing. When a school has a high number of special education students they gets LOTS more money. For example Pinehurst. Remember Ron English? He used to bemoan the per student "costs" at Pinehurst. He always forgot to mention that Pinehurst students brought in nearly double funding at $12K/student versus $6K at say JSIS. The delta is the basic ed and restricted use funding for students with special needs. These kids are general education students first because they bring in full general education funding. School Budgeting 101: SpEd students bring just as much money as GenEd students for librarians, PE, art teachers, counselors etc and have FEWER opportunities to benefit from these resources. So Sped Parent is correct. Same Boat, you are wrong. Period.

When it comes to capacity: it sickens me that SPS regularly juggle SpEd programs around like a madhouse attraction. Forget that our kids may have actually made friends or have sibling at a given school - just put 'em somewhere so we can accommodate John and Susie Q by their friends. SpEd students are the ONLY students protected by Federal law to attend their neighborhood school or one nearby. The rest can be up and moved willy-nilly. Blame Goodloe-Johnson for a plan that creates portable farms.

As for "fears" about the EBD classrooms at Laurelhurst: know that police are called because SPS administrators and staff have failed to follow the law to have in place the proper supports for the child you reference. And children with disabilities are NOT "MANAGED"; they are educated. That statement disturbs me greatly.

Placement of special education classrooms do not require community notification, anymore than creation of a music room or technology room. Get used to that. Our parents are not even notified where their child may be assigned next, unlike assignment area students.

And BTW, I was the one who said Watch Out Laurelhurst" when Talbot was assigned. But not for the grand conspiracy theories that Commenter suggests. Why do you think an administrator has been in three schools over three years? Not because they're "pro-SpEd"!

No matter the incompetency of a principal - SpEd students are to be included with their peers to the maximum extent possible. That means that portables at the edge of the playground do not pass muster. And Laurelhurst is as good a place as any to inject some of life's realities into the cloister.
Anonymous said…
Kellie at 12:01pm. I don't understand. JSIS and McDonald are in Wallingford, as is Hamilton. JSIS on 42nd, McDonald on 54th, Hamilton on 41st, all S of 55th, N of 40th, W of I5 and E of Aurora, and kids of Wallingford have been going to Hamilton for many decades before existence of immersion, why would the neighborhood be confused? Are you saying Wallingford kids should be bused to Eckstein so Greenlake can go to Hamilton? And I thought from posts last year that half of Greenlake is going to Hamilton and half to Eckstein. Is that no longer so? I thought they sent half to Eckstein because Hamilton is too small and all Greenlake kids will go to WP when it opens.When they reopened McDonald and switched to the new assignment plan they drew Greenlake to Eckstein to make room for Laurelhurst and McDonald at Hamilton. I thought it'd make more sense to have Laurelhurst at Eckstein and Greenlake at Hamilton but no one seemed upset. So I don't understand how JSIS and McDonald shouldn't be going to Hamilton just because they are immersion, esp since it's Hamilton International MS, part of the immersion pathway/global focus for the North end.
Not snarking, trying to understand.

kellie said…
Sped Parent,

You are not correct. A school with less than 14% Sped does not equal a school that is exporting sped. Without a direct in and out migration attendance area map generated by enrollment, there is no direct evidence of out migration.

Students do not come in nice tidy little packages and all problems are evenly spread across Seattle like a nice smooth layer of peanut butter. Therefore in order to create equity, intensive services special education should be imported into a school with a lower percentage.

Statistically significant lower than 14%, as in the case of the international schools and their 5% Sped is clear evidence of exporting sped.

It is important to note about the International Programs, that they weren't always this way. JSIS was home to the Elementary Bilingual Orientation Center. When that was true, they did have a community that required additional supports. However, that program was moved to make more space for general education.
kellie said…
@ CCA,

My point was Confused? And yes, you seem confused. Nearly everyone in the Greenlake area is confused.

The "new" Greenlake area included all of the old Greenlake plus the old JSIS and the old McDonald.

However, Greenlake is not behaving as a feeder school. The *old* Greenlake goes to Eckstein. The *old* international schools go to Hamilton. And none of them are slated for WP.

Try explaining that to a new family that just moved to Seattle.
Anonymous said…
SPED Parent -
I am also a SPED parent, and first I don't have to be rude or sarcastic to convey opinions. And yes Laurelhurst is fine with everyone "sharing space." However if there is no space for EBD, in particular, that should not grow. Talbot is wanting to grow that with no space to house it.

And that is the part of SPED being discussed, not SM3, or the IEP Resource students.

So before you pass judgment about "snowflakes" and as another commenter said "if you inserted another school name" there would not be your types of comments that are demeaning and have no basis in fact, but are judgmental, just because you want to bash Laurelhurst by personally attacking an entire neighborhood. And that has no merit or basis in fact.

From all your posts, you post nothing that is factual or give supportive info or stats, it's just plain rude for whatever reason you need to do it. You most likely would not talk to another parent on the playground in that manner or your child.

From one SPED parent to another SPED parent, as we are thousands in SPS, there is no need to show your insecurities by turning your defensiveness into rude, disrespectful comments.

We all want and are looking for the best for our students, regardless of what program they are in or not in.

And as parents, we should represent our kids respectfully in public, such as in this forum, just as we teach our kids. And most likely yours is a valuable "snowflake" as well as every kid is in SPS, all "snowflakes."

Your kid would probably not be happy knowing his caregiver was so mean to others for no reason at all, other than having a constructive dialogue on this forum. There is a nice way to stand up for what you think is right and defend your child and a not nice way. Most on this forum have chosen a constructive way so that we are all learning from eachother in navigating SPS.
Anonymous said…
@other SPED parent (anonymous 1:01 pm)

Please sign your posts with a 2-word or less moniker, or it will probably get deleted.

I'm confused by your wrote:

"However if there is no space for EBD, in particular, that should not grow. Talbot is wanting to grow that with no space to house it.

And that is the part of SPED being discussed, not SM3, or the IEP Resource students."

I thought SM3 WAS the behavioral program. Are you confusing SM3 with ACCESS?

- North-end Mom
Anonymous said…
Kellie, the district has done many origination studies of special ed students, and yes indeed, they come from everywhere pretty evenly. Furthermore 30% of all elementaries have intensive programs. No reason why Laurelhurst can't have one too. It's crowded everywhere as you point out. Laurelhurst isn't "underserving" special ed now, but it certainly has in the past. They've got plenty of years to make up for.

Other SPED parent. Oh, there's plenty of room for EBD - which can not exist as 1 program because you really can't have a k-5 elementary program. Hooray! Bravo to Talbot for standing up for the right thing. Let me count the ways you can house EBD:

1) Put more than 1 gen ed class in a room. EBD is limited by IEP - but not true for regular ed.

2) Change the Laurelhurst boundaries and reassign general ed students to JSIS, Macdonald, , Sand Point... or anywhere. Add portables to those locations too. The more the merrier.

3) Emancipate the EBD students so that they are in general ed most of the day. Then a tiny EBD room might suffrice.

4) Use the lunchroom. The special snowflakes at John Hay (there, I used another school) did exactly that. AND, those snowflakes are way specialer than Laurelhurst. Actually, they used the bandroom NEXT to the lunchroom. Everybody lived, and got a great education.

5) Use the Hall for class. Yep. ALso vetted at John Hay.

Personally, I vote for option 3 and 4.

Nope Sped Parent - being nice, never pays when it comes to SPED. I'm not insecure - I'm supremely confident. I recommend you try the same. The district doesn't serve your kid because the want to, they do it because they have to. Best to get that clue early.

SPED Parent
Anonymous said…
Wow Kellie, I was asking for information, I didn't realize you were talking about the most recent changes in boundaries. I guess you are so used to everyone here admiring your expertise re capacity that even a request for clarification is an offense needs attacking. I help with after school classes at my child's school and a couple years ago there was a man teaching the robotics class who was clearly an absolute expert in robotics; however next session we all voted to go with a different instructor, someone who knew less but was kinder and less dismissive to the kids.
I'll be sure to never ask you for info again. I don't know where you live, but Wallingford-Greenlake is where we live. I couldn't understand your statement "Greenlake goes to Eckstein but immersion goes to Hamilton ..(so) most of the neighborhood is confused" - as we who live here have never been confused about the international pathway being JSIS/McDonald - HIMS - Ingraham. These schools all have a global focus philosophy and advanced language classes and international art and culture. That's why the word International is in all of them. And yes, people are moving in for the schools. They want the international pathway. QA parents want STEM focus, Hazel Wolf wants environmental focus, Center wants social justice, and Wallingford wants global focus.

Anonymous said…
I agree that the district should provide support so special ed children who want to be at an international/immersion school can do so. And we want the ELL/BOC program that was moved to the school near Carkeek when the neighborhood assignment plan started to come back.

Anonymous said…

This has nothing to do with the "traditional" language immersion pathway. I think the confusion that Kelly was referring to is that the Wallingford/Green Lake area does not follow the student assignment plan, and is therefore confusing to those who may be new to SPS, or at least new to Wallingford. Those of us who have been around for a while have gotten used to nothing in SPS making sense.

Option schools are generally set up as serving the middle school attendance area in which they are located. For example, Thornton Creek is now the option school for just the Eckstein Attendance Area. Hazel Wolf K-8 is the option school for the JAMS Attendance Area (well, there is transportation to HW for Eckstein kids, but that is an exception).

Some middle school attendance areas may not have an option school, so they are linked to an adjacent area's option school.

Green Lake Elementary's boundaries were increased to compensate for JSIS and McDonald becoming option schools. Green Lake's attendance area is now huge, and covers the geo-zone for both JSIS and McDonald.

According to the Student Assignment Plan, it would make sense to have Green Lake feed into Hamilton, because the two option schools within its attendance area feed into Hamilton.

Instead, Green Lake is part of the Eckstein MS Attendance Area.

So, you could have two kids who are neighbors, one who went the option school/Language Immersion route, and one who went the neighborhood school route, and, despite living next door to each other, they would be assigned to different middle schools. I don't think that is happening anywhere else in Seattle.

For those of us who have been around long enough, the reasons for this deviation from the Student Assignment Plan are pretty is all capacity-generated.

At least for the time being, without Green Lake, Eckstein would be under-enrolled.

With Green Lake, Hamilton would be over-enrolled.

When the Student Assignment Plan doesn't mesh with the capacity management plan (i.e. "Growth Boundaries") there is confusion.

- North-end Mom
Anonymous said…
Wallingford wants a global focus....they want their EBOC back!

Let's double or triple the bus ride for EBOC kids so that the international schools can have a supply of native speakers!

If we have to have LI, wouldn't it make sense to put the schools in neighborhoods where there already is a "global focus?" Like maybe Lake City or Northgate?

And how does an immersion school setting work for a child whose native language isn't English, Spanish, or Japanese?

I remember being shocked that World Language wasn't offered at our (non-Walkingford) public school. In a global city like Seattle it sucks that these opportunities are sequestered in only certain neighborhoods.

- reality check
kellie said…
@ CCA,

I was actually doing my best to answer your question. The question you asked is why would the neighborhood be confused.

The question, "which school will your student attend if you live at this address?" should have a simple answer of 1-5 sentences. When the answer requires many paragraphs and a history lesson on school assignment policies, then you have something complex and confusing for many people.

Again, my point about the boundaries was that is it confusing for many people, particularly new people. It may not be confusing to a person who has all of the history. But the fact that ALL of the history is required to understand what is going on is ... confusing.

In fact, it is so confusing that often enrollment staff have difficulty answering these questions. It is so confusing that many board members and long time capacity experts make erroneous statements about this area.

The simplest answer I can give is that the NEW Greenlake attendance area covers a wide area. Because of capacity issues, there are no simple or easy answers for this new Greenlake attendance area.

The feeder pattern for Hamilton is NOT sustainable under any circumstances with FIVE feeder schools. (BF Day, Greenlake, West Woodland, JSIS and McDonald) Those schools generate approximately 16 homerooms per grade, which would generate an approximately 1200 student middle school. Hamilton can't handle that many students, so something is going to change.

Some school in the Hamilton feeder pattern is going to have a "surprise" re-assignment to Wilson Pacific.

The old "Greenlake" assignment area is now "Area 204" (I think, even I get confused on this one as there have been multiple area numbers depending on the map). Area 204 is within the current Greenlake attendance area but it is NOT part of the Hamilton feeder pattern.

Area 204 was scheduled to start at Hamilton for the 2015 school year, under the board approved Boundary changes. However, I suspect due to capacity issues that Area 204 will continue to go to Eckstein. And the ambiguity of where area 204 will go, will be a year-to-year question with a different answer depending on who you ask.

I regularly get emails from the Wallingford-Greenlake-Maple Leaf area, where people forward to me an email with a NEW answer and they ask if that information could possibly be correct.

The sad truth is that I often don't know how to answer those messages.

So that is why my answer was that .... the simple fact that there are two international options school, geographically adjacent to each other, in a capacity hot spot, creates a domino effect of other capacity issues elsewhere in the chain.
kellie said…
@ reality check.

As JSIS was the first international school, it was placed at Latona as an option in an area of the city with a very low birth rate AND easy freeway access. That is hard to imagine today but ....

The first conversations about LI at Latona made Latona (later JSIS) a reference area school, rather than an option school, because SPS was concerned, nobody would pick that school.

Fast forward ... the next batch of LI schools were then placed in areas with a density of native speakers. Spanish at Concord and Mandarin at Beacon Hill.

LI was generated at a time declining enrollment and excess capacity as a way to increase enrollment. Great news!! LI is now proven to increase enrollment.

So what now happens when LI is located in a part of the city with capacity issues? That is the challenging question, for which nobody is really answering.

Anonymous said…

After reading Kellie's post and taking another look at the maps...

I should have said that, while Green Lake is technically a feeder school for Eckstein, only about half of its current attendance area feeds into Eckstein (the "old Greenlake" area).

The areas around JSIS and McDonald still feeds into Hamilton.

A similar issue is happening with Olympic View. Right now, Olympic View is technically a feeder for Eckstein, but a huge portion of its current attendance area feeds into JAMS.

It is all very confusing.

- North-end Mom
kellie said…
@ SPED parent,

Yes, we both agree that currently Laurelhurst is no longer under-serving SPED. Excellent! We also agree that for a long time, Laurelhurst was under-serving SPED.

That is a big change in sped services and one that should be accompanied but a little bit of parent education. However, we disagree on the reason for this.

We also both agree that Sped has been used as ballast for capacity management and that is just not appropriate. Plain and Simple. Balancing capacity on the backs of the most fragile students is wrong in so many dimensions.

That said, the entire school of Laurelhurst has been used as ballast for north end capacity issues for at least 15 years. In 2002, when the process of closing schools got started, Laurelhurst was the school with the lowest percentage of students attending the school from the reference area and had a very small number of "first-choice" picks.

Under the old choice system, the distance tie breaker meant that a large number of students in NE Seattle were unable to attend their closest school and Laurelhurst was the answer - Bus them there, there is empty space! (sound familiar?)

Move ahead to the new plan, and Laurelhurst becomes a ping pong ball to try to balance the middle school feeder patterns. Laurelhurst loses students and bussing on a year to year basis. All those families assigned to Laurelhurst as "ballast" during the choice days are now off from transportation. Lather-rinse-repeat.

Same style of issue. Does it matter that their siblings are there? Does it matter that they made friends? Nope. They should just go to their new school and stop complaining.

That is not an excuse but IMHO blaming Laurelhurst for not being available as home for Sped is not helpful.

The ENTIRE school got treated the way that sped programs have been treated.

IMHO, a little bit of education on this topic would go a long way. It makes so much sense to me that once Laurelhurst is no longer ballast for the feeder pattern system, that it is possible to place an intensive services program there.

Now that Laurelhurst's assignment area is not being changed every single year, it is possible to place a program that serves the entire middle school service area.

kellie said…
@ SPED Parent,

This comment needed to be answered separately.

2) Change the Laurelhurst boundaries and reassign general ed students to JSIS, Macdonald, Sand Point... or anywhere. Add portables to those locations too. The more the merrier.

Last year, students were re-assigned FROM McDonald to Laurelhurst. Portables have been placed EVERYWHERE in the NE. One school has "brown-outs" because of portable-placement. Cedar Park will be opening with EIGHT portables.

If placing a portable fixed this, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

We have BOTH a general education capacity issue AND a special education capacity issue.

Attempting to point fingers at each other is distracting. The only solution to a capacity problem is MORE CAPACITY.

Unfortunately, there is NONE coming. BEX IV does a wonderful job of giving people hope that there might be some more capacity soon. However, the simple fact is the enrollment is growing much faster than the BEX plan.

Anonymous said…
@ Kellie

Back to the Green Lake/Hamilton/Eckstein issue...

Wouldn't going to a geographic assignment plan for middle school help solve some of the confusion?

Right now, we have a student assignment plan that is centered around networks of elementary schools feeding into a comprehensive middle school, but after all the "Growth Boundaries" changes, the boundaries for middle schools like Eckstein, JAMS, and Hamilton look nothing like the boundaries of the actual "feeder" schools.

It just seems so bizarre.

- North-end Mom
Anonymous said…
Kellie, to say "thinking of Laurelhurst as a home for sped"... First of all, Laurelhurst isn't a home. SPED students, mostly from their own region, attend Laurelhurst. So what? This is no different than loads of other students, and at every school. Nobody has a right to a particular school. No. There doesn't need to be "parent education". Do we have "parent education" when there are some black students at a school? No. Is there "parent education" because girls are at a school? No. There's nothing, and I do mean, absolutely nothing, about special education that means the presence of special education mandates some sort of meeting. That would only make students with disabilities even more unwelcome than they already are. The fact that people think there should be something like this - only points for the need to do MUCH more inclusion, of MUCH more disabled students at ALL schools, but in NE Seattle in particular.

And for the record, SPED in Seattle is changing hardly at all. Seriously. There are still programs. Elementary students are still shipped lots of places, and there are still really archane designation. Autism-Inclusion, Inclusion, SM4, SM4i, Access. Does anybody really think ANYTHING other than a name has changed? Well, it hasn't. That's all another big, huge So what? It really isn't interesting at all that students were, gasp, bussed 2 miles to Laurelhurst from View Ridge.

Sped Parent
kellie said…
@ Sped Parent,

Yes, there are serious problems and challenges with Sped.

I'm so sorry, that my notion that attempting to work with both special education and general education in order to create the context that there is one public school and that public schools are there to serve both general education and special education is somehow so off putting.

FWIW, I do think that there has been change. Some of it has been good in that it is no longer acceptable to bus autistic pre-schoolers from Lake City to West Seattle. That is a big change.

Much of it has been not good and regressive. The "inclusion" practices of MGJ set the district backwards by removing critical services that have been very slow to return.

However, my point is still the same. Pointing fingers at parents, students and communities is just distracting from the real work that needs to be done.

Anonymous said…
Kelli - you are right on track with your facts and info - showing how this is a bigger issue, not just a Laurelhurst/EBD specific problem, but much more complex. It is very interesting to read your comments.

And also as you said, pointing fingers is not useful. It really serves to devalue that person's credibility. As another poster said we are all trying to figure this out together on behalf of our kids. Most of these posts provide a lot of knowledge and insight from so many perspectives which is very helpful and valuable.

And thanks to Melissa for providing this forum where we can discuss such a variety of issues constructively.

SPED PARENT - all your posts come across as if you are an angry Principal with a grudge against an entire neighborhood and anyone that speaks up with any type of question or concern from that specific neighborhood.

Unfortunately you immediately squash them, rather than commenting with supportive facts and leaving emotion out. No we don't have to be angry SPED parents to get what we want.

Hopefully you are not a Principal of one of the schools being discussed and hiding behind "SPED Parent" and dissing the community you might be serving.

Also, all your comments since this issue was posted last week are not during business hours, except for today.

Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
Wow. This is a highly-entertaining blog thread!

Who knew that there is apparently only one angry SpEd parent in SPS?

Who knew that if you post during business hours, it not only means that you are employed, but that you are likely to be employed as an SPS principal?

I know first hand, or at least my kids do, about the joys of learning in portables. Portables are not, and never should be considered a permanent solution for over-enrollment, but this "fight" against portable placement, with its allegations and innuendos is not very constructive.

Laurelhurst may very well win their fight against portable placement, but from what Joe Wolf has written above,

"If a SPS portable cannot be placed before Fall 2015, the class in the LASER portable will have to be located within the existing building footprint at Laurelhurst not owned by LASER. Capital staff is researching potential options."

My interpretation of Mr. Wolf's postis that they may convert a classroom spaced used art, music, computer lab, etc... into a gen ed classroom, or maybe put a classroom on the stage. Kids that are already in the building are not getting booted.

IMO, it would be a much more constructive use of time to work with the principal and BLT on the least-objectionable way of housing an additional classroom full of kids in the building. Hopefully, there is a parent representative on the BLT that is able to bring parent input and feedback to the BLT meetings.

Next, I would suggest broadening your scope and using your considerable energies to advocate for more capacity in NE Seattle. The District is banking on less than 250 "extra" seats at Thornton Creek to solve all of lower NE Seattle's capacity problems. Do you really think that is enough? I don't, especially with all the new development going up in the area.

- North-end Mom
Anonymous said…
Please excuse the typos in the above post...

Also, I meant to say that if you DON"T post during business hours....


- North-end Mom
Anonymous said…
Wow. I thought blog policy was to protect anonymity. Is that not something you respect, Curious????

But since you are REALLY so Curious. No I am not a principal, and am not "the big, mean principal" as you seem to think I am, in particular. And I will never be a principal, or anything remotely similar. So, you can rest easy - unless that makes you even more curious. It is interesting that pointing out the obvious - would make you arrive at so many incorrect references. That said, I doubt any principal would hate the neighborhood she serves. It seems like a lot of work - just for the "dissing" opportunity. And for the record, I don't either.

It's pretty pathetic when pointing out obvious discrimination will get somebody labelled as, gasp, "angry". Now that's Seattle for you. "Angry" is an insult.

Kellie - you seem to point out some obvious capacity flaws. Mainly, there isn't any. True. But splitting special ed - from general ed, referencing them as separate problems is not the way to go. Special ed IS general ed. THe students have the same entitlements, because they are the same students. Special ed is just a service - something extra you get if you need it - as a general education student. It doesn't need a home. It doesn't need permission from others. And, unfortunately, even if there was plenty of building space (as there used to be) there would be many families and regions in the city that would try to deny school access to lots of kids. Different kids. That's what I read in this thread. And sorry if it seems confrontational to point it out. That's how it is. And finally, you think preschoolers aren't bussed now? Now they're all shipped off to Old Van Asselt, with no playground, no administration, no real building to speak of, housed with 20 year olds. Not sure how long the ride is.... but the destination is the problem. It isn't a destination you would want for your kid. That isn't progress.

SPED Parent
Anonymous said…
Reality check,
FYI , many of the native speakers we have come from JSIS' own attendance area, you know, the part around the UW where there are international students and visiting faculties, and also neighborhood residents who are Japanese Americans and Latino Americans or Spanish Americans. Why assume all ELL/BOC students are Spanish and Japanese speakers? We had kids from many countries and cultures in the program. One of the teachers was an expert at ribbon dancing and she taught all of the kids who wanted to learn so we had amazingly beautiful ribbon dancing performances at every school function. Also they contributed many other cultural activities and learning that enriched all of us. Many of them live much closer to Wallingford than they do to Carkeek, why the assumptions they must all come from Lake City or Northgate?
The immersion works just fine for kids who aren't native speakers of Japanese or Spanish, they become trilingual, like my children, who love it. Thanks for asking.

Anonymous said…
If there's a program that you want in your neighborhood schools, it might be more fruitful to advocate and work for what you want like Rainier Beach did, rather than attacking other programs anonymously, which gets you nothing..

Anonymous said…

You might find this map of interest.

(Where Grade K-5 Students Live Who Receive ELL Services)

It is a great resource for pondering where Elementary Bilingual Orientation Centers should be placed.

BTW, I am not advocating for a Language Immersion program in my neighborhood. They are expensive, and aren't supported financially by SPS. The PTAs at our neighborhood schools could not afford to support LI.

I do wish that EVERY child could have the opportunity to at least become familiar with a language other than English, by having World Languages taught offered as PCP (and supported by SPS). I know that is not as effective or trendy as total language immersion, but it is better than nothing....which is what the majority of our kids in SPS are receiving.

- North-end Mom
Anonymous said…
@NE Mom.

Thanks for the link to the map. I see there is a ELL hotspot near Viewlands, where the EBOC is located. Lots of ELL at Northgate and Lake City. The closest ELL hotspot to JSIS and McDonald is probably at Sand Point.

- reality check
Reprinting for Anonymous:

"Moderator - there are many in the school community that would like to comment on this issue, but do not want to - due to the personal attacks that are demeaning, sarcastic and have no foundation in facts, and put down a general area of Seattle.

It is so unfortunate when we are all parents, yet people put another down or where they live or their views.

Is there a way to delete rude comments or ask people to comment respectfully? Thank you in advance."

I turned my back on this thread and missed this last third. I had, however, said that there was no way any one person could know an entire school or neighborhood.

Sped Parent, I made a simple error in my writing/spelling. If that makes you take me less seriously (given I hardly ever do that), oh well.

NOTICE: I will not allow the use of the word "snowflakes" to describe other people's children. It's wrong and if I see it, I'll delete your comment. I will be putting this in the Friday Open Thread.

Kellie, I am astonished that you calmly took the time to explain something in the latter third of this thread and somehow, someone was offended. I"ll say thank you.

Yes, we do have a policy against outing (mostly). Meaning, if you put yourself in the position where it is clear who you are, well, then I can't exactly blame others.

However, trying to guess, as NE Mom, did is inappropriate.

SPed parent, I'm not sure if you are a couple of commenters rolled into one or what (because your comments sound very familiar in tone to someone else's) but yes, you do sound angry. Something to think about.

This is a fine discussion to continue but please be respectful.
Anonymous said…

Just to clarify, I never tried to guess anyone's identity, though I did post a reaction to those who did.

In my post (4:17 PM), I was expressing my disbelief over the allegations of the two previous posters (Curious @ 2:01 and Anonymous @ 2:17, which you had deleted).

I was a bit sarcastic in my comments regarding their posts, and how they arrived at their conclusions, so I do apologize for that.

- North-end Mom
mirmac1 said…

"FWIW, I do think that there has been change. Some of it has been good in that it is no longer acceptable to bus autistic pre-schoolers from Lake City to West Seattle. That is a big change."

Not at all. Now the autistic preschoolers are bussed from West Seattle to Old Van Asselt.
mirmac1 said…
By the way, Sped Parent is not the only "angry" parent - but is one of the most knowledgeable (if a bit caustic at times). I agree with the points made. And also find Curious to be off-base.
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