Mega-Thornton Creek? Might Be

The district has a couple of ideas out there about what to do with HCC students. Boy, there are some doozy of ideas from staff.  This is all around the possible usese of the Thornton Creek campus. Here's the document from the district to Thornton Creek parents.

First, the district says:

Problem Statement: Cascadia will move into its new building at the Wilson Pacific site in 2017-18. The new building is planned to have a capacity of approximately 660 seats, which is not sufficient to serve all of the students currently at Cascadia given the growth the school has experienced. As of September 9, 2016, Cascadia has 749 students currently enrolled for the 2016-17 school year.

Background: Cascadia is currently housed at Lincoln High School. Students in grades 1-5 who are eligible and wish to enroll for high capable services are assigned to a pathway school based on where they live. Cascadia is the highly capable (HC) pathway school for all students in the north end of the district, which includes students who live in the McClure, Hamilton, Whitman, Jane Addams, and Eckstein service areas. 

The number of students enrolling for HC services across the district at the elementary level has increased significantly over the past five years, from 691 students in 2011-12 to 1,235 students in the 2015-16 school year. The number of students enrolled at Cascadia, which only serves HCC students, has increased from 524 students in 2012-13 to 753 students in the 2015-16 school year. 

It was initially anticipated that Cascadia could fit in its new building, but with the significant growth in the HCC population, all the students currently enrolled at Cascadia cannot be accommodated in the new building. The Decatur building at Thornton Creek is the only building in the district that is available to serve students and not planned to be utilized in 2017-18. Cedar Park Elementary is currently planned to open as a neighborhood elementary in 2017. 

District staff is aware that the School Board may propose amendments to the Growth Boundaries that are currently under review. For this reason, options for HCC at Cedar Park are also included in this survey.

Gee, I wonder why HCC enrollment has gone up so much.  Could it be the demise of Spectrum? You look at the chart for growth and yup, it's those years.

Kellie LaRue told me: I have looked at the data and enrollment in HCC has leveled out and didn’t grow this year at all.

Here are the options that the district puts forth:

1) Cascadia split with grades 1 and 2 at Decatur and grades 3-5 at the new building at Wilson Pacific.  Decatur would be its own school.

2) Cascadia split based on where students live (Geo-split).  Decatur becomes a new stand-alone HCC pathway school.

3) Cascadia split based on where students live (Geo-split).  HCC is integrated with Thornton Creek.

I cannot support Option 1.  That's just too much change for little people and hard to create a community.

I cannot support Option 3.  Thornton Creek just moved into their brand-new building and the district thinks they want a huge program in there? No.  Lessons learned from HIMS (especially considering some teachers at HIMS are working to get rid of HCC.)

Option 2 would have Cascadia at Wilson Pacific as the HCC K1-5 program in the north end with the program at Thurgood Marshall being the HCC K1-5 program in the south end (although TM is not especially "south.")

I also don't support HCC at Cedar Creek.  I think it should be an Option school (like STEM.)

They leave out the one option that Kellie thinks is better:
The thing in this survey that is just missing. Cascadia has 30 homerooms. HCC is 30 homerooms at Lincoln. If the move a portion to Decatur to make Cascadia smaller … what does anyone think is going to happen. Those homerooms at Cascadia will just sit empty? No they will fill it from the neighborhood and this whole mess repeats. 
It is in everyone’s best interest that they just keep one HUGE school at Cascadia because the size of the program will keep make people considering carefully before joining. 
District staff then have a brief survey for TC parents that is just ridiculous.  And, why just TC parents in this survey when the overwhelming majority of them likely don't have kids in HCC?  


Anonymous said…
Cascadia parents also got it, a longer version.

I do not think it is ok to check program growth by deliberately making it hard on kids who have to go there (the large size is very hard on kids).
Anonymous said…
That's me, sleeper.

APP said…
Why not just start the self-contained program in 2nd (or even 3rd) grade? 1st at Lincoln was great for my kid, 2nd a waste, but 3rd was a huge year!
cgm said…
I'm a TC creek parent and I have no idea what this survey is asking. It's like it's written in code.
Thanks for that update, Sleeper.
Chris S. said…
Sleeper, yeah, but just for one year? And it's not like this isn't already happening all over, unintentionally. Agreed it's not a good long term strategy.
Lynn said…
APP - because students need services in first and second grades and neighborhood schools don't/won't provide them.
Anonymous said…
I don't understand. What would just be for one year? The program would split after one year in w-p? That seems like the worst of both worlds.

I am surprised every year when it gets bigger. I would not join a school this big if I had other options, but the neighborhood schools are really dropping the ball on advanced learning. So people come.

Anonymous said…
"I do not think it is ok to check program growth by deliberately making it hard on kids who have to go there (the large size is very hard on kids)."
I agree. Also, why this talk of limiting growth. Boy, what would SPS do if they actually had to serve all the kids currently in private schools in Seattle public schools. Can you also imagine the increase in public/parent support for public education and democracy? Personally I think that 30% population enrollment in private schools is beyond ridiculous. This is different in other parts of the country and public schools enroll and serve middle, upper & lower income kids.
Anonymous said…
I find this unethical that the district did not include the option of Cascadia staying together at W-P site in the TC survey, since that option was included in the Cascadia survey.

The district is trying to force TC's hand by only offering them 3 options.

If Thornton Creek is unified in not supporting any of the three options of HCC at their site, then I suggest they scrap the survey and send a letter to the Board outlining their group decision. There isn't a perfect solution, but a reasonable alternative is Cascadia grades 1-5 staying together at the W-P site with added portables.

Also, for current 1st graders, a grade split would be 4 transitions in 4 years.

- No Splits
Anonymous said…
That's because it was written for Cascadia families and shared with TC to see what their opinions are for the three different TC split ideas. The Cascadia families were also asked about Cedar Park options and staying together.

Give feedback
Anonymous said…
TC was only asked about things that directly affect them. So, if hcc is coming, which of these 3 options do you prefer? Why should they get a say if hcc does not come whether it goes all to w-p or part to Cedar Park?

Sounds like TC mostly just prefers no one else on their property, but given that that is unrealistic in the current capacity climate, hcc is not a bad neighbor.

I don't like the idea of keeping the mega school together at w-p, but agree that the 1-2 then 3-5 idea is awful.

Anonymous said…
The Friday Memo includes a briefing paper on the Cascadia split:

Anonymous said…
Option 2 would have Cascadia at Wilson Pacific as the HCC K-5 program in the north end with the program at Thurgood Marshall being the HCC K-5 program in the south end (although TM is not especially "south.")

Melissa, I think when you meant to write "Decatur" where you have "Thurgood Marshall."

- An editor
Anonymous said…
Don't forget HCC is 1-5.

Another editor
Anonymous said…
Why is it okay to keep the school huge to keep people away? That essentially denies access to those who may need it but don't want to be in a HUGE school? That seems very short sighted and selfish. There are a number of families waiting and watching, thinking about joining HCC. People complain about the program not being equitable. It seems like making space will improve access, and this is one step towards closing the gap, especially if we look at that gap between each student and their individual potential.

Fix AL
Greenwoody said…
The answer is simple: restore Spectrum or some other method of providing genuine advanced learning options in neighborhood schools. This would not only reduce the size of the HCC cohort but could also address equity concerns. One common issue I've heard from parents of kids who are not white but HCC-eligible is a concern about leaving the more diverse neighborhood school for a less diverse school in a totally different part of the city.
kellie said…
My comment above was an incomplete thought that I wasn't expecting to be blogged in this context.

To complete my thought ... The challenge here is very much along the lines of "the only way to solve a capacity problem is to add more capacity." Shuffling the deck chairs is not the same as adding capacity, yet we seem to treat it as a solution.

If the problem they are trying to solve is that 750 students is too LARGE and that this "too large" issue is such a huge problem that it requires the immediate use of the only property left in the system, then you would think this "solution" would solve the too-large problem.

However, if the solution to "too-large" is to go from a 750 student building, with programmatic integrity to a nearly 1,000 student building, with competing programmatic demands ... The irony should not be lost on people.

That the answer of a too-large 750 student building with ample core facilities and no competing demands is a much better solution than to have 1,000 students competing over the same size core facilities.

Apologies that this was not worded to the context of the post. It was in the context of much longer email chain.

Anonymous said…
I have a couple of questions about the proposals putting HCC at the Decatur/Thornton Creek campus. Maybe Thornton Creek parents can help answer them.

1. SPS is stating that the capacity of the Decatur building is 300 students. This is without portables, right? How many classrooms are in the building? I've heard the core building is smaller than John Rogers, so I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the 300 number.
2. Is there a separate playground for the Decatur building? If not, how are they going to schedule recess for the two schools?
3. One scenario has HCC integrated into Thornton Creek school as a super-sized school. Does HCC mesh at all with the Thornton Creek pedagogy?

-North-end Mom
Anonymous said…
If the problem they are trying to solve is that 750 students is too LARGE and that this "too large" issue is such a huge problem that it requires the immediate use of the only property left in the system, then you would think this "solution" would solve the too-large problem.

However, if the solution to "too-large" is to go from a 750 student building, with programmatic integrity to a nearly 1,000 student building, with competing programmatic demands ... The irony should not be lost on people.

I agree with this. Can a Cascadia parent comment? I'm surprised the Cascadia families are so willing to jump onboard with a split to the Decatur site in a rush to bail the district out of a capacity mess.

kellie said…
In other words if the options are too-large or jumbo-super-sized, pick too-large.
Anonymous said…
I don't think parents are jumping onboard with a split. They are evaluating the options floating around and beginning the process of sorting preferences. It does seem a split is inevitable, so the point many are thinking about is why not move into an empty building? Does anyone see an opportunity for another new building to be open and available? Also, does everyone at TC realize Decatur will be filled? It's not like they will leave it empty. There will be a mega site there no matter what.

Tough choices
kellie said…
Here are the most recent projections. Elementary enrollment has completely flattened. This is completely expected because we are now six years into the NSAP and any growth at elementary will be slower and significantly more predictable. Cascadia did not grow this year and the majority of the feeder schools have also stabilized.

Anonymous said…
But with SPS gutting spectrum, more families are testing and considering HCC because they believe their student(s) are not having their academic needs met.

Let's all give the heads of advanced learning and C&I a big round of applause for horrible planning and implementation.

Some interesting history on all of the programs that have rotated through Decatur:

Fix AL
Anonymous said…
No HCC does not mesh with the Thornton Creek pedagogy and in fact flies directly against it in many areas.

"Been around"
kellie said…
Seattle School is a 13 year system. As such, every 6-7 years, we have a dramatically different picture.

The "idea" to close schools started in 2003 and it took until 2009, until that madness finally stopped with the third round of closures.

Then in 2010, we started to open buildings. We are now at the inverse of the closure cycle. We are now in a race to open buildings and move programs that looks and feels exactly like the madness at the end of the closures.

What does it take to get everyone to stop and take a deep breath and look at the current data and make decisions based on what is happening, rather than what-we-thought-would-happen-six-years-ago.

Ultimately this is about education and not capacity management. We need to stop having the capacity tail wag the education dog.

I will correct my errors (sometimes just going too fast.)

I did take Kellie's comment out of context; apologies but I thought it was a good one.
Anonymous said…
The option for the TCC-HCC mega school is obviously terrible.

But just being on a 1000 student campus as two separate schools is not a problem. They would not be sharing core facilities. They would not share cafeteria, gym, library, hallways, lockers, or bathrooms. The two schools would probably be on the 1st and 3rd tier, so pick up and drop off would not be a problem. The schools would have to schedule recess, but that hardly seems insurmountable. Certainly worth it to have students in a schooled sized to be able to form community, know adults, go on normal SPS field trips, gather together.

kellie said…
@ sleeper,

Yes, it is very likely that there would be two bell schedules for maybe a year or two ... but then ... there will be new management and in the name of efficiency ... one principal.

This has happened many times where two programs were co-located and then after a few years, changed.

Anonymous said…
They will fill that school no matter what. I understand TC's concern of HCC coming in and growing and sliding into their building, limiting their freedom and growth goals. Perhaps Cedar Park and Hazelwolf can be the back up plan to take pressure off Decatur if/when they max out that site. I strongly urge the SPS board to look at the heat map and figure out how Bryant, View Ridge and Wedgwood will better accommodate their advanced learning community.

Fix AL
Anonymous said…
Mega-school? Licton Springs and Cascadia have played nicely in the Lincoln building for the past two years. TC need not panic.

open ears
Anonymous said…
As a member of the Cedar Park community I am surprised actually saddened and floored that the district took no steps at all to loop Cedar Park area families in. Lots of CP families prefer if it's an option school (which it needs to be to cap enrollment), STEM please. With a level playing field, no preference to HCC families in this already capacity-crunched area where local families have been shut out of option schools due to many barriers (which it's time to break down). See my post please for more info under the Friday Memo thread.

CP Hopeful
Anonymous said…
So despite the best intentions in the name of equity we keep all the FRL and non-white students at Olympic Hills and then create an option school at Cedar Park which will like all the other option schools tend to be whiter and wealthier than the surrounding area.

If anyone had any moral courage they'd be talking about busing more seriously and not shifting the pockets of inequity around to create winner and loser neighborhoods.


Anonymous said…
@blech...rather than slinging mud, why not just say the CP community needs a STEM option school with a geozone and diversity goals?

Keep positive
Anonymous said…
Keep positive-- well said. Thank you.

CP hopeful.
kellie said…
@ Mel,

No worries. My comment was close enough.

It is deeply ironic that after a decade of testimony about how enrollment was growing while SPS was projecting rapid decline, that I am now the voice of enrollment is stabilizing. Elementary enrollment is truly stabilizing and there are only a few small pockets of growth.

The steep growth curve is going to hit high school pretty hard but there just isn't any need for dramatic intervention on elementary enrollment at the moment.

During the 2013 vote, I thought it was 50/50 that we would need Decatur. IMHO, it makes sense to hold it as interim location and maybe use it for a rebuild for John Rogers but ... If BEX V replaces a few more smaller elementary schools with these larger footprints, capacity should stabilize.
Anonymous said…
I love the idea to hold it for an interim location. Is John Marshall full? Cascadia really doesn't want to split, so keep the no growth data coming. The unknown: how many will continue to flee from neighborhood schools because MTSS doesn't suit their needs?

Fix AL
SPS Mom said…
As an option school now in a more diverse neighborhood, Hazel Wolf has still struggled with getting FRL and ELL through the option school enrollment process. Could there be a way to make the process more simple so that it is more navigable? Forms in more languages? Possibly sent through regular mail directly to families in the geozone for each option school? What about set aside spots (maybe 8-10/year) for ELL kids? We (HW) held open enrollment info sessions with translators two different times last winter further north (one was at Lake City Library, I remember.) we still didn't reach as many families as we wanted. We are hoping now that the families see us in the neighborhood, we'll be more effective in shepherding them through the open enrollment process.

It does seem the process itself needs to be made more accessible.

If they do a geozone around a Cedar Park option school and the process is more accessible, the school should be able to be more diverse...
Anonymous said…
I would not say Cascadia really does not want to split. Many people would prefer to split than shoe horn into the too small new building or especially move and risk a 2018 split out if more people come (many did not this year to avoid this uncertainty) or worse, summer surprise after open enrollment.

And also 750 kids in 1-5 is too large and not supported in the sps structure.

But the survey is supposed to get a better idea of what families want. At such an enormous school, just gathering info takes some time, so they are not quite there yet.

Charlie Mas said…
Why don't we see the angst and hand-wringing over the disproportionate enrollment in option schools and language immersion that we saw in HCC and Montessori?
TechyMom said…
How about using nearby capacity that already exists? Make an HCC pathway at... Wait for it... Lowell and Meany. Have it be the pathway for at least the McClure and Meany service areas, and possibly Hamilton and/or Eckstein, based on how the numbers add up.
Anonymous said…
Does anyone know the process for how these types of decisions get made? Is there a committee at SPS? Is their specialty capacity or bigger picture? Who are these people? I'm so curious. The options put out there for now seem so short-sighted, like a band-aid. HCC is a special program with lots of considerations. What's the long-term solution to make it work better for more people? Why didn't they build the new Cascadia building bigger?? I'm not buying the program grew bigger than they anticipated...the growth data was there.
Sleeper, that's not a survey they put out. That's a knee-jerk bean count. Any survey that does not end with an open-ended question is suspect in my mind.
Anonymous said…
"However, if the solution to "too-large" is to go from a 750 student building, with programmatic integrity to a nearly 1,000 student building, with competing programmatic demands ... The irony should not be lost on people."

I agree with Kellie's above point.

Let's also not forget what happens when programs are co-housed. The most immediate example that comes to mind is the Thurgood Marshall social studies waiver this year.

Expect more waivers for more subjects if you choose to co-house with Thorton Creek or any other location.

- Keep Cascadia Together 1-5 One Site
Anonymous said…
The programs are not going to be in the same building. They are not going to be cohoused any more than Nathan Hale and JAMS are cohoused. Cascadia has managed not to merge with a single program in the Lincoln building the whole time it has been there, and McDonald and Licton Springs have both been there at the same time, much closer and more intertwined than TC would be.

As you can see the community is still trying to figure out what is the best way forward. I think much depends on how this would all happen, what the district would support. I personally support a geosplit, but I am not sure to where. I think I am more sensitive to the CP community's desire for an option school, though I do not really think it needs to be STEM unless that is what the community affirmatively wants- what draws people to HW right now is advanced learning, so offering advanced learning of any kind would fill it immediately.

Anonymous said…
The TC people seem to be using playground overcrowding as a proxy for what they really want (which is no program moving in next door at all). The denial will have to end at some point, though, since something has to move in there one way or another. At some point someone started spreading a myth that a preschool or SpEd program would move into Decatur after TC left, and now many TC people are surprised that HCC may be moving in. The necessary use of Decatur as a school has nothing to do with HCC specifically and everything to do with capacity generally. I'm sure someone could help the playground-worriers understand how scheduling works so that the play area is not overcrowded, but I suspect that won't allay fears since it's not really about the playground. Which, by the way, is a huge, brand-new playground with a lovely ball field, and they also have a second smaller play courtyard for the kindergarteners with sensory tables and a sandbox area.

kellie said…
@ Enrique,

I was on the SDAT for Thornton Creek. It was discussed during the SDAT planning years ago that the old building would most likely be used for a preschool or blended learning K/1

It is not a myth. It was simply the plan circa 2013. So it is not surprising that three years later, people who were involved with the actual original plan are surprised by the plan change.

The HCC at Decatur started as a throw away comment from Sherry Carr and Sharon Peaslee in response to widespread pushback about splitting HCC and putting half into the Olympic Hill building during the 2013 Growth Boundaries vote. At the time, Sharon Peaslee really wanted to split Cascadia for political reasons not capacity reasons and the only space where HCC could be co-housed with a general education program was Olympic Hills.

However, Olympic Hills was designed and built and to serve a low income population and has services (like community health and head start) built into the facility. When the community pushed back on taking a new facility away from poor kids so that HCC could placed there, the myth of HCC at Decatur was started.
kellie said…
I understand the intensity of the conversation regarding capacity as well anyone.

IMHO, HCC at Lincoln has been treated very poorly overly the last few years. There was minimal investment on the part of SPS for an interim facility that lasted six years. The playground and lunchroom situation is dreadful. Additionally, HCC at Lincoln received staffing cuts, every year when staff was cut, even the years when enrollment was precisely as expected.

It is unfortunate that once again, just as HCC is finally moving to a permanent location that that program is in the district cross-hairs once again.

IMHO, this split is mostly political and not capacity. The folks that want HCC split into smaller groups and co-housed, as is happen at TM know that this is the opportunity to split the program.

The plan may not be to co-house today ... but rest assured that is what will happen with this split. And also rest assured that if there is room at Cascadia for neighborhood students, you will find that a year from now, there is a neighborhood boundary. The comment that rings the most true to me in the staff comments is that there are 500 general education students near the building.

Anonymous said…
And how is the co-housing going at TM?

No split
Anonymous said…
I think Kellie is right about the District's intention to split the school. I would prefer they just be honest and give more notice. I think Lincoln Highschool will be the new pathway for northend HCC students. They might as well admit it now.

Anonymous said…
What's the difference if Decatur is full of preschool and kindergarten or HCC? It will be full.

Good neighbors
Anonymous said…
@ good neighbors,

you really want someone to explain the difference between 30 kids per class HCC with no limits on assignment and the guarantee of future portables with lots of after school and evening events and a 6-18 student per class pre-school program with assignment limits that operates during the daytime only?

The difference is at least 100 kids, portables, before and after care, traffic, busses ....

This is why the neighborhood fought so hard about the two buildings. It was only a matter of time before it became a 1,000 kid school.

I give it ONE YEAR before someone downtown decides that it would be awesome if TC and HCC would share busses to save money....

wedgwood neighbor
Anonymous said…
@ sleeper,

I have been around long enough to remember when the elementary school standard was 300. Bryant was rebuilt at 450 and everyone flipped out about how that was so big and so hard on kids. Now 450 is a small school and 660 is the new standard.

Your argument that 700 is hard on kids ... welcome to the new normal. 700 is going to be the new normal and I am not eager for 1,000 to become the new normal.

And your arguments that ... this time the district will keep their promise and it will be a separate school and not that bad ... Just go read any of Charlie's threads about the promises made during the closures to then APP.

This district has never kept one promise regarding advanced learning. Maybe one year the programs will be somewhat separate but ... then there will be another new supintendant and another new person in charge of something and viola! The cost savings opportunity to share busses and share a principal and share the library ...

I don't know why they even bothered to put three options on the survey. They might as well have asked. What free promise can me make to make this seem like a good idea that we won't have to do anything about.

I also remember when COHO and NOMS were asked to share to save some money... anyone else remember this ... After about 6 years of sharing space, they were forced to share a principal and viola! We now have Salmon Bay ...

wedgwood neighbor
Wedgwood neighbor, ditto on your recollections. Man, the idea of a 300-seat elementary school seems quaint now.

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