Capacity Issues and Funding/Building

I had planned to write just one thread about this issue but there are two looming items so each will get its own post.

First up, Lincoln.

Most of you know that one of my special interests is Capital building.  I think the district and the voters of Seattle have made a serious commitment to schools here in funding levies and bonds for new and updated buildings.  (Many districts in our state envy this commitment.)

But the district first had a two-fold problem which has now become more complex with the numbers of new students coming every year.

First, the district is operating buildings that are far older than 50 years.  The district doesn't even build to a 50 year standard anymore; now it's more like 25-30 years.  And, because so many buildings are old, the district can't get to all of them fast enough so they have to pour money into older buildings that really should be modernized.

I bet if I added up how much money has been poured into very small buildings like Montlake and McGilvra, eyes would pop.  But the district has to keep them running because they can't renovate fast enough.  As well, the costs to rebuild very small schools would probably be an issue to some. (This is nothing against those schools; they are just an example.)

Second, the district, for their reasons, started pulling back on basic maintenance in the late '70s.  Any homeowners out there? Raise your hand if you know what happens when you don't keep up on basic maintenance?  That's right - it just gets worse.  So that's been years of pennywise and pound foolish.

I think the cuts to basic maintenance were just probably the easiest to make.  But now the district has about 100 buildings - old and new - to keep up with and so not even the buildings that voters paid $100M for are getting the maintenance they need.

And BTA covers the big maintenance but that's really not enough.

But on Lincoln - here's the e-mail I sent to the Board and senior management based on a BAR in the agenda for this week's School Board meeting:

Dear Directors,

As there are so many public ed issues to cover, I missed the Intro of the item for the modernization of Lincoln High School.  I have no doubt you will vote for this but I want to point out some issues that I sought clarification on from reading the BAR for Action at Wednesday's Board meeting.  Some I believe I have figured out; one I'm not sure of.

I do want to point out that I am completely in favor of modernizing Lincoln.  My concern comes from the lack of transparency about funds being expended on different projects. This has been an on-going concern of mine for a very long time.

One, the action item says that this modernization will cost about $101M (see page 2 of the BAR)

This project is budgeted at $93,316,928. Funding will also be provided by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). Funding of $8,295,926 will also be provided by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Just to remind you, Garfield cost about $110M and Roosevelt about $96M.  So that's right up there with them.

However, the Ed Spec document, dated May 26, 2017 that is attached to the BAR ,says this on page 8:

Project Budget: The project construction budget of $56,749,750 limits the amount work able to be completed at Lincoln. Through multiple discussions with the City of Seattle, it has been determined that the school is considered a campus and the extent of the work required by code at the west buildings can differ from the east buildings. Based on this information, the district’s direction on the project’s scope is to focus on the modernization of the west buildings to meet capacity needs.

I find this confusing because of those differing numbers in the same BAR and also because the document indicates that only the West buildings (which are landmarked which means more expense to work on) are going to see most of this modernization.

The current scope of the Lincoln High School Modernization focuses primarily on the remodel and modernization of the west buildings, which are approximately 178,580 SF. The east buildings, which are approximately 70,852 SF, will receive minor finish, envelope, mechanical, and fire alarm upgrades.

Two, it also states this:

The east gym and performing arts buildings, built in 1958, are not part of the designated landmark. Over the years, the campus has been remodeled many times to accommodate the different needs of the site’s tenants and the district.

Again, I'm confused.  Over $100M dollars and yet one important part of the campus - the performing arts buildings/gym - will only get minor upgrades?  

Third, I went thru the BEX IV and BTA IV voter information.  From BEX IV, there is just a modest $19.2M.  I recall thinking at the time that was not much.

In BTA IV, however, there is a lot.  It's hard to get complete clarity on the numbers because items that Lincoln appears under also include other schools.  So for my purposes, I just divided it evenly between Lincoln and the number of schools for each item.

It includes things like earthquake safety, fire suppression, fire alarms, electrical, HVAC, roof, plumbing, etc.  By my count, it's about $56M in BTA funds, give or take $1M. 

So if you add $65M from BTA plus $19.2 M from BEX IV, you get about $75M.  So where's that other $25M coming from?  As the BAR says, OSPI is putting in about $8.3M.  But still, where's the rest coming from?

That would appear to come from this (which was on the Levies Information - Winter 2016  brochure)

* The total Buildings amount includes $82 million for cost escalation, staffing, and other program-related costs over the six-year life of the levy.

I don't know what staff calls this fund but $82M for all those items?  I don't think that's possible.  I think that's the staff's own "when we need it" fund. 

Again, I think Lincoln deserves this but then again, I think Rainier Beach does as well.  I'm sure that Equity lens that staff says it used for Lincoln will be used again on BEX V for RBHS.  And before any downtown high school, right?  Because if there is a stepchild high school in this district, it's Beach.

What I ask is that a complete accounting of exactly where the funding is coming from for this project.  Because you owe that to the taxpayers who voted it in.  

end of e-mail


Anonymous said…
Lincoln's reno costs

Lincoln has been plagued by a completely ridiculous bouncing ball of $$$ and that is before construction has even begun. Not a good omen.

Originally, the detailed estimate by Robinson Construction estimators was $80m, but SPS could only budget $40m due to constraints of a large BEX IV (Banda was nervous and didn't want to go with a bigger ask to the voters). So, already that Lincoln figure was artificially manipulated.

But then, because of overages in the other schools of BEX IV that were built first (Board, I am looking at you for the mismanagement of the BEX IV program, specifically the west Seattle school that were ridiculously designed and then had to be redesigned so that the budget was forced to be upped by millions -- that was Peaslee and Carr who fell down on management) , the budget for Lincoln reno went to $19m, which was a joke.

But staff again presented this with a straight face. Call that an 'alternative fact' or a misrepresentation or an untruth or a lie, but, it was never, ever going to be true. The capital team never spoke truth to power, and, power was incapable of managing this.

There was the facmac report that said Lincoln should not be the high school, it had not a single blade of grass to support student athletics and it was too close to both Ballard and Roosevelt. Better to switch assets: use Hamilton as is as the elementary school of Cascadia, use Lincoln as is as the large Hamilton (with HCC), and build a new high school at Wilson Pacific that is 18 acres, central location and could have sports fields. It was far better to build a new high school. Take the budgets from the Wilson Pacific campus and the Lincoln campus, and, you'd have virtually enough money to do it, AND you'd have a BETTER, FASTER turnaround time on all 3 projects. Plus, a BETTER high school. But, did the district listen? No. Their reason? They didn't have any really. Martin Morris and DeBell said it would be more expensive. But, guess what, it is NOT. And now that ship has sailed.

Is there anyway to hold them accountable for their sloppy spending? Yes: choose how you vote on a capital levy carefully. Remember, they can always fail a levy but then bring it back for a revote 6 months later. Until this district knows we mean business, they will keep on being impervious.

Two things:

1) SPS failed to build an auditorium for Eagle Staff/Cascadia. WHY??? That is inexcusable. At the time, they lied and said that Eagle Staff could use Lincoln's (no they can't: it will be busy and there is no money for buses) and they said they could use Roosevelt's auditorium (again, that principal at the time was not consulted, but when asked, he said no, it is always busy). Only ONE board member voted against this plan, because of its lack of an auditorium. Director Peters. She spoke of the difficulties at Hamilton that only has an cafetorium. Of course it would be Peters who knew this was bad; but not one of her fellow board members shared her good sense. If only Peters would stay...

2) Part of why construction is so expensive is that instead of doing bid-build, the district is using GC/CM -- which is only necessary in a high risk construction situation, like a Bagley or a Garfield -- when you are renovating an existing building. Brand new buildings on flat earth, like Olympic Hills or Eagle Staff and Cascadia you do not need to spend millions and millions more to get the same thing. $6m managment fee to SOJ for Eagle Staff/Cascadia COULD HAVE BEEN AN AUDITORIUM.

So, back to Lincoln. The west building is the main high school building, with a north, central (fully renovated) and south(renovated) part.

Budget Voodoo (con't)
Anonymous said…
The east buildings are the north one which is a huge gym, it should be good to go as is and the south East building, which is the big auditorium, the little auditorium, some music rooms, and then some SpEd rooms that are used to train students to work in hospitals (also renovated). It is a GOOD thing that the district won't touch the east gym/auditorium. They don't need to. They are good to go. They would only screw it up if they did touch it. Go look, they are fine. The auditorium is akin to Ingraham's. The gym is a gym. It is fine.

Note there is an extra gym under the library in the west building, it was fine, Garfield used it as is, even McDonald used it as is. Yet, SPS is spending money there too.

The district's capital program is out of control. There is a donut hole of control where there should be management. So many point to the BEX oversight committee, but they do not touch capacity or enrollment, they have no context. They are hardhats that like to build green. These are the same guys who gave a thumbs up to what looked like to me to be unbuildable plans, that in fact, turned out to be unbuildable. They push for GC/CM, they even get presentations by would-be contractors who push their services (how is it that not all vendors get to do that?), it is not a direct violation of the State Ethics laws, but, it feels like the other vendors who want to provide GC/CM services should be allowed equal time too, no?

There was a very talented person in the district in capital. Intelligent, experienced, and gracious. He quit. Wonder why.

We need a board who understands that this whole capital department is blowing through millions of dollars on plans that are neither strategic nor efficient. It is so, so disheartening. Check out the 'process' for BEX X to see how the process is entirely political. There is NO whole-systems analysis for the entire district to show what the worst problems are. And yet, that missing analysis has not stopped them for spending MILLIONS on drafts of plans for 'certain' buildings for BEX V. Again, there is no indication all this due diligence is even going on for the correct buildings. It is so, so wasteful. The board has not even approved a list of ranked priorities to guide staff as to what problems to solve (the board did for BEX IV approve a list with clear indications of what problems needs to be solved: safety, capacity, aged facilities).

So, good luck to Lincoln. Given what I have seen, I have little faith. Renovations in heritage buildings are complex. Not seeing a management team that is worthy of voter confidence. And, why is it going to be soooo expensive? The central core, the lion's share of the building, is freshly renovated. The south part was also renovated. So, why so expensive? Because the architects want to switch the cafeteria out of the daylight ground floor up onto the first floor? What else?

Not impressed with the Lincoln follow-the-bouncing-ball price tags. It does not inspire confidence. I am thankful they won't touch the east buildings. We need auditoriums, we don't need them messing with those. Seriously, the drama teacher on the initial Lincoln task force wanted to DOWNSIZE the auditorium, no joke. Right now, there are two, and, they are used a lot! And, with a high school coming, they will be used even more. Thank goodness there was a limit to the spending and the architects want to go fancy with the main building, otherwise they would have spent tonnes of money destroying a perfectly good and really useful facility. Note, there was no music teacher on the task force to defend the necessity of the auditorium, so it is just dumb luck that it escaped the noose.

Budget Voodoo
I did not know all these details but I concur. The Board needs to be doing more oversight. I think that Lincoln is the canary in the coal mine ( if only there was someone to listen). BEX V better be a rational list of projects with better oversight in place or this time I might consider a real campaign against it.
Anonymous said…
It's not clear what "not touching" certain parts of the school means for earthquake safety and retrofitting. I've yet to get a clear answer on this.

As to Lincoln's current auditorium, the stage is falling apart. The covered walkway leaks when it rains (which, gee, it sometimes does here in Seattle.) Hamilton uses the auditorium for each and every concert it has because SPS in its wisdom built that school without any auditorium. So the auditorium will be in extremely high demand with both a comprehensive high school and a comprehensive middle school relying on it. The Lincoln architects initially said they were going to make the auditorium SMALLER. Talk about left hand not talking to the right hand ... very frustrating.

Any update on last night's Lincoln meeting from Melissa or attendees?

--Concerned parent
Anonymous said…
I think by not renovating the gym and auditorium, they will avoid the requirement of an earthquake retrofit, whereas the main building would need to be brought up to current code during the renovation. The Capital Projects and Planning page has seismic reports from 2009, including one for Lincoln:

I'm guessing Buildings "B and C" are the gym and auditorium.

-a reader
alicia said…
Can you clarify this statement:
I bet if I added up how much money has been poured into very small buildings like Montlake and McGilvra, eyes would pop

I am at parent at Montlake and very little money has been spent on our school which is packed past it's capacity. The school was built in 1924 and has not been touched since except for an earthquake retrofit (not sure of the year) and a new roof. We don't have potable water in the bathrooms. I could go on and on. Please tell me about the other improvements.

As far as I can tell, the building and all of the 1940's portables (including our tiny "cafeteria") are literally falling apart. Last year, I watched SPS pour a cylinder of concrete and put some small wood pillars in it to hold up an enormous rotting support beam that holds up the ceiling where the K/1 students line up. I realize the district needs to have a utilitarian approach but I also think the Montlake building will have to be condemned in the near future and that won't help anyone.
Montlake, I looked and your school did get a new roof and heating and earthquake retrofit and upgraded the library and replaced the floor.

My point is not that you didn't deserve it but that we have very old buildings.
Anonymous said…
BudgetVooDoo: wrong - McDonald did not use the gym under the library. It was off limits as it was deemed not fit for use. McDonald only used the big main gym for PE and many other purposes.
Anonymous said…
You are incorrect

McDonald ABSOLUTELY DID use that gym - but not for gum. They used it for various things, such as rainy day recess, and KidsCo. They also use the 2 single bathrooms that' are tucked around the corner down in that 1st floor north section, even though students in Lincoln these days aren't allowed to use it . Perhaps you were not aware of it, but they absolutely did go down there. I have pictures of the kids in that gym. Perhaps you missed out on the discussion of how much those kids wanted to use the rock climbing wall that they weren't allowed to use.

Anonymous said…
Can anyone who went to Lincoln meeting report to the group?


Concerned parent

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