SPS Facilities Charges Ahead

Two SPS facilities stories of importance.

One, is the Webster building out in Ballard which has been leased to the Nordic Heritage Museum since 1980.  The district has said they would be taking control of the building back from Nordic but didn't say what the building will be used for.  (Nordic is moving to new digs in 2018.) Seems that is now changing.  From My Ballard:
A group of Ballard residents are hosting a meeting to discuss concerns over Seattle School District’s plans to renovate and reopen Webster School (currently the Nordic Heritage Museum) starting in 2018. The meeting is Tuesday, August 29 from 6 to 7:30 pm at the Nordic Heritage Museum, 3014 NW 67th St.
The district wants to repurpose the building as a school again but what kind is still a mystery.  It seems odd for the Board to okay this without knowing the type of school that will be in the building.

According to SPS, the project will include:
  • Demolition
  • Seismic improvement to the original unreinforced masonry 1908 building;
  • An addition of 7,700 square feet on the west side of the property housing a new gymnasium and covered play area;
  • Structural, mechanical, electrical, data/telecom, modernization/upgrades; and
    Life safety and sustainability upgrades.
  • Portions of the building’s exterior and interior were designated as a Seattle Landmark by the City of Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board in June 2015. Features to be preserved include the site, the exteriors of the 1908 building and 1930 addition, the 1930 meeting room/auditorium, the 1930 library reading rooms, and the halls and stairs of the second and third floors in the 1908 building.
Concerns from district watchdog, Chris Jackins:
  • City zoning code would not be met: lot coverage, building height (17% taller), on-street bus loading.
  • Loss of 69% of significant trees, and endangering an exceptional tree: Chinese photinia at SE corner.
  • Loss of playground space and open space: at least 11% of the playground would be lost, and probably twice that amount.
  • Loss of on-site parking: the current 67 on-site spaces would be reduced to 5.
  • Historic and Cultural Preservation: the covered play area should not be demolished. The School Board has requested that the State exempt the Seattle School Disctrict from City Landmarks regulation, putting historic features at risk.
Public comments and concerns about the plans are due by 5pm on September 7 and should be sent to SEPAcomments@seattleschools.org or to Pegi McEvoy, pmcevoy@seattleschools.org. 206-252-0707.
The second facilities issue is over what will happen at Fort Lawton.

I am aware that there is some kind of NIMBY perception about this area but the people I have been talking with DO want/expect more housing and their concern is two-fold.  (Here's a link to their Change.org petition with over 1200 signatures.  You'll note that they just want the EIS to include a possible school, not eliminating any housing possibilities.  There was also a SurveyMonkey survey done of parents in that region about their school choices which has interesting feedback.)

One, the district losing yet another opportunity for free land from the feds.

Two, that no matter what type of housing goes in, that Magnolia/Queen Anne is continuing to densify and grow and that more schools will be needed.  It is projected that the reopening of the old Magnolia Elementary will see it open full.  The district has even talked about putting on additions at a couple of QA elementaries.  It would seem that the district may need another elementary school sooner rather than later.

In fact, in an August 7, 2017 letter to the City's Office of Housing about this issue, Superintendent Nyland said this:

With current projects scheduled, we could not demonstrate an immediate need.  We just added middle school capacity and have elementary and high school projects underway.  (Editor's note; I'm a bit baffled about those "high school projects" except for BTA ones.)  However, at the rate of growth of SPS enrollment, we could see a need in the very near future.

But the district seems caught up in "immediate" need versus "very near-future" need.   But he goes on:

In summation, SPS is desperately seeking additional land for future school sites.  We recognize the once in a lifetime opportunity obtaining some of the Fort Lawton property provides. 

The letter also states that the district could be a partner in the redevelopment planning process but then goes on to end:

Thus and unfortunately, we cannot meet the criteria you have asked us to respond to.

It's free land.  How the district is going to allow yet ANOTHER opportunity for free land in Seattle to get away from them is a mystery.

As you may recall, the feds have specific rules about giving over buildings/land to various other government entities.  One rule for educational uses is that the building must be in use as an educational institution within three years.  Naturally, that would mean having the dollars to renovate and open in that timeframe.  Does SPS have that?

Probably not all of it but it is quite clear to anyone watching that there are banked dollars in various BEX and BTA funds.  The district routinely digs them out for the projects they want.  I think this a worthy use.

As well, there is wording in the federal regulations and rules that say that if whoever takes over a federal property does not have it up and rolling within those three years, they can pay a penalty until they do.  Something of a "land-banking" idea. It may be worth knowing just how much that is as compared to the costs of buying land to build on.

And again, where are the good corporate citizens who could help?  I was astonished at the full-court press for the former Federal Reserve building by the Downtown Neighborhood Association and yet not one business stepped up to help the district acquire the land.  I hope this time that doesn't happen.

Some ideas being floated:

A) Mcclure becomes elementary, Blaine middle, new k-8 Blaine campus at Fort Lawton

B) Blaine becomes a high school, McClure an elementary, Ft. Lawton becomes new K-8 bBlaine with a significantly grown middle school program

C) Fort Lawton land could become a 6-12 

SPS has the opportunity to partner with Islandwood and create a world-class environmental learning center.

I believe it would be far cheaper to building a QA/Magnolia high school than a high school at Memorial Stadium.  If the City and the district combined forces, Memorial Stadium could be a real multi-use space with concerts in the summer as well as other sporting events (Ultimate frisbee comes to mind) as well as the district needs throughout the school year.

It is weird that the district is moving forward so quickly with the City around Memorial Stadium and many of us believe this needs real public engagement.

Here's the City's report on the space.

The City needs to include a possibility of a school in any EIS.


NESeattleMom said…
Is Webster Park the playground that is referenced? Isn't that a Seattle Park rather than a school playground?
VC said…
Thank you for this article! It seems that 3 things are important: 1) why is the school district pushing through this decision without board consent? Should not the board sign off on passing up major land opportunities? 2) The information presented in Dr. Nyland's letter had mis-information regarding current capacity and projections: Magnolia Elementary is not opening with 500 new seats- the school is opening seats to alleviate over 17 portables and students having classes in teacher lounges, computer labs, and hallways. It seems like the district can improve its projection numbers and must do this in order to understand their true capacity needs before turning down FREE land. 3) If the housing plan is going to include 150 new units which will be geared to families, that automatically places the McClure cluster at immediate need because that is a lot of students that we do not have current seats for, even with the opening of Magnolia Elementary.

I am concerned that rejecting FREE land at Fort Lawton will be a huge regret because the Seattle Center high school is going to come at great costs and road blocks that we aren't even aware of yet (Don't get me started that Seattle Center is not on the Master Plan and thus has also not been approved by the board... again Board oversight is there for a reason!)

A lot of this could have been prevented if the district had not sold off properties, but the fact is we are in the current situation, Let's do our best not to allow a crisis to happen before they put their hat back into the ring to find new (and no longer free) land.
Jet City mom said…
Yes, Webster park was built twenty years ago after community involvement t, and just renovated last year.

Eric B said…
I believe the new play area is to be built on what is now the parking lot, which is why parking goes from many spaces to a few.

Experience at Loyal Heights says that you need serious oversight to save trees. There are a lot of trees on that site that were supposed to be preserved in the original plans but weren't once the backhoes fired up.
Anonymous said…
Thank you NHM for being such wonderful stewards of the Webster building for so many years. Thanks to all the wonderful volunteers and to those who so generously donated money to keep the building maintained.

It's exciting to see the new NHM take shape and we hope the new tenants of the Webster building will show as much respect for the building and all the neighbors as the NHM staff an its patrons did.

Anonymous said…
SPS really needs to do something to make the land at Fort Lawton into a school. The city's current plan is poorly thought-out and does not take into account the effect on schools which are already over capacity, even with the current plans to open a new school in Magnolia. A high-school in the area is desperately needed, but even using the land for a middle school toward addressing the capacity issues caused by Seattle's rapid growth.
Amy said…
The comment period for Webster School will be extended until Sept. 21, 2017 at 5pm (due to an error with the form they currently have set-up).

If you are interested in engaging with others in the community about this project, please add your preferred contact info in the following form: https://goo.gl/forms/v3vHB3cOoXtKFPpi2

Thank you,


Anonymous said…
Thanks for covering this! I find it frustrating that SPS is headed in one direction (Memorial Stadium) while the public vies for another (Fort Lawton, for example). Can they explain why they think a high school there is a good idea?

I would also love to hear SPS address HALA and how that will impact school capacity in ALL neighborhoods. If up zone changes are set to significantly increase density (including low income units) in almost every neighborhood in Seattle, why isn't the district planning for this? Their numbers seem *vastly* understated. Perhaps the main topic within the mayoral and city council candidates is increasing housing and density in Seattle... why is the school district not part of the conversation?
Anonymous said…
Two elementary schools less than a half mile from each other, why?

The love to spend others peoples money!

Crazy stuff

Crazy stuff, which two elementary schools (please keep in mind, while you may know the area in question, others don't).
Anonymous said…
Actually there will be 3 elementary schools all within less than a mile,

Salmon bay

Why not put the money into rebuilding Salmon bay and expand Adams. Don't forget Whittier is a little over a half a mile from Salmon bay.

Crazy stuff
Salmon Bay is not a K-5 and so not considered an elementary. As well, it is an Option school. But yes, they are all very close to each other.
Eric B said…
Plus, Whittier and Adams are both packed, so they need extra capacity. Webster will be small, so it may not even be a comprehensive K-5. There are several 100-250 student programs that could fit in there and free up space elsewhere.
Anonymous said…
Anonymous raised the issue of HALA impacts and coordination between the city approving buildings and density and the school district that sees the net result of that. I attended a meeting at Hamilton Int'l Middle School last year that featured our mayor and I posed this question as to coordination, better enrollment forecasting (meaning better than SPS enrollment services has done)etc. He essentially agreed that better coordination was needed and that the city has better tools/forecasting/personnel whatever than the district. Great. So what concretely is both the city AND the district doing to minimize enrollment surprises?

I've also consistently raised this issue with Director Burke, in whose district the new Lincoln HS is being built and for which the district is evidently in the process of determining boundaries. Wallingford is being transformed with big developments and entire blocks of single family homes being torn down (see lower Wallingford Ave. around Gas Works Park by way of example.) So far I've had no luck getting data on projected enrollment for Lincoln and where they are forecasting that will come from--maybe Melissa can have better luck.

Meantime, the transit needed to support such density is sorely lacking. Bike lanes alone aren't going to cut it. We need buses, ideally energy-efficient ones.

So if you want the left hand to talk to the right, it seems we need to demand it.

Concerned Parent and Wallingford resident
Lynn said…
You can see the latest high school boundary scenarios under consideration here: http://www.seattleschools.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=627&pageId=26591502
VC said…
YES! Thank you for this insight! We are seeing the same thing happening in Magnolia/ Interbay and we are warning the district of a capacity crisis. Band together with your fellow parents and PTA and en masse to declare what you are seeing. WE ALL NEED TO DEMAND SPS HAS A SEAT ON HALA, AND WE NEED TO DEMAND MORE FROM OUR UPCOMING ELECTED OFFICIALS/ MAYOR.

This is our chance to let the city know that families care, families expect schools that can excel from both a programming and infrastructure perspective, and that WE VOTE! I would love to see a schools and family candidate forum and this needs to be strongly attended!

And, where are our corporate partners in the district? After all, Amazon, et. all cannot attract superb candidates if there are not superb schools for their employee's children

VC said…
PS, that last response was to anonymous posting about wallingford :)
Anonymous said…
At VC--there are superb schools and now that SPS dissolved the waitlists the companies can tell their new employees to register their children. AND SPS gets more money for those out of district students than if they placed in district students where they want to attend. Problem? Total BS.

Broken Promises
Anonymous said…
Enrollment Data for 2016 is posted. It is interesting to see where kids are tranferring from and where they are transferring to. Also, it shows a huge drop in Spectrum students for 2016.


Yes, they seem quite surprised that parents are no longer enrolling their student in schools with Spectrum. Why leave your neighborhood if the program you thought existed that your child qualified for is really a sham?
Anonymous said…
There is a corresponding increase in the number of HCC students. As Spectrum decreases, HCC increases.

Anonymous said…
They could have simply referenced trends at Bryant to see how many people leave when they realize the ALO model isn't serving advanced learners to guess how many would leave when replacing Spectrum with MTSS, which is the same empty promise as ALO.

Rocket Science
VC said…
Can someone explain mtss ?
Anonymous said…
The district should just drop any pretense of serving gifted or accelerated kids at their local school.

Sham is putting it mildly. How about disgraceful waste of students' lives?

The district, and the board with its lack of meaningful oversight, are ruining kids with their refusal to properly educate them by giving them rigorous work.

To only allow students who are able to enter HCC to have challenging schoolwork, SPS relegates other high performers and single area gifted students to a second class education.

The HCC population has doubled in four years and that is caused by the continuing refusal of the district to address the inequitable treatment of gifted and high performing students who are unable to gain access to HCC.

It's completely unfair and discriminatory against a particular group of students.

How long is the SPS management and the School Board going to waste the minds of these young people?

Total Disgrace
Joe Wolf said…
Re: Webster as a K-5 school

Both Adams and West Woodland are crowded and getting moreso. (And we are going to wish Loyal Heights had stayed at 660 seats.)

Re: Inclusion pf potential school in the Discovery Park EIS

If this is done the school impact needs to be based on a school SPS would actually build - a 500 or 660 seat elementary school, 1,000 seat middle school, 1,600 seat high school. Not the small thematic schools the Magnolia folks talked up.
Joe Wolf said…
Re. HALA and SPS capacity:

So far the new market-rate apartments going up are producing very few SPS students. When a 2-bedroom apartment rents for 2700-3200/month ... well five minutes on Craigslist tells you there are lots of townhomes and some SF homes on offer in the same price range.
VC said…
Hi Joe- I concur completely about any school build at Fort Lawton. When you view the site and the access to the amazing environmental learning opportunities, if the district had the luxury of making an environmental learning school, that would be phenomenal. It would be world-class and would be true to the character of Seattle. But we are not in an era of luxury. It would solve capacity needs and could be very well suited as many different types of traditionally sized schools. It just depends in the creative way you shuffle things around in order for it to make most sense. It's like a Rubik's cube- if I move this here, this changes over there
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
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