BEX V List Getting Closer (Along with a Huge Price Tag)

I attended last week's BEX V Work Session.  Here's the presentation.   The work on BEX continues next week with another work session on Wednesday, Oct 10th at JSCEE from 4:30-5:30 pm.  Given the short time for the latest work session, I suspect this will be the final list as they want to introduce the list at the Board meeting on October 17th.

It appears that between 8-12 schools will be done under BEX V at a cost of about $890M. There will also be what they are calling "Repairs/replacements, One-Off Projects and Athletic Fields."  This includes seismic work, fire alarm systems, roofs, exterior cladding (and I'm pretty surprised to see South Shore, Garfield and Roosevelt on this list as they are all relatively new schools), security equipment and many playgrounds at about $70M.  Technology projects will run between $128-$145M.

A number of the members of the hard-working Facilities Master Plan Task Force were in attendance including Meg Diaz and Kellie LaRue who are major braintrust between them.  The FMP Task Force report starts on page 54.  There is a section, starting on page 57, called Task Force Survey Results.  I was told by members that this was done by email with no discussion among members.
Facilities Master Plan Task Force Broad Consensus:

1. Scoring and relative ranking methodology is a beneficial process. Help guide board decision making, especially relative to equity.

2. Rebuilding of Rainier Beach High School will resolve not only equity issues, but also capacity challenges, based on past evidence of enrollment increases at new/modernized high schools.

3. Scoring process works for existing facilities, but there is a gap in giving the board input on the need for new facilities. As the city continues to grow rapidly, this will be an increasingly important factor.

4. Invest in data that shows a “before” and “after” picture of how new and existing projects add benefits across the school system to provide a more comprehensive picture of the return on investment.

5. Conduct a stand-alone conversation on the merits of downtown schools. 

On number 5, I think the downtown high school idea is dead for now.  I absolutely agree there needs to be discussion about downtown schools but the district needs to get a grip on where enrollment is going before that happens.

On number 2, rebuilding RBHS, I think beyond the school community itself, renovating RBHS will be a tremendous boost to the entire community which tends to see RBHS as their core for community engagement.

I love number 4 about ROI because schools exist within a system and it's important to keep that idea as part of the big picture.

Want to know how many project BEX has done since 1995?  See page 26.

Want to know regionally how many projects have been done?  See page 44.  (And I want to note that for the first 10+ year of BEX, there were more projects in the southend than the northend.  The district has been absolutely fair in that.  However, it does mean that there could be a number of old buildings in one region that should be replaced but a couple will have to wait in order to make the list regionally fair.)

Want to know how much was asked for in each BEX/BTA?  Page 43.  See the number for BEX IV - $694.9M?  Directors are saying the need is so great that some of them are willing to bump that number up to over $1B. More on this to come but for me, it's a mistake.

Page 39 - Transition Plan for BEX V Capacity/Condition Projects or, in other words, where will students go while schools are being renovated?   Oddly, despite Northgate being at the top of the elementary list, they are not mentioned here.  The district has made the wise choice to keep RBHS students in the building and do it in sections (just like at Hale).  It's cheaper that way.

Guiding Principles (I note what one reader here asked - what's the 5-year forecast for enrollment?)

BEX V Guiding Principles Adopted May 9, 2018

With the overarching framework of Ensuring Educational and Racial Equity (Board Policy No. 0030)

  • Building Safety and Security
  • Right-Size Capacity 
  • Building Conditions and Educational Alignment 
  • Environmental and Financial Sustainability 
  • Updating Technology 
And Technology - which used to be a blip in these levies - is now taking an ever-larger chunk of BEX/BTA funds.  As you may recall, 85% of Technology's budget comes from those two levies.  If BEX V was to fail, it would mean a MAJOR shift in General Budget funds to continue supporting that department. 

Staff went over feedback from the many community meetings on BEX V.  
  • parents wanted to know how the race and equity lens was applied
  • SE parents thought there had been a low number of projects in that region (not sure if they meant BEX V list but the number of renovations has been fairly equal throughout the district)
  • "Strong turnout in support of replacing some schools; Northgate, Kimball, Alki, Rogers, North Beach"
  • technology and access to it
  • how projects were selected and scored

Schools that scored at the top of the BEX V list

Elementaries              Middle Schools           High Schools
1. Northgate               Mercer                         Rainier Beach
2. West Seattle           Aki Kurose                  Ingraham (I note Ingraham continues its place
3. Montlake                Salmon Bay K-8           on every single BEX/BTA in a piecemeal fashion.)
4. Viewlands               Washington                 Hale (addition)                      
5. John Muir                Whitman                     Garfield (addition)
6. Wedgwood
7. Rogers
8. North Beach
9. Alki
10. Sacajawea

From this list it looks like - from staff's Priorities list, page 29) that it could be:
Northgate, West Seattle (with an addition only), Rainier Beach, Mercer, Montlake, Viewlands, Muir (addition only), interim site for Southeast at old Van Asselt (more on this).  This is eight projects.  If they did four more, they have Alki, Rogers, Wedgwood and North Beach.

The cost ranges - depending on how many projects - from $600M to $865M. But that's just for renovation projects and doesn't include all the other items in BEX like Technology, Athletics, etc.

Starting on page 69, there's a list of possible repairs for every single school in the district. 

Board Feedback

Director Harris is pushing back on West Seattle Elementary needing an addition,saying that Lafayette seems in far worse shape with very close numbers on the chart.

Harris also seems worried about transparency in these selections.

She also called $1B, "the magic number" because she, like Director Burke, wanted to know the rate of valuation that would keep the tax level from going up from BEX IV to BEX V. 

She said Lafayette is right on California and that they could get creative in leveraging its central location with perhaps building apartments for teachers on top.  Richard Best, head of capital projects, said that there could be possible landmark status for Lafayette.  Harris retorted, "A landmark for prison design."

She noted that "we are paying for 30 years of no maintenance." 

Harris also said that the so-called "open schools" like Sanislo and Kimbell are very hard to learn and work in and that there should be sound baffling for them.  (Plus the promise to NEVER build like this again.)

Juneau said she had been in open concept schools and "it's a tough environment."  She mentioned partnerships with higher ed but it was unclear to me about the connection.

Harris also said she wanted "a menu" of the projects.  I perceive that pages 28-29 are that menu but I'm not sure what she wants.

By my count, Harris, Burke, Pinkham, Geary and Mack are on-board with going to $1BDeWolf was not there, nor did he send a statement.  (Pinkham was not there either, but he did send a message via Director Mack.)  Not sure what Patu's thinking is.

Patu said very little except that she felt like maintenance and safety are the biggest issues and is happy RBHS is on the list.

Flip Herndon said "Major preventative maintenance is key but there is also day-to-day maintenance and that's where we fall down.  That's comes out of the Operations side and it's a challenge." 

Interjecting here, I have been saying this for more than a decade.  Over and over.  You don't maintain the buildings, they just get worse.  You ask taxpayers for hundreds of millions of dollars and you don't maintain those buildings?  This was a choice made in the late '70s and continues today, Board after Board, superintendent after superintendent, all wringing their hands.

Okay, then do something about it.

Geary stated that it is difficult to work within a region on getting support "When you have a whole group of people coming thru the system that doesn't see themselves reflected in requests." 

She continued saying that going to $1B would allow many other schools to see needed repairs like HVAC at Eckstein which is a huge issue.

Geary said she appreciated hearing from other directors about their regions.  She also said with the flux in enrollment that perhaps there should be some flexibility in grade grouping. 

Chairman Mack said that larger projects take many more BEX dollars out of the pot but smaller projects would spread out to more schools.  She also called out that Sacajawea needs a renovation because it is a SPed site that isn't ADA accessible.  Good point.

She went on to say that capacity issues need close watch and that "we are portablized."  She said it is not a great situation but that it is far more expensive to build additions and then kids don't show up.  She said it has been two years of enrollment decline.  She also said the portables that are oil-based and toxic need to go.

She also noted that it might be better to redo Aki Kurose in terms of equity.

She said a good example of a school that should be done with a lower equity score but with a building in bad condition and maxed out is Lafayette.

Director Burke said they need a clear transition plan and clear direction.  He said he is supportive "of the larger amount and strategically investing that."  He is worried about Whitman being too low on both condition and capacity.   He said there needs to be a 10-year plan for the Skill Center funding.  He said he supports updates to the Lincoln auditorium and pushed for B.F. Day Elementary.  (Day is the oldest still function school in the district, just celebrating its 125th year.)

I perceived staff to be mostly unhappy by the end of the Work Session.  Although the majority of the Board said yes to going over $1B for BEX V, they didn't really clarify the list. 


Tapped Out said…
What are the additional costs per household?

Not sure how the district's operation budget has increased between .2 Billion-.3Billion over the last several years.

The city wants to increase the Family and Education budget by 60%, and there is the fact that the district will need to figure out how to pay for a non=sustainable teacher contract.

The district will be asking for funding that exceeds the existing property tax cap.

Anonymous said…
So much wrong with this BEX list.

This is Flip's list. It will take a NO levy vote to stop this incompetence.

Flip has not made his case at all for any of this, aside from Rainier Beach. And, RB is not a needed building program, they have space that has had some updates. The building is perpetually, woefully, underutilized, and that it has nothing to do with the building condition. Tolley was the ED for that school - he is part of why it remains mostly empty, despite assigning it a ridiculously large catchment area.

But, for equity, build RB new.

BUT, the rest of this BEX list? PROVE it: It has to be a list of have-to-haves, not nice-to-haves.

Flip is the guy who ignored FACMAC when they said build the new high school at Wilson Pacific (instead of an elementary and middle school there). Instead, Lincoln will open as a high school with no football/soccor/ultimate field and no track. Flip is the guy who refused to give the Wilson Pacific campus an auditorium, despite having 1800 students, and the fact that Eckstein, Whitman, & Jane Addams all have one. Flip is the guy who gave away the Boren site to a k8. How did that help out Denny/Stealth? Flip is the guy who mishandled the building of the Schmitz Park replacement building: it had to be redrawn and re-engineered for the cost of millions. Flip is the guy who pushed for contracts to external managers, costing the district tens of millions, but delivering no extra value or building for kids and teachers. Flip is the guy who pushed a split of Cascadia, giving them two buildings, when they could have fit into one. Flip is the guy who pulled too many K5 schools off of Whitman, despite being told by insiders that would create multiple problems that would have to get fixed and create instability. Flip is also the guy who chased out 2 of the best capital employees from the district.

Do you really trust this guy's plan? He doesn't know where the enrollment/building capacity are the most mismatched now or in 5 years time.

The committee was a rubber stamp exercise. They weren't given meaty data to analyze nor time to walk through optimum scenarios or create a real concluding report. The talent on the committee was wasted, mostly battling back the downtown lobby that was at it again demanding an amenity for their real estate portfolio. Compared to last BEX, when a committee met for 2 years with data rich information supplied by knowledgeable staffers like Tracy Libros and Joe Wolf and then came up with the list of suggested BEX capital projects, this 2 month committee was just to give cover to Flip so he could go to that board and say that he checked that box of community consultation.

Cedar Park was opened with permanent portables that have no water. Because it was landmarked, SPS couldn't touch the building, so enlarging capacity was creating through a portable village (how is that equitable, especially given the fact that zip code tracks to poverty?). Cedar Park was landmarked not because it was so gorgeous or unique or old, but because of its famous architect, Paul Thiry, who did only a few examples of institutional architecture: Cedar Park, and, wait for it...Northgate! If this district attempts Northgate, the building WILL be nominated for the landmarks preservation committee and more than likely will be voted to be preserved, thus, essentially untouchable. There are those in the district who know this, but they can't tell Flip.

Which are the worst portabled buildings? Which areas have most intense residential growth that will generate students? What do the birth rates suggest? Migration rates? Do any buildings have unreinforced masonry that could kill children in the event of an earthquake? Safety, perpetual overcrowding, multiple portables, worst condition, these would be a logical priority list. What we got was not that list.

They need to reboot the list. But, they won't & generous Seattle will pass the levy regardless.

Scared and Scarred
Anonymous said…
I found this list of seismic improvements online. Washington Middle has not had a seismic upgrade since 1979!

Safety First
Need new leadership. said…
I'm sorry, but my taxes have gone up so much in the past three years - and I hear so much about how they need to go up so much more - I just can't support any more tax increases.

I see in today's paper that Sound Transit wants the tunnel routes to Ballard and West Seattle. They estimate additional costs of $300 million for this. Teachers getting 15 and 20% pay raises. $12 million for a mile of bike lane. The city about to ask for nearly a billion, the bulk of which would go to ramp up pre k for 2500 students ?! The district is going to seek a billion for operations next February.

And yet there is a movement to lift the levy lid, add a capital gains tax and, I am sure, many dream of an income tax.

I am sure that many electected officials have come to rely so heavily on the Seattle piggy bank that they believe they merely need to mouth the words "it's for the kids" or it will "protect the environment" will ensure the passage of their tax of the day.

How will these increases in property taxes impact the elderly? Those at or nearing retirement?

I'm a no vote going forward. I believe the day is close at hand when one of the "essential" tax proposals fail.

Former Souper said…
The district's latest teacher increase is not sustainable. SEA will be back for more next year.

Good luck.
Tapped Out, don't know those figures yet. I think it folly - despite the need - to ask for $1B+. I don't think they should ask for more for Operations but they probably will.

"Flip is the guy who mishandled the building of the Schmitz Park replacement building: it had to be redrawn and re-engineered for the cost of millions."

Tell me about this because I had heard nothing about it.

"Flip is the guy who pushed for contracts to external managers, costing the district tens of millions, but delivering no extra value or building for kids and teachers."

I do know about this and I had wondered who it really benefited.

"Flip is also the guy who chased out 2 of the best capital employees from the district."

Which ones? You can off-line this to me if you want -

Former Souper, you've made that statement several times. Move on.
Anonymous said…
I am glad that Director Harris is pushing back on the addition to West Seattle Elementary. I have enormous respect for WS Elementary, but in terms of the needs in the SW region an addition to WS Elementary is a low priority. WS Elementary has capacity for 397 students. Its current enrollment is 416, down from 444 in in 2015. Like all other Title I schools in the SW region, its enrollment is trending down. It makes no sense to increase its capacity, unless I see some projections that show it is actually going to have a big increase in enrollment. By the way, all of the old projections predicted that WS Elementary was going to have a big increase in enrollment, but they were all wrong. So, I would not only need to see some new projections to be convinced, but some new projections that correct for all of the mistakes made in the old projections.

If the Board wants to do something equitable in the SW region, it could turn its attention to Sanislo. Sanislo only has 209 kids, down from 281 in 2015. It has an open concept environment. Maybe we could give the Sanislo kids some walls? Even better, why aren't some of the WS Elementary kids going to the lovely knew Roxhill at E.C. Hughes? It only has 250 kids. Roxhill had 369 kids has recently as 2014. E.C. Hughes has capacity. Unfortunately, I can't tell how much capacity, because the Facilities Master Plan uses the old Roxhill facility in its capacity numbers. I also can't find the capacity numbers for Roxhill at E.C. Hughes listed on the Seattle Public Schools website. GRRRRRRRR!

Or maybe the Board could help the Boren Stem school, which reportedly has ceiling tiles fall from the library. It is not technically a Title I school, but it serves a diverse population with approximately 25% of kids qualifying for FRL. That school has a ton of need, with the PTA holding the building together with bubble gum and duct tape.

Finally, Alki and Lafayette have huge needs. Both could use added capacity, and both are in very rough shape. I understand that these schools have a low % of FRL qualifying students. But both schools should be rebuilt.

WS Parent
Anonymous said…
I would like to know what happens when a BEX school goes way over the budget we voted for in the BEX levy. This happened with Loyal Heights Elementary. It went over budget by around $20 million dollars. My question is do other projects get cut when one goes over? Or is there fine print in the levy wording that makes it legal to go overbudget by large amounts?
Anonymous said…
@ Anon 10/8 at 4:52, my understanding is that the district can cut some projects to account for unanticipated costs on others. My understanding is that they can also cut projects for no reason at all. Or swap projects. Or rejigger the whole list. As I understand it--and someone please correct me if I'm wrong--the BEX list provided for the vote is kind of a cross between a wish list (what they want to do) and a PR campaign (what they think people across the city will support). They are not saying they WILL do those exact things, and they are not legally required to. But it does seem like the work that goes into generating the list serves as a good indication of some of the most immediate priorities, and my impression (for what it's worth) is that most of the things on the list get done to some extent--especially things higher up on the list. The lists may be a little overly optimistic--or the management of projects/budgets a little underly sufficient--so things lower on the list may need to be cut in the end. At least that's my impression.


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