Monday, November 19, 2018

Boundary Work Session Today

Here's the agenda for today's Board Work Session on boundaries.  It's mostly about Magnolia, Licton Springs/RESMS and Maple/Van Asselt elementaries.
  • Looks like Green Lake is overcrowded with no room for portables (which I find weird because they have a huge playground).  Boundaries may need adjustment but probably not for the next school-year.
  • The agenda states that Maple is the district's largest Title One Elementary school.  They plan a boundary change when the new Wing Luke building is done but need to provide relief now for Maple and there is room at Van Asselt.  I'll just point out that it's not about building condition; both Maple and Van Asselt are in relatively new buildings in good condition.
  • Staff blandly stated that RESMS building "cannot accommodate both RESMS and Licton Springs given growth of both schools."  I call foul on that and I hope the Board does as well. Staff is trying to say the building was built for one size and yet, the promise was that Licton Springs would have space for 250 students.  That clearly wasn't done so the "promise" to Licton Springs has been very clearly broken. 
Their solutions are:
- boundary change
- move HCC (or "add additional site" for them) That would lead to a big "where?"
- move or program change for Licton Springs.  Unless they get a building of their own, this is pretty much a no go from that community.  I think most want to stay at RESMS because of the heritage of the property and its value to their program.  But, if the district gave them a building near good transportation, I think they might consider that.  But given how they are treated at RESMS, it would seem near-impossible to keep them there.

But we got here mostly because of the boundaries for Whitman.  Why that is not on the table is a mystery; again, hope Board directors ask for real data.
I note that JAMS - by district data - is just about right-sized and, given the discussion at the RESMS meeting, some parents would move their kids to JAMS but certainly not all. So maybe 30-40 students.
  • Looks like Mercer is also overcapacity and they say that they will need a boundary change (which would mean one elementary would have to go to another middle school, likely Washington, I would guess.)  But they say it might be minimal if Mercer gets renovated under BEX V.


muh said...

I think it *is* true that the Robert Eagle Staff building can not sustainably house both a middle school and K-8 school. No one likes that, but it is the case.

The truth is, even at 250, a k-8 is small. After LS, the next smallest k-8 is Orca, at 415 students. The funding model is just not sustainable for a small k-8.

And the other truth is, even at 250, to give both schools enough room, RESMS has to go even smaller - to what? We don't know because the district hasn't provided real numbers, but we know that 150 & 750 don't fit in the building, so we're probably looking at < 600. And we know that middle schools that are smaller than 600 don't offer a comprehensive program - we've seen it when schools decreased size and had to drastically reduce offerings.

And a final truth is, the district doesn't have any processes to facilitate building sharing between programs, so putting two schools (or slightly less reliably two programs) in one building has been pretty disastrous every time.

So, its true. The question is, what does the district do about it?

I think this is one reason that the district has put forth the yet-another-building proposal. At Webster a k-8 could grow to 450, which has a much more equitable funding model. Now, I'm not arguing that LS *should* go to Webster, because I see all the reasons they think that building is a poor fit for their population, but I see why its an idea on the table. It also explains why the district was willing to put forth the modification of LS to a k-5 model. At 200 student a k-5 has a funding model closer to what other schools have, AND, the middle schools students all get a comprehensive experience - that solves a funding problem, a space problem, and addresses some equity complaints all the time. Again, I'm not arguing that this *is* the right decision, just that its not all evil to the core.
It seems like such political suicide to suggest mucking around with LS in any way again I think everyone was surprised to see the proposals, but, given the realities, I can see why the district took the risk.

Frankly, I think the district is in an impossible situation. But one thing the risk paid off with is parents brainstorming a lot of creative solutions, and maybe one of those solutions will take. There are a few that seem moderately promising to me, and i hope they actually look at them instead of just sitting on their hands for the next 10 months.

But I find it frustrating that no one talks about the very real constraints, space & financial, when talking about these issues. Things that make no sense at the outset make more sense when you start to look at the corners we are all painted into. Even some of the decisions that have most outraged me can start to seem defensible as I learn more. I think the district would make some progress if they were more transparent about what they were thinking. Among other things, its easier to solve problems if you know what the actual problems are.

Anonymous said...

I really don't see how anyone could feel OK about kicking LS out of that space. They deserve the space that was promised to them.

If that means RESMS needs to be a lot smaller, so be it--limit RESMS to 600, and find room for the others elsewhere. Send most to Whitman, some to JAMS, etc. Neighborhood students wouldn't like getting displaced, but nobody ever does. At this point it's just part of the SPS experience.

If LS middle school students want a more comprehensive experience, they should consider converting to K-5 and then creating a pathway into RESMS. They'd be able to stay at that site that way. Saying you want your own school but access to another school's electives doesn't make sense to me. Pick one or the other.


Anonymous said...

But a middle school can't be comprehensive under 600 students(unless we changed the funding model just for RESMS, which I actually think would make some sense but would never, ever fly in this district). And some of the poorest elementaries in the north (Northgate, almost twice the FRL rate of Licton Springs) feed into Eaglestaff. Those kids were promised a comprehensive middle school just as much as LS was promised space in this building that is really not big enough for a k-8 and a middle school. To me k-5 with a pathway makes sense too, but that's not what LS wants, and I don't feel I can tell anyone in this difficult situation what to do. I think it's really hard. I am glad LS is being heard and think the district should not just kick them out. I just hope the other communities, without the benefit of an option school's advocacy system, do too. Most of RESMS is gen ed, not HCC, is very high frl, and those kids have not been mentioned AT ALL.

North by Northwest

Melissa Westbrook said...

One, the district knew all along that Licton Springs would not fit. They knew a very small K-8 would be expensive. But they were trying to appease the then-president of the Board and I think they thought the grand experiment would fail and LS would go away. But, instead, they are growing. I think if word gets out about their accepting model with a Native American focus, more parents would choose it.

I didn't hear very many LS parents of 6-8 asking to have access to elective classes but it's been done elsewhere. Nova kids used access some Garfield classes. JAMS kids use the Hale health center.

Anonymous said...

North by Northwest & Megan Excellent points. Yes, it is not so easy to limit the REMS middle school enrollment either to 600. I also think people forget about the high FRL at REMS. I think the solution in this equation does look very likely to be splitting HCC into two sites, which has been the plan IMO. Whitman was proposed by a current board member to house HC, the last round. Except the proposal was to move them all to Whitman. I think the most likely scenario will be to split HC.

A Parent

Geographic Views said...

From a purely geographic perspective, with HCC at Hamilton and JAMS, it would make sense to have a third north end location be on the west side of town (like Whitman) instead of in the middle (like Eagle Staff). Then there would be north end HCC middle school sites on the west side (Whitman), the south side (Hamilton) and the east side (Jane Addams). Looking only at travel times and even distribution of sites, that makes sense. And if you look at the heat map of where identified HCC-eligible middle school students live, lo and behold, locating a program at Whitman makes way more sense than locating it at Eagle Staff.

Middle school heat map:

And similarly since the north end only has one location for a Native American focus elementary/middle school, based on geographic considerations alone, it would make sense to have this be located centrally, so that it is maximally accessible to all who are interested in attending it. If you only have one Native American focus school, it makes no sense to locate it in Ballard. Ballard is not at all a convenient destination for elementary aged children coming from Lake City or the U District.

Native Americans live all over Seattle as you can see via the link below. And of course there is no map of families who may not be considered Native American by the census but would like to attend a Native American focus option school. https://depts.washington.edu/labhist/maps-race-seattle.shtml

Anonymous said...

I'd like to better understand how splitting HCC or shifting it entirely to Whitman solves the problem of REMS not being big enough to be a comprehensive middle school. Which is what all the kids who live in the neighborhood and were assigned to REMS were promised - and what kids in other neighborhoods get. Shifting HCC out of REMS decreases the size of REMS. I'm wondering if shifting some or all of HCC would make REMS too small to be a comprehensive middle school.

I'm also concerned that splitting the HCC cohort between Whitman and REMS will result in cohorts that are too small to be viable at either school.


Jet City mom said...

I believe Broadview Thomson has middle school space, not a comprehensive school, but close to Northgate elementary.

I would like to see another K-12. My daughter went to Summit K-12 from elementary through middle school and despite many problems that could be traced to -surprise- lack of support from district, teacher burnout exacerbated by principal turnover. ( let someone else deal with it), overall we were happy to be there.
I also liked how 6th grade was with elementary and 7&8th was team taught.
Didn’t have a comprehensive middle school, but students shared electives with the high school, expanding opportunities.

kellie said...

The bottom line here is that is simply is not possible for a LARGE comprehensive middle school to share space with a full size K8. It's just that simple.

Sharing might be possible for a small middle school and a small K8. There are five middle schools that are smaller than RESMS.

Meany - 522
McClure - 536
Whitman - 571
Washington - 663
Aki - 704

The vast majority of our K-8 schools have enrollments of about 400-500, with Blaine and Hazel Wolf closer to 750. With this central location, there is no reason not to suspect that Licton Springs will quickly reach 400 or so.

Any sharing arrangement will need to restrict RESMS to about 600.

Anonymous said...

@ kellie, do you know what is the excess capacity of our current middle schools, and how this compares to the current overcrowding at other middle schools? Overall, do we have more spots than we need, or do we need another new middle school?

If there's discussion about moving all/part of the RESMS HCC population to Whitman to increase its numbers, what about a similar proposal re: McClure instead (i.e., start an HCC cohort there, relieving pressure on Hamilton, and if HIMS' numbers get too low they could shift some of the RESMS HCC back to HIMS). (I don't know how McClure's capacity compares to Whitman's though, but I've seen comments before that McClure would like some increased options for rigor.) That would also shift more students south of the ship canal, since most of those less populated schools you mentioned are in the south.

idea tosser

kellie said...

Both Meany and McClure have very small footprints. Both of those schools will really max out around 600.

Both Whitman and Washington have had historic enrollments well in excess of 1,000 students. But it is important to note that the vast majority of that capacity was found in ancient portables. (many circa 1950)

SPS middle schools are in terrible shape. It would have been nice if BEX had focused more in middle schools and really delivering a district wide solution. The new equity lens was very helpful but it is notable that the lens captured individual schools and the lens did not capture macro, strategic or systemic issues.

From a systems point of view, middle schools have multiple challenges in that maintenance of the physical plant is seriously compromised and there is some profound misalignment between feeder patterns and capacity.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, BEX IV was supposed to be the "middle school BEX" but capacity issues took center stage. At least that was what I was told.

That we have very few middle schools renovated is troubling.

muh said...

For all the questions about total middle school capacity - the city has capacity south of the ship canal, and at Whitman. But, aside from Whitman, every middle school north of the ship canal is at or over capacity and most of them have portables.

In my opinion, long term fixes all need to look at either moving more students south of the ship canal or adding physical space in the north end.

It would fix the immediate capacity issues at RESMS to move the HC cohort to Whitman. It would not fix the long term problem of whether LS is viable at a 200-300 student size, and RESMS was viable at a 600-700 student size. (Note, this latter is true if they moved geozone lines to send more gen-ed to Whitman as well.)

Right now, though, Whitman has space and RESMS doesn't, so moving some students to Whitman is a short term fix. (I don't think anything with Whitman is a long term fix, because the facilities are in dire shape. But, this is besides the point. It does buy time.)

About splitting the HC cohort between RESMS and Whitman - we know that there are not enough HC students enrolled in the RESMS geozone to support another cohort there. The district would be in the position of needing to run classes that could not be filled (such as math classes with 20 kids). We have the same problem with drawing the McClure HC kids off to McClure - there isn't enough room in McClure to add a full cohort of kids. But if you could add a full cohort of kids at McClure (or use a magic carpet to fly them to Washington), you either end up with a two small cohort at one of the schools in the north, or you combine them and end up with a bigger cohort than fits into any of the schools.

We've seen what happens with small cohorts often enough, most recently at Washington, to guess that we would be introducing more inequities in how HC is served, and probably that would mean no HC services for some qualified kids in the north end. I don't think this is acceptable.

Anonymous said...

I too fall in with those thinking the most logical first step is to move REMS HCC students to Whitman. Hopefully that staves off some capacity issues for the time being.

I was shocked to learn that Whitman was not on next BEX levy. That school is so tired (from a physical plan perspective).


Anonymous said...

What is the cohort size of the hcc currently at REMS?


Anonymous said...

If the cohort rolled forward with no changes from the previous year, these are the HCC numbers with RESMS first and Whitman second:

6th 66 (26 + 40)
7th 67 (21 + 46)
8th 90 (33 + 57)

Fairmount Parent

Anonymous said...

So really there is currently space at Whitman for the entire cohort? Or if one wanted to backfill REMS, one could remove the geosplit from Viewlands and send the entire school to REMS (rather than the current state of half to REMS and half to Whitman) after moving the HCC conhort?

Or, as geosplits remain unpopular, remove the geosplit from Viewlands and send them all to Whitman.

Don't ignore Whitman when proposing solutions.



Anonymous said...

In addition, any move should also take into account cohort size at HIMS and JAMS and other middle schools. They should keep them together and move them to Whitman IMO. Also what is HIMS HC cohort size? HIMS is becoming very overcrowded again.

A Parent

muh said...

It sounds to me that the principal and families at Whitman are pretty willing to welcome more students, and give them a good school to attend. The solution doesn't have to be HC, though, it could be adjusting middle school geozone boundaries. I think HC just gets talked about a lot because the district can move a pretty big number of kids and assume that most people forget those are human children with actual educational and emotional needs.

Right now the middle schools in the north are:

(School, stated capacity - or the best consensus i could find, current enrollment, current HC enrolled)
Eagle Staff, 755, 838, 80 *has 4 portables not included in capacity
Eckstein, 1044, 1037, 236 *has 7 portables included in capacity
HIMS, 972, 1030, 141 *no room for portables
JAMS, 948, 936, 58 *has 4 portables included in capacity
McClure, 630, 537, 139
Whitman, 832, 574, 143 *has 14 portables, but this is estimated capacity without them.

SPS recommendations say that there should be at least 270 kids in a middle school cohort. This ensures a reliable and efficient enrollment for each course. At 80 kids there is less than one full class size in some grades; which is why splitting the RESMS cohort is such a bad idea.

Anonymous said...

There is no HC cohort. There is just an enrollment designation for services. It’s misleading to keep using the cohort term in relation to HC services.

Institutional memory

Anonymous said...

Megan Instead of HC enrolled, did you mean to state HC kids from the aforementioned school's reference area? That makes more sense to me. Example you are stating their are 80 kids within REMS zone and 143 within Whitman's zone. Otherwise I am not following as Eaglestaff does not have less HC enrolled kids (80) than for example Whitman (143) that I am aware. Also, did you mean 8th grade only? I thought there were more total HC. Example at HIMS I thought they make up about 40% or so of total population.


Anonymous said...

@ Institutional Memory, misleading how exactly?

all types

muh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
muh said...

@Confused - those are the kids enrolled for each geozone, which means that if they split HC into two school, Eagle Staff would only have 80 kids enrolled. Right now Eagle Staff & Whitman go to Eagle Staff. (McClure & HIMS to HIMS, and Eckstein & JAMS to JAMS.)

And those are the numbers currently enrolled in 5-7th grade (aka, the people who would be enrolled next year). We expect the numbers to change - that is not the 'qualified' population, and kids often opt in as they advance in grades. We can not guarantee that the numbers will change, the trends show that any increase would be modest and not qualitatively change the conclusions.

They are not the majority population in any of the schools. From what i can tell there are currently 340 students in the cohort at HIMS, or about 33% of the total enrollment. (The 7th and 8th grades are disproportionately large, and I'm not sure why. The trend is markedly downward for the lower grades. Its possible that the international schools skew it?)

Anonymous said...

"Cohort" does not just refer to self-contained services. From the district AL page:

HCC provides significantly accelerated curriculum in reading, math, science and social studies based on student need. Services include student progression through pathways to specific school sites with adequate cohorts of Highly Capable students. This model provides students peer learning and social/emotional opportunities, teachers with suitable experience and/or professional development on the academic and social/emotional needs, appropriate curriculum, appropriately differentiated instruction, deeper learning opportunities and accelerated pacing.


Anonymous said...

Exactly, “sheesh.” The cohort is not “just an enrollment designation for services”—it’s also a mechanism for ensuring that appropriate services can be provided (i.e., critical mass).

all types

Anonymous said...

@Megan "and kids often opt in as they advance in grades."

The numbers should maybe be based upon current 6-8th a a rough guideline, as I am guessing looking at current 5th would skew it lower.

At HIMS principal had said 50% of the HC 6th graders came from neighborhood schools. That's alot of kids who either remain at their local elementary school, or test later in 5th grade & opt in for middle school.

Our kid missed HC by two points in second grade when tested. Tested again in 5th, identified via school based test at 99%.

Former HIMS

muh said...

@Anonymous - but we can look at the current enrollment numbers and they are still insufficient. For example, in the *current* sixth grade class there are only 21 students enrolled from the RESMS geozone - this is still not a full classroom. In the Jane Adams geozone there are 21 sixth graders, but only 20 seventh and 20 eighth graders - it is not the case that enrollment always grows by large amounts, so we can not depend on that assumption.

I don't pretend to be a district enrollment forecaster with access to many more numbers and tracking mechanisms (who we know are great at their job), but I do claim that we can look at these numbers and be very concerned about further splitting the cohorts. Right now, in 6th-8th grades, there are only 260 kids enrolled in the RESMS & Whitman gezones. Already, this is less than the recommended 270 student enrollment.

Lexy said...

It seems like a comprehensive middle school size really does need to be at least ~750, so I hope SPS doesn't try to push the enrollment too low at Eagle Staff. 900-1000 middle schoolers is the SPS 'ideal' (whatever that means), and hence that is what new MS buildings, including the RESMS/LS building, are designed to accommodate. Below 700-750 there are impacts to elective offerings and to the SPS budgeted staffing numbers. Based on earlier posts/comments on this blog and in the formerly-Soup-for-Teachers FB group, it seems like the district's smaller middle schools have felt those impacts this year.

My understanding is that the SPS budget threshold for an assistant principal is 667 students and that there is a counselor (or part-counselor?) allocated for every 400 students. The RESMS population - primarily the neighborhood-based students and the high FRL population - would suffer as a result of loss of those counselors/APs, who provide much-needed support and stability.

But, with 750 MS students, there isn't room to accommodate a growing K-8. And with a bigger K-8, there isn't room for a comprehensive middle school. ARGH!

I don't have a solution, but I wish this didn't feel so much like a no-win situation for everyone involved. I also wish that the implication of moving a chunk of students back to Whitman had been considered in the BEX rankings, instead of making Whitman too small to be considered 'overcrowded' which meant that it dropped down the list, and THEN deciding to move students back into a building that really, really needs to be rebuilt, but won't be.

kellie said...

@ Lexy,

I think you have summarized this perfectly. This is a no-win situation. And the sooner that everyone comes to terms with the simple fact that a full sized middle school and a full sized K8 simply do not fit into one building, the better this will be for everyone. Indeed it would have been best if that simple acknowledgment, had been done before student were geo-split from their schools but ... Delays won't change this fundamental problem and will only make it more complex to solve.

And this scenario was completely missed by the scoring criteria for BEX. FWIW, I was on the committee that evaluated the scoring criteria. We were told that RESMS was not a candidate because there was a planned boundary solution between Whitman and RESMS to move one elementary school between the feeder patterns.

When we looked at that scenario, it did not then tip Whitman into a capacity problem. Clearly, the best outcome would be to rebuild Whitman ASAP and restore capacity there. Then, it could be possible to make a nice "option" middle school of about 500 that could share with RESMS.

Anonymous said...

@ kellie, since the district isn't required to follow what's on its BEX wish list, is it too late to rebuild Whitman ASAP? Could SPS recognize the crisis (and the fact that they give misinformation to the committee), speedily reconvene the committee to reevaluate Whitman and any other emerging crises, then provide updated scores?


Melissa Westbrook said...

ReaTime, I wish that were possible but it would have to be a hardcore emergency for them to change what they are doing. It's not like they haven't but I cannot recall completely bumping out one project for another.

kellie said...

@ Realtime.

SPS mostly follows the BEX schedule. There are many examples of creative solutions that SPS has used in the face of community pressure.

Last time, some special funding mechanism was used to accelerate Arbor Heights. Additionally, SPS has secured special funding from State of Washington to open several buildings like Magnolia. And there is has been fund swapping between BEX and BTA.

As I have mentioned a one-year delay on this problem, only makes things more challenging. At this point, only community organized dialogue or solutions between Whitman, RESMS and Licton Springs is going to move this forward, as the district has declined to take the lead.

There could be possible BEX solutions as the package has not yet been sent to the voters. However ... the longer this drags out, then BEX would most certainly be off the table.

Joe Wolf said...

Hi Melissa: Regarding Green Lake ES, its site size is such that adding portables bumps the building site coverage over 35%, which would require a Departure/zoning variance. Not impossible to obtain but a challenge (as the district learned at Laurelhurst).