(keep refreshing to see latest updates, as we report “live” from school district HQ – toplines are now available on this district document … also, as of 10:15 pm, an overview is now posted on the district website – see it here)
10:30 PM NOTE: If you want to read the full rationale for the “close Arbor Heights program, close Genesee Hill building, move Pathfinder K-8 to Arbor Heights building” proposal, it starts on page 40 of this document. Interesting side note on that document – Alki Elementary is the only building in the West Seattle area in worse condition than Genesee Hill, but the district says it would be tough to consider closing that program/building for a variety of reasons including the fact its boiler supplies heat to the adjacent Alki Community Center, so even if the program was closed, the building couldn’t be taken out of commission.
10:19 PM: After 4 1/3 hours, the meeting is over. Checking for additional links to share before we pack up and head back to HQ and assemble for later a more concise “where things stand, what next” post. *There are a ton of additional links now – go to this page and scroll down to the list under the November 25th, Preliminary Recommendation Presented, heading. This one in particular, Preliminary Recommendation Report and Appendices, likely has the full details on the decisionmaking behind suggesting moving Pathfinder to Arbor Heights – we’ll read it to check. Reminder that Steve Sundquist has his monthly “coffee hour” tomorrow morning, 9 am, Coffee to a Tea in The Junction – we’ll be there and we’re sure a lot of Arbor Heights, Pathfinder, and West Seattle APP elementary students’ parents will be there as well.
10:05 PM: Summarizing the recommendations now (see the link above for the list). Next step, School Board meeting Wednesday 12/3 (public testimony that night no doubt will be dominated by the closure proposals). Crowd starting to clear out. Some more board remarks even though Q/A was taken throughout the presentation. Hard copy of the recommendations (same doc as linked above) being handed out – though it’s clear that the board members have a BIG sheaf of additional info. Will advise as soon as the date for West Seattle-specific hearing is set. DeBell is saying, it’s tough to have an all-city-draw program that’s not centrally located, and adds, nobody’s being done any favors by keeping half-full buildings. “This is not fun,” Dr. Goodloe-Johnson summarizes, “(but) the hard choices will only get harder. We know people don’t want schools to close, we don’t either, but the fact is, we don’t have a choice.” She says some of the notes and the questions asked tonight will lead to data shared at the next board meeting. Board president Cheryl Chow points out that several board members went through the last school-closure round: “Our job now is to look at the data, ask more questions, listen to our constituents and their ideas, and share those with the staff, look at the data again … I would like to encourage all of us to remember, it’s human nature to want to solve everything ‘right now’ but I caution us, too, the most important job we have as elected officials now is to listen openmindedly but not promise things because we need to have this process be vetted fully … The final decision isn’t until January 29th, and as hard as it is for the seven of us to sit here and just listen and take notes, I think it’s very important, because there’s lots of people that want us to hear their viewpoint, and we need to honor that.” (10:17 pm, in addition to the list on the FAQ document posted earlier, here is an “overview” document that appears to have some more details)
9:51 PM: Finally getting to West Seattle. Enrollment projected steady for next five years, says superintendent. Close Genesee Hill, one of the worst buildings in the district. Arbor Heights building much better, 70.74. Arbor Heights smaller than Genesee Hill but no portables, unlike GH, still big enough to house 391 Pathfinder students. Enough room in nearby schools to house all AH students. They would be reassigned to other elementaries in WS South cluster. Board questions now. West Seattle school board rep Sundquist: Please explain how did you get to the point of putting Pathfinder in either AH or Cooper. They’re reading from documentation. Really intricate reasoning for why they could not consider any building but Cooper or Arbor Heights for Pathfinder relocation (we were videotaping that part). Apparently had a lot to do with the fact there are a lot of West Seattle North cluster kids at Cooper but no place for them to go in the north cluster schools. Pathfinder to Arbor Heights – AH has planning capacity of 428, it’s big enough, plus there is excess capacity at other WS South (368 open seats) schools, plus 68 open seats at WS elementary, more than enough for AH students to be reassigned. 277 AH students live in WS South cluster, more than 400 open seats in other schools of that cluster, so there’s room for them, the superintendent says. Sundquist: Despite great temptation in the face of all this to not want to take the pain of closures, I still believe our financial condition is sufficiently dire that taking closures is better than the alternative of guaranteeing pain through more staff cuts and budget cuts so I am for the fact we need to do some more closures and I do believe WS has some excess capacity. I’m A-OK. But I debate in my mind whether AH or Cooper is the better of the two alternatives for us to think about as the receiving school for Pathfinder program. He continues, looking ahead to more of a neighborhood orientation in forthcoming Student Assignment Plan, I am more concerned about the ability of Cooper to be a successful neighborhood school. The enrollment in that reference area has declined and looks to decline further, so I worry about its viability under a plan we are going to be writing a couple months hence. Arbor Heights is very clearly a neighborhood school (BIG CROWD IN CORNER APPLAUDS). Sundquist says he’s concerned about putting so much weight on concern that the north WS cluster kids would be assigned out of cluster, in deciding that Cooper should not be PF home. Now, board member Maier echoes that Cooper reference area does not have so many students, in comparison with Arbor Heights reference area, so he is worried about it being a successful neighborhood school. He wonders if this can be held off a year to see what happens. (10:04 pm) Maier also notes Pathfinder students tend to be from WS north. Nobody else has questions about the West Seattle proposals.
9:42 PM: Southeast discussion continues. Meantime, as we get closer to the West Seattle discussion and why Arbor Heights Elementary’s “program” was chosen to close, with Pathfinder K-8 proposed to move there (from the ex-Genesee Hill Elementary building the district’s been trying to get it out of for years), here’s the district history of Arbor Heights, which first opened almost 60 years ago. Ironically, the Genesee Hill building opened right about the same time – 1949 (here’s its history doc) – but was closed in 1989, and has served as a temporary site (or, for Pathfinder, sort of temporary) ever since.
9:15 PM: Southeast cluster: Excess seats in elementary and K-8. Close Van Asselt building (poor condition), relocate its K-5 program to African American Academy building (good condition but the school itself was not doing well), repurpose that building as K-5, reassign AAA students to schools in the clusters where they live, co-locate Summit to Rainier Beach HS. (9:29 pm, board questioning continues – one focus includes, won’t there be issues with two high-school programs sharing a building, the 9-12 section of Summit K-12 in its proposed new home co-located with RBHS; further questioning on high-school capacity issues draws a district staffer who says the HS population has generally migrated north and the “Southeast Initiative” is meant to try to encourage students to attend schools closer to home, and maybe move some people out of overcrowded North End schools. DeBell says he’d like to see a school-by-school analysis because he wonders why no high schools are proposed for closure, but that’s where the biggest potential savings are, and the district is in a “desperate” financial situation. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson notes that “demographics tell us, in 2012 the high-school population will go up” and they don’t want to be without wiggle room for placement of future students. Superintendent says they may yet have to look again at the high-school capacity issue but they “think they have another year.”)
9:10 PM: Board president Cheryl Chow says she’s starting to feel uncomfortable and troubled (as the APP-splitting discussion continues) because there are gifted kids “throughout the Seattle School District” – “equity has not been around the district – we are beginning to address it.” So, Bass asks, are we trying to get geographic equity now with these APP moves, or are we trying to reduce costs? (If you don’t know much about APP, read the district explanation here.) Dr. Goodloe-Johnson reiterates, the Lowell building needs to be closed.
8:47 PM: They’re still discussing the concerns related to splitting up APP elementary (which has been self-contained, with all APP elementary students from around the city, at Lowell for a long time). Board member Mary Bass points out that the clusters with overcapacity problems are just southeast and southwest (West Seattle), and it would be important to figure out why, in addition to just shuffling kids around the city to those empty seats. The APP-splitting recommendation so far is getting as many questions as the “move Summit K-12 to Rainier Beach” recommendation from earlier. Board member Peter Maier wonders how this all plays into the new student assignment plan; district staff says they’re “liking what they’re seeing” because all this seems to play into what they’ve been working on. (8:59 pm) District staff says Thurgood Marshall and Hawthorne will have a “schoolhouse model” because they both have special-ed students as well as general-ed students, and now the added APP students will mean a more diverse student population. Board member DeBell says Hawthorne will be overfilled by 60 students with the move, so how will APP grow there, “without displacing the neighborhood students?” and notes that T-Marshall also will be slightly “overfilled” by moving half the APP kids there. Vaughan says 200 kids identified for APP are not using the program – they’re being “accommodated” at Spectrum and ALOs, “it’s not essential that every highly gifted student has to go into a radically accelerated program.” He says it’s more important to attract kids to Spectrum (the second-level gifted program), which is located in more schools around the city. DeBell points out there’s a waitlist for many of the Spectrum schools (crowd applauds). DeBell asks, was a north end site considered for APP? District staff says “we looked at that” but couldn’t find a building where they could move half the APP kids into, because there wasn’t one with that much room on that side of town.
*Editor’s note: Liveblogging up to this point is now on a separate page – if you are just coming into this and aren’t refreshing the post itself, click ahead to catch up on what we chronicled earlier – just trying to clear room on the home page*
8:24 PM: Central recommendations: Close TT Minor, relocate Montessori program to Leschi, reassign other TTM to other central-cluster elementaries; close Lowell building, move half APP to Hawthorne, move half APP to Thurgood Marshall, move Thurgood elementary BOC to Bailey Gatzert, reassign Lowell special ed students; close Mann building, relocate Nova to Meany, relocate Meany to other middle schools depending on home addresses. APP is the district’s top-level gifted program and its students have all been together at one school, district-wide draw, at elementary and middle-school levels – till now. Rationale for closing Lowell: poor building condition (53.72). Doesn’t allow APP or special-ed groups an opportunity to interact with “typically developing peers.” APP elementary students in the West Seattle clusters would be assigned to Hawthorne (here’s a map of where that school is). After all this, director Martin-Morris said, central area “just seems like a lot of turmoil.” (8:35 pm) Board member Carr asks if there was anything somewhat illegal about having APP and special ed self-contained in Lowell; a district staffer says it’s more about access to “general education curriculum as appropriate” so the special-ed kids at Lowell couldn’t really share any classes with the APP kids usually working 2 years past grade level. Sundquist asks for APP clarity – “I want to understand philosophically where we’re going – are we splitting it in anticipation of growing the program? How big do we see the north and south cohorts being?” Advanced-learning program manager Bob Vaughan says, not a lot of room for growth at Lowell, building is old, decision has a lot to do with the need “to close buildings and consolidate programs. Once you decide to move 500 students out of Lowell, there’s not another 500-student building in which to put them …” Vaughan says there will still be “robust” cohorts; and thinks it will improve the program. He says advanced-learning programs have grown in the north, not the south, and this will be a chance to show people what can be done in Central Seattle and South Seattle .. “it’s going to need very specialized leadership, though.”
8:10 PM: Back to the official announcements: North cluster – Discontinue the Alternative School #1 program, close the Pinehurst building. AS #1 students in N and NE clusters will be assigned to Thornton Creek K-8 at Jane Addams, students in other elem clusters will be assigned to school in their cluster, middle school students who live in other middle school regions will be assigned to a middle school depending on where they live. (Again, all the recommendations are now online.) (8:19 pm) They did not use “first choice” stats to evaluate schools for closure, and board member DeBell is wondering why that data was included in AS #1 evaluation. (8:22 pm – Mark Ahlness, the Arbor Heights Elementary teacher who made the school an online way-shower in the early ’90s among other achievements, has written a blog post titled “S.O.S.”)
8:04 PM: OK, the district has posted the recommendations online but if you opened the “FAQ” doc earlier, which happened to us, you may see the old one till you clear your cache. This doc confirms: Genesee Hill building to close, Pathfinder K-8 to move to Arbor Heights building, Arbor Heights program to close, those are the only mentioned West Seattle effects. Here in the LIVE meeting, haven’t gotten there yet. (8:09 pm) More text from the updated district doc: Closing Arbor Heights “program” means it’s recommended to relocate the AH students to “other schools in the West Seattle South cluster.” The cluster schools are listed here: Concord, Gatewood, Highland Park, Roxhill, Sanislo.
7:37 PM: Next recommendations (or non-recommendations) finally begin. Northwest cluster: No buildings recommended for closure, no programs rec’d for relocation. Northeast cluster: Needs extra seats in next 5 years, school board already approved turning Jane Addams into a K-8 (relocating Thornton Creek to JA and grow to a K-8 – start new elementary in Decatur building, a Spectrum and ALO program – co-locate Summit K-12 with Rainier Beach HS in RBHS building – a commenter below this post claims to have the rest of the list; they posted the Summit/RBHS simultaneous with the announcement here, fwiw). At 7:46 pm – board member Martin-Morris says he’s very concerned about moving Summit to RBHS, wonders if perhaps Center School was considered, superintendent Dr. Goodloe-Johnson says there’s concern that the city might want to take the CS (at Seattle Center) back sometime down the line. (7:51 pm) Other board members also are voicing concerns about the Summit move proposal; DeBell says all-city draw alternatives should remain “centrally located.” (7:55 pm) District staffer: “There is no ONE answer to this” – it’s a “jigsaw puzzle.”
STARTING AT 7:07 PM: Preliminary recommendations. Buildings recommended for closure and change include West Seattle schools (specifics next) and other areas. Six buildings will be recommended for permanent closure, one for temporary. Here are all the recommendations as fast as we can type: First one, on Queen Anne: Meany Middle School program “discontinued,” 6-12 secondary bilingual orientation center to be relocated from Old Hay to Meany. (Board wants to ask questions after each recommended closure/change, so this’ll take a while … 7:12 PM, Q/A on this first recommendation still under way – here’s a photo of West Seattle’s school board rep Steve Sundquist asking a question – you can ask him closure questions at his coffee hour at 9 am tomorrow at Coffee to a Tea in The Junction –
7:24 PM 7:33 PM, questioning on this first rec still under way, we’ll open a new item at top whenever they get to the next one, track details on the non-WS ones at the SPS Community Blog)
7:03 PM: Now the timeline, per Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. Most of this has been announced before but we’ll recap – discussion at School Board meeting Dec. 3, “community engagement meetings” Dec. 4 and 6, public hearings Dec. 15, 16, 18 at buildings recommended for closure, Dec. 17 board meeting, Jan. 6 final recommendation announced by superintendent, Jan. 7 board meeting, Jan. 21 another board meeting, Jan. 22 final public hearing, Jan. 29 special board meeting for a vote to finalize a closure etc. plan. Guidelines for closure – geographic need, building condition, cost per pupil, proximity, academic performance. Every school evaluated: Do we need seats in the area, or have excess? Building condition on scale of 1-100. If scored below 79, candidate for closure. Programmatic, is there a “high quality” program that should be relocated or replicated?
6:58 PM: Specifics about enrollment in the district now – this is the first year of an increase – “driven entirely by elementary enrollment,” says briefer. K-5 enrollment “took a really big jump this year in all grades but 4th grade, largest kindergarten class in at least 15 years.” Grades 6-8, however, have been dropping, though is expected to grow (9,290 this year projected to grow to almost 10,000 in 2013-2014). High school enrollment still dropping in a big way and not expected to bottom out for three more years (2011-2012). By cluster, West Seattle North and West Seattle South are among the lowest-enrolled clusters, per an elementary-enrollment bar graph that’s up now.
6:42 PM: Now the board is being given some “definitions” regarding capacity – “planning capacity” and “functional capacity.” The first is “teaching stations x average class size, 25 percent set aside, average class size used, 23 for K-3, 25 for 4th-5th, 26 for 6th-8th, 30 for 9th-12th.” Functional capacity is “planning capacity compared against the actual use of the building.” Board member DeBell wonders if those numbers can really be used appropriately without closer analysis. Analyst says they “literally (walked) the building” to come up with the functional analysis. (6:51 pm, board members and staffers are still clarifying some of the technical points here regarding how capacity is defined – still no official announcements of specific school closures/changes/etc. – at 6:56 pm, it’s clarified they did not walk through EVERY SINGLE building in the district to determine its functional capacity.) Note: The crowd in the room here continues to grow, and is now standing-room only.
6:35 PM: School closures are expected to save $300-$600K per elem school, $400-$800K per K-8, $600K-$1.2 million per middle school, $1-$1.8 million per high school, says Kennedy, but total savings from tonight’s proposals (yet to come) won’t be known till 12/17 (a board presentation will be made on that date), along with costs of closing whatever buildings wind up on the list. Board member Harium Martin-Morris asks if the closure costs would be in this year’s budget – Kennedy says yes, if the closures are all completed by Aug. 31st. Board member Michael DeBell asks about deferred maintenance and avoidable capital costs that were mentioned in a recent audit. (Photo below: Kennedy speaking at center – foreground left is DeBell, foreground right is board member Sherry Carr)
6:30 PM: SE briefing over; fiscal challenges are being discussed now – background on budget trouble. PowerPoint says: To close the gap – Budget prioritization process, efficiency analysis, review of Weighted Staffing Standards model, revenue generation strategies. Don Kennedy, the district’s chief financial officer, is delivering this briefing and talking about it in the context of the national and state financial woes, and repeats what Dr. Goodloe-Johnson said earlier – more state cuts may be coming, $300 million of the district’s budget comes from the state and if 7 percent more is lost, that’s another $21 million. They hope to find out details by December 19th when the state-budget picture is clearer.
6:17 PM: Southeast briefing continues. When the district posts the summary that is yet to be unveiled (closures and changes), by the way, it apparently will be linked from this page on the SPS website. (6:28 pm and the SE briefing is still under way)
6:09 PM: Dr. Goodloe-Johnson says the problem is a “longstanding imbalance in classroom capacity” and proposing 3-year multipart solution: Revise student assignment plan, create and relocate high quality programs to ensure equitable access across the district, close and repurpose buildings to allow for greater focus on existing programs. First, there is an update on the Southeast Education Initiative Progress Report (we will not liveblog that – awaiting more West Seattle-specific news – side note, first speaker in this progress report is Mia Williams, now principal of Aki Kurose Middle School, former assistant principal at Denny Middle School in West Seattle – she’s at left in the photo below):
6:05 PM : Central office cuts, efficiency analysis, reviewing the weighted staffing formula, and revenue generation, are the strategies Dr. Goodloe-Johnson says are being reviewed. “The conversation is not just about closing schools … it’s about how do we make our system stronger.” She gave the topline outline of various district goals and programs to be strengthened.
6:02 PM: Meeting has begun. Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson says, “We have to accelerate our work around capacity management” because of a $24 million “known budget shortfall for next year – and that number may grow – we have gotten potential projections from the state that we could expect a 7% additional cut” – which would mean $21 million less. “That’s why it’s urgent to make the decisions that we do, to reduce the overcapacity that we have … If we don’t make these decisions, the flip side is very deep cuts that would devastate the system and the programs.”
6:00 PM: We’re at Seattle Public Schools headquarters downtown for the school board “workshop” at which a new plan for school closures (and other changes under the umbrella of “capacity management”) is to be announced. The proposals are NOT being released before the meeting – once the briefing is over, 7 pm or so, an official summary will be handed out to the media and everyone else who’s in attendance. We will post “live” as announcements have come – instead of our usual format, we will put the NEWEST information at the TOP of the post, with a manual “timestamp” as much as we can. Earlier this afternoon, we reported that Arbor Heights is believed to be on the closure list – but, according to at least one commenter, possibly a “program” closure rather than a “building” closure – we’ll find out more here shortly as the meeting begins. Keep refreshing for updates.