Toplines on the school announcements, and what’s next

November 26, 2008 at 3:21 am | In Arbor Heights, Genesee Hill, West Seattle news, West Seattle school closure, West Seattle schools | 35 Comments

Following up on our live updates from last night’s 4-hour-plus School Board session where school closures and changes were officially proposed, here are the toplines/bottom lines on West Seattle effects, and what happens next:

-Ex-Genesee Hill Elementary building (map; photo right) proposed for closure
-Pathfinder K-8 proposed to move out of Genesee Hill, into Arbor Heights Elementary building (map; photo above)
-Arbor Heights Elementary would cease to exist as a “program”
-Arbor Heights’ current “regular” students would be dispersed among other West Seattle South cluster elementary schools (list)
-Arbor Heights’ current “special-ed” students would stay and become part of the Pathfinder K-8 “program”
-West Seattle students in the Advanced Placement Program (APP) would be assigned to Hawthorne Elementary (map), tabbed as one of two new homes for APP elementary students, who till now have all been housed together at Lowell (that building is to close) – this affects more than 50 West Seattle students (thanks to Molly for forwarding district documents that show how many West Seattle students from each “reference area” attend schools outside their “area,” including Lowell – here’s the WS north version, here’s the WS south version)

DETAILED INFO

All the presentations from the Tuesday night meeting are linked from this page (look under the Nov. 25 meeting header); for supplementary info, here’s Genesee Hill building history and Arbor Heights building history; Arbor Heights has set up a Save Arbor Heights site; before last night’s meeting, we published some background on the last round of school closure proposals, meetings, protests., etc.

NEXT STEPS

HOW TO COMMENT ON THE PROPOSALS: Various options all detailed here (including an e-mail announcement list you can sign up for)

TODAY: West Seattle’s School Board rep Steve Sundquist invites one and all to his monthly coffee chat at Coffee to a Tea with Sugar this morning, 9 am, in The Junction (map).

NEXT WEEK: First School Board meeting post-announcements, 6 pm Wednesday @ district HQ

AFTER THAT: The timeline remains the same as the one the district outlined previously:

□ December 4 – Community Meeting, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., John Stanford Center, 2445 3rd Avenue South
□ December 6 – Community Meeting, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., Filipino Community Center, 5740 Martin Luther King Way
□ December 15, 16, 18 –Public hearings at buildings proposed for closure
□ Tuesday, January 6 –Final recommendation announced by Superintendent
□ Wednesday, January 7 –Board meeting: Capacity management motion introduced
□ Wednesday, January 21 –Board meeting
□ Thursday, January 22 –Final public hearing
□ Thursday, January 29 –Special board meeting (final vote)

Note that the 12/15-12/18 hearings will be at the BUILDINGS proposed for closure – so Genesee Hill will get one, though Arbor Heights, as a PROGRAM proposed for closure, apparently will not. The dates for those hearings are not yet set – we will publish that information as soon as it’s available.

35 Comments

  1. Tracy – Thanks so much for your incredible coverage of a truly marathon meeting that will have a huge impact on West Seattle.

    Comment by Eric B — 6:32 am November 26, 2008 #

  2. I think the Pathfinder move is a good move. I feel badly for the parents who are in the neighborhood, but it’s not a neighborhood school. It keeps the program within W. Seattle and solves some of the underenrollment problems at other schools.

    However, I think the general idea of moving the higher performing special programs into South end schools is a terrible overall plan.

    Comment by Jeremy — 7:38 am November 26, 2008 #

  3. I sat through this 4-hour slog. I have a lot of thoughts but will only post those about West Seattle. (My complete reactions are at saveseattleschools.blogspot.com if you are interested. As well, we have threads for discussion for all schools.) I worked on the last round of closures for the Board’s Closure and Consolidation committee.

    I get that we have too many buildings for too few students. But there is a lot to disagree with on this list and once again, staff, not the Board, is making the calls. To their credit, the Board is asking hard questions but the staff is manipulating data to get what they want. The Board should not fall for it nor stand for it.

    What’s bad:
    -requiring people to have to call to sign in to speak at the upcoming public hearings for each school that is closing. A simple pre-sign in before the meeting should be enough.

    -Cooper would be a better choice for Pathfinder as its population is decreasing (and I wonder why staff didn’t put its first choice number down). Last time around at closures, staff recommended putting Pathfinder at Cooper but somehow now, that doesn’t work.

    -Dr. Goodloe-Johnson seemed to try to blame “choice” for our situation. That may be part of it but the real problem lies, based on their own criteria, on lack of basic maintenance. Plain and simple, and noted in the State Auditor’s recent report, this district has NOT kept up on basic maintenance. We are drowning in backlogged maintenance and the district simply has to close buildings to get them out of the way (and likely sell some of them).

    -Moving Pathfinder to Arbor Heights is dumb. First, again, staff said over and over last night what each building’s condition score was and 80 was their cut-off for a “good” building. Arbor Heights is at 70 so yes, it’s better than the Genesee Hill building that Pathfinder is currently in but not good enough by their own numbers. Arbor Heights has had repeated mold problems. It would need work to make it work for a middle school population. And most of all, Arbor Heights is a neighborhood school.

    -staff showed numbers for cost savings for elementary, middle and high school but neglected to tell the Board how much savings has been realized since the last closures (but no one asked). It’s an easy question to answer.

    -interesting that the staff used the Meng Analysis for building conditions for this process but insist on doing a new one for the upcoming BTA levy in Feb. 2010. We are paying for a new analysis at a fairly high cost even though their 2006 report is being used here.

    -there were repeated comments by staff that displaced students could be assigned to certain schools and then the named schools were alternatives. There are no mandatory assignments to alternative schools so that statement is puzzling.

    -A LOT of movement of Special Ed which is especially hard on this group of students.

    -The question was asked why not move Center School to co-house with RBHS? We are paying around $100,000 a year to lease it at Seattle Center (about $80,000 to lease plus utilities/cleaning). Dr. G-J said we probably couldn’t break our lease but I doubt the City would hold us to it. That is a better pairing than with Summit and would allow growth for both programs. Why, if we are in such financial straits, are we paying to lease space?

    -Staff named the “worst” buildings in the district but guess what? When the BEX capital building list came out a couple of years back, none of them were on that list. Why? Because staff wants to do what they want to do and they knew that the Horace Mann building AND the Genesee buildings were the worst in the district but they didn’t want to rebuild them. Again, cherry-picking the data for their own purposes and not for the good of the people in those buildings.

    Comment by westello — 8:23 am November 26, 2008 #

  4. I’m curious why Seattle Schools doesn’t put a program into the old Hughes Elementary School building in the neighborhood west of Sealth High School. It has presumably been retrofitted for safety and is certainly in good enough shape to have functioned in recent years as interim site for various schools from outside the area. Why can’t it reopen for a program that actually serves West Seattle?

    Comment by Forest — 10:31 am November 26, 2008 #

  5. I agree with the above post by Forest. I’m surprised that Pathfinder parents have not looked into/advocated to move to Hughes. It is a large building somewhat in the middle between Alki and Arbor Heights, ideal for serving the West side. Large play area asphalt could be ripped up and made grassy again.

    Comment by Hughesneighbor — 10:49 am November 26, 2008 #

  6. Forest, that seems logical but does not solve the problem of reducing costs and addressing underenrollment.
    If the issue with moving Pathfinder to Cooper is that there isn’t enough space at other WS North cluster schools for the displaced Cooper kids, is there a possibility of reassigning a current WS South school to the WS North cluster (i.e. Gatewood or Sanislo since they are geographically furthest north)? That would open up more space for the Cooper kids within the cluster.

    Comment by therese — 11:19 am November 26, 2008 #

  7. I’ve never been inside, Forest, but love the look of Hughes and would hate to see it deteriorate and/or be torn down.

    Comment by GenHillOne — 11:27 am November 26, 2008 #

  8. Westello-

    Cooper has a bi-lingual program with a traditional format.

    Pathfinder is an alternate school with a proprietary format.

    When they tried to mix the two programs two years ago, they realized that it would not be like sending a student to a different building, because both of these programs are unique. One program would have to cease to exist for the other to work anywhere near the way it does today.

    My daughter is in second grade at Pathfinder. I like the program, but am unsure about the proposed situation. I am not weighing in on the move, I’m just explaining why the mixing of Cooper/Pathfinder went down in flames two years ago (in some painfully emotional meetings with the board).

    Comment by t4toby — 12:22 pm November 26, 2008 #

  9. I wasn’t suggesting co-joining Cooper and Pathfinder. I was suggesting that Cooper’s program end (instead of Arbor Heights). Hard I know but Coooper is a better building with a lower population than Arbor Heights.

    Comment by westello — 12:49 pm November 26, 2008 #

  10. I’m so glad the city put in all those new sidewalks so the Arbor Heights kids could safely walk to school and now they have to go to a different school.

    Comment by JEM — 12:55 pm November 26, 2008 #

  11. The Hughes school might be a great option for Pathfinder. I don’t know, but clearly, it would be much better to the community than destroying Arbor Heights Elementary and making all of the AH neighborhood kids basically refugees of the district since they would no longer have a reference school of their own. Look at the history, Arbor Heights Elementary was an idea fostered by residents of the neighborhood over 60 years ago! They banded together and bought the land that school sits on and sold it to the district for the school construction. Its a huge part of the fabric and identity and charm of the community. Taking it away from the community is a travesty and must not be allowed to happen. The school is the central hub that serves to not only educate the kids, but bring the families in the neighborhood together as a community. Don’t punish the good people of Arbor Heights. Save Arbor Heights Elementary!

    Comment by Cryptical — 1:57 pm November 26, 2008 #

  12. What if Seattle Schools seriously fixed or did away with their bus program? Like many other suburban cities throughout the country. It is amazing to me to see the many big school buses in this city with probably less then 10 -15 kids on them. They could probably save enough money in gas to save a school!

    Comment by sleepydays — 2:03 pm November 26, 2008 #

  13. EC Hughes does not solve the issue of housing Pathfinder’s middle school in portables. It is too small. At best it would be a lateral move. Arbor Heights lets all of the classes inside the building for the FIRST time in history. The current MS in in portable building on the blacktop, which is not the best for attracting prospective students.

    Comment by lina — 3:17 pm November 26, 2008 #

  14. everything old is new again. for those who are new to the topic, Pathfinder @ Cooper has been proposed twice – first as a strait move and then as a merger – an was heavily opposed. Pathfinder was offered every open building in WS (Boren, Hughes, Fairmount Park) and refused them all.

    Opening a closed building in a time of so much fiscal uncertainty (the uncertainty being whether the shortfall will be $24 Million, $45 million, or way more based on state choices regarding funding) is a reckless idea.

    Comment by Sasha96 — 3:40 pm November 26, 2008 #

  15. A bit of ancient history background some of you may find interesting: I instigated the original group of parents proposing what we then called “West Seattle Alternative School” which eventually, and after years of persistence, became Pathfinder; when we were looking for a building in which to locate the program, opening the E.C. Hughes building was one of our suggestions to the district. This would have been about 20 years ago.

    The program has changed considerably since our original conception, and the Hughes building may well no longer suit. But I thought it interesting to see it brought up again, here.

    It’s also interesting to see that alternative programs in general (AS#1, Summit) appear to be still on the district’s hit list.

    Comment by Julie — 4:26 pm November 26, 2008 #

  16. Well, a half-empty half-full way to look at it comes from something Steve Sundquist said at his coffee hour this morning – that the district had a commitment to alternative schools and so was making some of these decisions to try to preserve them. For instance, in West Seattle (and as someone sitting near me muttered, it’s such a shame when one school gets pitted against the other), a successful “conventional” school is proposed for dismantling so that a successful “alternative” school can have a new home. The Arbor Heights folks will definitely have some interesting information to present in the process – one woman noted that the Arbor Heights community sold the land to the school district way back when, “and now you’re taking it away from us?” Another pointed out that it is exactly the type of “neighborhood school” that the district will be moving toward – reportedly, in the assignment plan – as a model.

    Comment by WSB — 4:42 pm November 26, 2008 #

  17. Well, this really will be a shame if A.H. becomes Pathfinder.
    We live in the Southend of W.S. We have a now 5 y.o daughter who was looking forward to attending A.H., we go there all the time to play and ride bikes. IF A.H. closes, our closest school is Roxhill Elementary. After reading their website (which looks like it came from 1991)it seems that Roxhill has no real educational plan besides passing the WASL. “Wooo Hoo, Hey everyone I sent my child to school to learn how to take tests!”
    I dont agree with Pathfinder’s philosophy at all either.
    What is a parent to do?

    Comment by toddinwestwood — 4:51 pm November 26, 2008 #

  18. Forgive me, Sasha96, if I quote you, but you stated what always lingers in my mind when this issue comes up – “Pathfinder was offered every open building in WS (Boren, Hughes, Fairmount Park) and refused them all.” So are the only two options to build a new school or kick someone out?

    Comment by GenHillOne — 5:35 pm November 26, 2008 #

  19. Or close Pathfinder with the building. There is a lot excess capacity in WS even after the Fairmount Park/High Point merger. The Genesse Hill building is the pits. If you just looked at building, then Pathfinder/Genesee Hill would be the logical choice. But, so long as K-8 alternatives are in demand, closing Pathfinder won’t happen. As nothing is being opened, and a new building would be years away, it is either close Pathfinder or find it another home by ending something else. Colocations never fly

    Comment by Sasha96 — 6:51 pm November 26, 2008 #

  20. My biggest concern after reading the recommendations are that they are forcing my children to be “reassigned” not because they are closing Arbor Heights but because they discontinuing their program? So they will have a school there just not the current one??? I am not quite sure how that seems fair to those of us in this neighborhood and I am also not quite sure why Arbor Heights was chosen to be discontinued and Roxhill was not a school that was looked at for discontinuation or closure as it had been previously, especially since enrollment in that school is down yet again. I now understand why more and more people have lost faith in the Seattle Public School system and why more are turning to private schools. The choice they are making here is difficult for even me to understand so how do I explain to my children that their school is still open but they are not able to go there any longer?

    I hope they know that their recommendations will not go forth without a battle. My children’s grandmother went to Arbor Heights as did my husband and I. We live in this neighborhood for many reasons and this school is one of them. This is a neighborhood school in the truest sense and they are robbing us the opportunity to give that experience to our children. I will not allow them to choose where my children will go to school. That is a choice we as parents have made and it is not something they are going to get to do now or ever.

    I fear these concerns will fall upon deaf ears as they have done so on so many other issues and that saddens me. They ask parents to get involved and to voice our opinions and concerns yet in so many instances it seems their decisions are made regardless of our input.

    We need to use all our energy to fight to keep our neighborhood school, our extended family open and thriving as it has done for so many years. Arbor Heights matters to us that live here that is why we are here, why we stayed, and why so many come back.

    Lisa McFarlane

    Comment by Dave and Lisa McFarlane — 7:32 pm November 26, 2008 #

  21. I have been a student at Arbor Heights for 5 years now. My brother goes there with me. My grandma was the first graduating class at Abor Heights. Abor Heights is a traditon to our family and now they are taking it away. I feel that Arbor Heights is a great school. I have made a lot of friends there and I have a lot of fun. The teachers are really nice. There is nothing else that can replace Arbor Heights. I don’t want it to move to any other school. Arbor Heights is the place for me. And I don’t think anybody should take that away. I fell that they should put Path Finder some place else. Arbor Heights should stay where it belongs. And that is where it is now.

    Riley McFarlane

    Comment by Riley McFarlane — 7:42 pm November 26, 2008 #

  22. And let the throwing of others under the bus begin…

    Roxhill isn’t large enough for Pathfinder. So long as the criteria include closing the buildings in the poorest condition (which is a very reasonable cost savings metric), closing Genesse Hill is the most logical choice. The next question is does that mean should Pathfinder outlive the GH building? If the answer is yes, then a program in a building large enough to hold Pathfinder must be closed. The real question isn’t why not Roxhill, it is what do people want more: a nieghborhood school (albiet in a non-nieghborhood system) or an alternative K-8? We are past the ability to sustain a little of everything for everyone.

    Comment by Sasha96 — 8:11 pm November 26, 2008 #

  23. I am not trying to throw Roxhill under the bus, I am simply stating that they have been on the chopping block before for the same criteria they are closing schools down now, why were they not considered at all? Why relocate a school full of students to replace it with another? How does that solve any problem without creating many more? Are they going to save money by transporting all these kids to these other schools…I think not. Parents have chosen to not send their kids to Roxhill for a reason and they will make those same choices if AH is moved and Roxhill will still be in the same state it is in now, so how does that make it a better school? I don’t see how that solves anything.

    Comment by Lisa McFarlane — 8:19 pm November 26, 2008 #

  24. OK, I read the marathon blog-a-thon from the Board Meeting, and have a newfound respect for WSB!
    I will limit my questions to WS schools, as I can’t even begin to make sense of some of the other ideas.
    Having finished all of the news & comments on the proposal, I have to ask – is Pathfinder really such a good school that we should uproot other school communities for it? Are the kids that much better educated? Are there waiting lists?
    I’m a little concerned that the parents from Pathfinder seem to deserve a building, and that the SPS staff’s answer is to give them someone else’s.
    What I know about Arbor Heights is that it is a historically strong, community supported, high performing neighborhood school. Exactly the type that the SPS is talking about trying to create.
    So the staff’s answer is to blow it up for an alternative school community that is more deserving of preservation?
    On another note, once again, the SPS seems to be making public only one decision at a time. Why isn’t the closure list integrated with the plan to restructure assignments & the plan to move to neighborhood schools & the next BEX?
    And why would the cluster assignments matter now if they could go away in the next move?
    And if we have a big money problem, how come we aren’t closing a High School that could save $1.3 million+?
    The Board needs to put the whole mix in, and quit allowing the staff to piecemeal the work.
    If the staff have given the board their best work, it’s a little disappointing, but the board can begin with more far-reaching questions, rather than just solving the problem du jour.
    Luckily, this board seems inclined to ask big questions, think big, and make the decisions.

    Comment by What's the Big Idea, Man? — 9:17 pm November 26, 2008 #

  25. Funny how the city constantly advocates for walkable neighborhoods and less reliance on motor vehicles, yet blindly continues to bus kids away from their own neighborhoods at massive costs in terms of air pollution, fuel consumption (whether by school buses or by parents driving their kids around town in family cars), and especially the thousands of lost community hours kids could otherwise be using to make their local areas improve in “walkability.”

    After 30-something years of Seattle’s school busing experiment, it seems to me long past due to encourage kids in resuming strong bonds with their local neighborhood schools. Certainly, kids who want to ride buses to a school across town should be helped to do so, but I contend that it ought to be the exception, not effectively the rule.

    Sorry for venting.

    Comment by Alvis — 9:50 pm November 26, 2008 #

  26. There are a few outright errors in the comments that are above. First of all, Sasha96, no one has ever “offered” any buildings to Pathfinder. We have been told we would move several times (I think this is number 6) never have we been informed before proposals came out. Secondly, we have not “refused” them. We did protest against moving to Boren (which everyone agrees was really dumb), and against having our program dismantled/merged with an incompatible program. I hardly think that any parents that are fighting for the preservation of their own program can blame us for that one!

    Unfortunately, this proposal, like the last time has pitted school against school. “Lets throw THEM under the bus so we don’t get run over!” I would encourage everyone to resist this. Go ahead and tell everyone why your program should not be closed… but that does NOT mean that you need to argue that someone else’s community should be shattered. I have been involved in these things for way too long, and it makes me sick to see how we turn on each other.
    -Eric (a Pathfinder Parent)

    Comment by Eric B — 10:02 pm November 26, 2008 #

  27. One last comment, on the idea of EC Hughes. Its capacity is 277, over 100 seats short for the current enrollment at PF, which bounces around 400 typically and is a facility that is almost as badly ranked as Genesee Hill. I am not arguing against the idea – it is just that if you want to throw that out, you will need to deal with those stumbling blocks. Indeed, I looked at it myself during the last set of closures and figured that the Hughes building would need several million dollars in improvements to house a program the size of Pathfinder.

    Comment by Eric B — 10:16 pm November 26, 2008 #

  28. Why would moving Pathfinder to Boren be really dumb?

    Comment by GenHillOne — 9:44 am November 27, 2008 #

  29. Eric, I take it that you were noy among the Pathfinder leadership who were given the chance to walk every open WS building in 06. I assure you, it is not a rumor that the program was offered them all and deemed them all unsuitable. Ask your principal and see if he will honestly confirm.

    Comment by Sasha96 — 9:44 am November 27, 2008 #

  30. GenHillOne – Boren is a poor choice because it
    would cost the district money, not save it money. I have data from the last time, but you will see it makes no sense. Boren is a school with a capacity of 1100, very high operating costs and more than twice the deferred maintenance. It would exacerbate the problem of excess capacity in West Seattle by closing a 450 seat school and opening an 1100 seat school. Utility costs at Boren are $106,900 per year vs. $36,700 at GH. Custodial costs at Boren are $215,000/yr, at Genesee Hill the costs are $69,300/yr. The Boren Building has a backlog of maintenance and repair of $8,958,020. The Genesee Hill Building has a backlog of $3,966,077. Thus, the District, by closing Genesee Hill and keeping Boren open increases the backlog of maintenance by about $5 million. The Boren building requires seismic mitigation of $896,355 – Genesee Hill requires $251,633. So Boren would cost the District a couple of hundred thou a year more and increase their maintenance liabilities by >$5 million.
    By the way, please do not construe my replies to be support of the current proposal. I only wish to make sure that folks have the facts right. I am a Pathfinder parent, and I do wish for the Pathfinder community to find a great home for its wonderful program. I also know how awful being listed as a closing program is and do not want any school community to be put through this. It is terrible for all.

    Comment by Eric B — 11:21 pm November 27, 2008 #

  31. I agree Eric, I think that it is sad that the school board is pitting one school against the other…..I am an AH parent and I am angry at this latest proposal, not at Pathfinder but at the School Board for the way they are going about this move….I hope others will remember to focus their emotions at trying to save what we love and helping to find a better solution for both schools. I just don’t see how disbanding a great neighborhood school like AH and uprooting and disbursing all those students would benefit anyone.

    Comment by Lisa McFarlane — 11:02 am November 28, 2008 #

  32. I think folks need to be clear that this is a staff proposal, not a board proposal. The staff has cherry picked the data to make things look a certain way. I was very impressed that the board asked a lot of very hard questions and they did not just rubber stamp the proposal.

    The simple fact is very hard. There are too many schools and one elementary school in West Seattle needs to be closed. Frankly I am grateful that it is only one school and not two. I am also grateful that even when one school closes, we won’t be dealing the over-crowding in other clusters.

    Arbor Heights is clearly a program that should remain. Pathfinder is a program that should remain. The building is the worst in the area and the logical choice of the building to close. What is the best way to do this? Do we just put a vote and everyone votes on the which program needs to close so the only K8 and alternative program in West Seattle gets to stay.

    Comment by Kelly — 3:13 pm November 29, 2008 #

  33. Thank you Lisa. At Pathfinder we have occasionally felt vilified because we keep being put in this position. It is a really difficult place to be. We are your neighbors; we have many families who are friends with AH families. Some of our students in the 6th, 7th and 8th grades went to AH. In short, West Seattle is a community, and hurt caused by closures impacts us all.

    Comment by Eric B — 3:43 pm November 29, 2008 #

  34. If you think that the Board didn’t have a role in this set of proposals, you clearly don’t know how SPS works. How many times did Dr. G-J say that staff recomended closing Summit, not moving it to RB? Every sense the intial closure attempt of 05 (still the most logical list) which staff did most of the work on, the Board has stepped in and set the agenda each time. In 06 it was the Board who wanted to use quadrants and set out a list of untouchable schools. This time, it is clear that staff got told to find a home for Sumitt, even though it isn’t a program with great statistical result and to make Addams a K-8 when the numbers say a middle school was the smarter choice. My money would be that the staff proposed a set of recomendations internally weeks ago, and then they got adjusted in response to the individual and collective desires of the Board. Any one but me notice that all of a sudden DeBell insists on closing a high school based on empty seats? Give him six months, and he will have found a way to manipulate this into a new north end high school.

    Comment by AIE — 7:18 pm November 29, 2008 #

  35. That is a great question….why are we not looking at any high schools on that list?

    Comment by Lisa McFarlane — 10:12 pm November 29, 2008 #

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