We’re at district HQ for tonight’s school board meeting, where speakers during the public-comment period are scheduled to include people on behalf of Cooper Elementary, Pathfinder K-8, and Arbor Heights Elementary, the three West Seattle schools that have been involved in the closure proposals so far. Also, Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson is scheduled to present an update on the process; that “update” at the meeting two weeks ago yielded the first official word that the possibility of closing the Cooper “program” was being studied. We’re not going to post minute-by-minute updates of this meeting, since you can watch live on TV (cable channel
23 26 per district staff), but we will post periodic notes about what happens, particularly once the superintendent presents her report.
6:02 PM UPDATE: Meeting has begun; Cheryl Chow is the only board member not here. Standing-room-only group like two weeks ago. (Added post-meeting: We took two photos of the room quickly between the Pledge of Allegiance and the public-comment period – directionally, as the board faces, we were sitting in the front row on the right, to get the seat next to the speakers’ podium for better video, and so had a straight-ahead view of that side, with an angled view of the left side of the room – first photo is right, second photo left.)
CLICK AHEAD TO READ THE REST OF OUR AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE:
6:15 PM UPDATE: Two West Seattle parents have spoken so far: April Bolding on behalf of Arbor Heights, saying they are open to growing the school to take “entire cohorts” from any other schools that are closed, and advocating for a South cluster Spectrum program (one year accelerated – right now the only real Spectrum program in either West Seattle cluster is at Lafayette Elementary, and it’s routinely waitlisted); Brittany Abbott on behalf of Cooper (Arbor Heights’ Eric Iwamoto was scheduled for the slot but ceded it), asking that the board not close Cooper’s program, particularly since it appears the students would be dispersed to programs that are not doing as well academically as Cooper.
6:29 PM UPDATE: Molly Gras-Usry has spoken on behalf of Cooper, saying that she should be at the podium telling the board about the school’s successes, rather than begging them to keep the program open. She suggested that Boren or Denny (once its new building at Sealth is done) would be appropriate homes for Pathfinder, if it could not get its own new building, or have the current one upgraded. P.S. If you are looking for minute-by-minute updates on the meeting, there’s liveblogging under way, of all speakers, at saveseattleschools.blogspot.com. No further West Seattle speakers are on the schedule but could appear from the waitlist or from someone ceding time; the Center School’s possible move off the Seattle Center campus, and the proposal to close the Montlake Elementary building and move its “program” to Lowell (cohoused with half of APP), are drawing a significant number of speakers (as with all regular board meetings, people signed up to speak by calling or e-mailing at 8 am on the Monday morning preceding the meeting).
7:06 PM UPDATE: The public comment period has ended. Board president Michael DeBell says “this feels like democracy” and says “we’re feeling your passion up here as well.” Now, the superintendent’s update. Issues to be updated: The budget, high-school-closure recommendation(s), the program design team concept, special education, and functional capacity.
7:23 PM UPDATE: “Comprehensive high school” closure is definitely off the table for this year, says the superintendent. Center School supporters who are here break into applause. But it might come back, she says. That means Aki Kurose/Rainier Beach combo proposal and Center School closure/move proposals are both out of this round of the closure process.
7:34 PM UPDATE: Looks like tonight’s meeting will NOT include any new info or updates regarding the schools involved in the West Seattle closure process. Chief academic officer Carla Santorno says that special education student assignment info will be ‘released in the final capacity management [closure] recommendation on January 6,’ for the special ed families who have been asking about that. “Functional capacity” — figuring out the REAL capacity of each school, not the theoretical “planning capacity” that has been used previously — will not be finalized till January 13, according to researcher briefing now (that would be a week after the proposed final closure recommendations are out?). As part of this briefing, the researcher says ultimately this isn’t about how many students can be in a building (elementary or K-8) but class size – the result could be “increase enrollment in classes below 25” and “decrease enrollment in classes above 25” – 25 seems to have been identified as the ideal class size in the district for those grades.
8:07 PM UPDATE: The superintendent’s report is over and the board is taking a break. That’s the end of potential discussion of the closure process for the night. The superintendent’s presentation is now available online (including the items mentioned above, which featured long sub-briefings by the finance and research directors, on the budget and “functional capacity”) – so we’ve uploaded it here if you’d like to read it. If you’d rather access it directly from the district website, it’s a PDF linked within a PDF, so follow this link to the agenda, and then click on the underlined “Presentation” link.
9:20 PM UPDATE: We returned to WSB HQ during the aforementioned break. As we did during the previous board meeting, we recorded video of each West Seattleite who addressed the board, so we are uploading that now for a separate post later with toplines on what happened and what’s next. The next board meeting is January 7th, which will be one day after Dr. Goodloe-Johnson releases her “final recommendations” for school closures.