One week from today, Seattle Public Schools will bring its touring meeting about the BEX IV levy to West Seattle. That levy is meant to generate construction money – as BEX III did (with its projects including the Denny International Middle School rebuild and Chief Sealth International High School renovations). Some of the ideas proposed for West Seattle are new, as first reported in Melissa Westbrook‘s coverage of a School Board work session yesterday on saveseattleschools.blogspot.com.
From the presentation, which you can see here, possibilities include building a new school at Arbor Heights Elementary and merging Roxhill Elementary and Arbor Heights there; building a new school for Schmitz Park Elementary on the Genesee Hill campus; reopening Fairmount Park Elementary (maybe as a permanent home for the school opening this fall as K-5 STEM at Boren); reopening E.C. Hughes (also a possible home for K-5 STEM), which is currently leased to Westside School (WSB sponsor); building an addition to West Seattle Elementary.
No one possible “scenario” includes all of the above; the district is trying to settle on a philosophical direction for the levy. Of the scenarios currently on the table, the cost range for voters would be between half a billion and $855 million dollars. We have a message out to West Seattle’s school-board director Marty McLaren to ask about the briefing.
In the meantime, if you are interested, the BEX IV feedback meeting for West Seattle is next Thursday, April 5th, 6:30 pm, at Denny International Middle School (see the original announcement in our events-calendar listing). Whatever form the levy takes, it will go to voters next year.
ADDED 11:38 PM: We haven’t heard back from Marty McLaren yet, but a WSB’er did forward us a post on her public e-mail discussion list in which she addressed the BEX IV proposals (we didn’t know about the list but we’re subscribing now – subscription info is here). Read on for the entirety of her post, which includes a little more background on the AH/Roxhill merger rationale, and dates/times for her 3 upcoming community conversations:
The draft of the BEX IV Levy Proposal has just been published at (link). It shows a lot of focus on West Seattle’s overcrowded elementary schools, and some of our deteriorating buildings. You may already have heard – in the three scenarios, some of the possibilities are: re-opening Fairmount Park, building a new Schmitz Park at the Genesee Hill site, re-opening the Hughes building, (where Westside School is now situated – there is surely some concern about this idea), a new addition to West Seattle Elementary, and, there is a new option being presented– the idea of merging Arbor Heights and Roxhill in a new building on the Arbor Heights site, to open in 2017. I do wish that community members as well as instructional staff at the two schools had been able to consider this last concept earlier.
I also want take this opportunity to thank all of you who have put in uncounted hours on the Facilities and Capacity Management Advisory Committee, as well as those who have tirelessly advocated for years so that our urgent issues became visible to the community as well as the school district. You know who you are, and we all owe you a debt of gratitude.
Arbor Heights and Roxhill? I first heard of this concept just 3 weeks ago. I was immediately intrigued because it solved several issues at once – both buildings are in deplorable condition, and, although they’re only 1.4 miles apart, the program needs in each building are extremely uneven. I’ve learned that both principals believe that there may be many advantages to merging. And, apparently there are already several very successful elementary schools of similar size (over 550 students) in nearby districts.
Because the BEX IV rollout was imminent when this suggestion emerged, there was no time to gather input about the concept from the community. Just last Friday, I learned that both Facilities and Finance staff in the School District see this as a viable and desirable option, because it would address the extreme deterioration of both buildings, and because merging the schools would reduce operating costs significantly. Although there hasn’t been opportunity yet for instructional staff at the two schools to weigh in on the idea, or for community conversation, there will be several chances for community dialogue in April.
We will have four community meetings in West Seattle to talk about BEX IV, with its three draft proposals for the whole city – first will be the initial presentation by district staff on April 5th, and then I have three more meetings scheduled. The three additional community meetings will allow time for in-depth, authentic dialogue about all the possibilities suggested, and whether any of them or some hybrid or new view of the three scenarios will be a good option for West Seattle.
I’m looking forward to a robust conversation in the West Seattle community.
The upcoming meetings are:
BEX IV presentation, Denny International Middle School: April 5th, 6:30 to 8:00 PM
Community Meetings with Marty McLaren:
Tuesday, April 10, 1:15 to 3:15 pm
Delridge Branch Library
5425 Delridge Way SW
Tuesday, April 24th 1:00 to 2:30 PM
Southwest Branch Library
9010 35th Ave SW
Sunday, April 29th, 1:15 – 3:00 PM
West Seattle Branch Library
2306 42nd Ave SW
I’m inquiring about support with translators from Neighborhood House for one of the meetings, and/or about scheduling an additional community gathering at High Point. If any of you has other suggestions for successful outreach to the broader parent community, for participation in this important conversation, please let me know.
I hope to see you at one or more of our meetings.
ADDED EARLY SATURDAY: For the record, director McLaren did send a reply to us the day we wrote this story – but our mailbox didn’t yield it till now! There was one note of interest regarding Schmitz Park – she says that one potential advantage to the idea of building a new school at Genesee Hill instead of at SP is, “If we build on the Genesee Hill site, we don’t have to close Schmitz Park during construction.” As for what would happen to the current SP building, she says, “it remains to be seen.” And she cautions that regarding all proposals that have surfaced so far, “none of this is set in stone.”