Denny school site’s future: The meeting that almost wasn’t


Loved that bumper sticker the first time we saw it, on a car along a Fauntlee Hills street. Might have been the same car on which we photographed it Saturday morning, after the Democratic Get Out the Vote rally at The Hall at Fauntleroy. Anyway, it certainly applied to this afternoon’s third meeting — a meeting that almost wasn’t — of the Design Team that’s helping shape what will happen to the Denny Middle School site, once the current school is demolished after the new Denny is built at the Chief Sealth High School campus – read on:

Seemed like a bad sign when we got to the Denny library a minute before the advertised start time of 3 pm and nobody else was there, not even the meetingholders. One soon materialized. Then a few more. But as for actual meeting participants – it took till 3:30 pm for the meeting to start, once two had shown up, and for a while there, it almost seemed as if the meeting might have to be called off.

The school district’s strategy had been to plan the first four meetings to really be two meetings held twice each – 3 pm and 7 pm sessions, with the early one intended for school-related participants to be able to attend immediately after classes ended for the day.

Given the lack of turnout today, might not be the best strategy for next time, as much of the meeting was spent examining what participants in the last meeting had written down as priorities for the site’s future, and trying to decipher what those earlier participants had meant by short phrases – tough when there was virtually no overlap in participants between the sessions – at times, it resembled the old-fashioned game of “Telephone,” at least in our observation from having sat through numerous meetings related to the project, and observing that today’s guesses didn’t always approach what we recalled from the previous meeting. (One example – at the previous meeting, which we covered, hopes were voiced that a skatepark of some sort might be a possibility for the site’s future; today, that was interpreted as some way of making the site skate-friendly. “No spikes?” someone suggested, to chuckles.)

Ultimately, today’s discussion resulted in a list of goals for the Denny site – the final goals, pronounced Don Gillmore from the school district’s Building Excellence (BEX) program, saying, “whoever didn’t come today – we’re done.” Some of the goals, he noted, “we have no choice about” — first and foremost, construction of softball fields and tennis courts to replace those that are being lost at the Chief Sealth site because the new Denny is being built there. Whether those fields will have lighting now seems to be an open question; project manager Robert Evans noted the mandate is to replace them in kind, and the current ones on the Sealth site are not lit. A few other potential refinements were briefly discussed, such as the concept of having a restroom at the site being more likely to result in a bolted-down portapotty, given the cost of building full restroom facilities – maybe even one that was just brought in for the warmer months, then taken away in the winter.

Now, the goals on the list that was finalized as the meeting concluded, in a sort of org-chart format on a long sheet of butcher paper:

-No sale (of the land, to developers)
-Future elementary school (a stated district goal for the site)
-(Site work completed) On-time
-School board acceptance (of whatever plan emerges from this process)
-Maintenance access
-Easy to maintain
-(Meeting) budget
-Drinking fountain
-Restrooms (as noted above, this may mean just something portable)
-Safety (a top-level goal)
-Minimize traffic impact
-Tennis courts and softball fields (a top-level goal)
-Shared use with community center
-Neighborhood access
-Tennis lights
-Community communication
-Positive image
-Improved parking
-Open green space
-Diversity of use
-Big toy (possible playground equipment for kids)
-Art expression
-Performance opportunity
-Sports turf
-ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) access
-Adequate scheduling

The agenda had called for breaking the attendees into small groups to discuss how those goals would be “implemented,” but without enough participants to do that, the task was shelved till the next meeting.

Next steps: Sounds like there is still room on an all-day bus tour of several sites around the city this Thursday, leaving from Denny around 7:30 am; e-mail if you are interested.

The design team’s ensuing meetings are all at 7 pm at the Denny Library — next one is November 3rd.

-would not have nonschool use during the day

1 Reply to "Denny school site's future: The meeting that almost wasn't"

  • West Seattle Mom October 29, 2008 (6:56 pm)

    What an unfortunate quote by Don Gilmore of the Seattle Public School District. I am officially “on” the school design team, yet I have received no notice whatsoever about any of the meetings. Perhaps that is the problem with turnout? I believe the 3 PM meetings are designed to attract School District employees and not community members. The 7 PM meetings are targeted toward members of the community. Next meeting, as you report, on November 3. Thank you for covering this important community issue.

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