“Live”: Seattle Public Schools closures (etc.) announcements

(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.

73 Replies to ""Live": Seattle Public Schools closures (etc.) announcements"

  • add November 25, 2008 (7:02 pm)

    I was impressed that the meeting started on time, but it’s a little annoying how one hour into it they still haven’t made the announcements. I understand the need to give background info, but it shouldn’t be taking over an hour to do so.

  • WSB November 25, 2008 (7:06 pm)

    No kidding. They estimated it would take an hour to get thru everything, according to my conversation with David Tucker ahead of time. 7:06, no “news” yet. Almost, though.

  • add November 25, 2008 (7:10 pm)

    And the official page on the SPS website (the link you gave above) – although it says the Preliminary Recs would be posted by 11/25 at 6pm there is still no active link.

  • add November 25, 2008 (7:11 pm)

    Questions after each recommendation? Dear gawd, you will be there til midnight.

  • Sable Verity November 25, 2008 (7:17 pm)

    Thanks for live blogging. Couldn’t get down there to see it myself and it’s not streaming live on Seattle Channel.


  • WSB November 25, 2008 (7:21 pm)

    That’s what I was just thinking. Maybe this first recommendation, to close the Meany Middle School program and move the bilingual center into that building, is just the most controversial one (?!)

  • sw November 25, 2008 (7:23 pm)

    Geez, WSB. I hope you guys brought a pillow. You may be spending the night.

  • concerned parent November 25, 2008 (7:25 pm)

    one would think that they could announce them all, then go one by one, in order to take questions/concerns….productivity……

  • WSB November 25, 2008 (7:27 pm)

    Sable – Since this is a “workshop,” they are not broadcasting live, but I believe it’s being taped for later broadcast. Not 100 percent sure, though. All the TV stations are here and I can see them fuming silently because they have deadlines (as early as 9 pm for channel 13, which does 9 pm news on cable channel 10) and don’t have “their story” yet … BTDT. Also tough for the folks who brought small children after hearing their school/s might be affected, I can hear running around happening in the SPS foyer outside the meeting room.

  • add November 25, 2008 (7:30 pm)

    Bad, bad process. So infuriating – hasn’t the district staff learned anything about respectful public engagement?

    My understanding is that it IS being taped for later broadcast, but not sure of the broadcast schedule.

  • Sable Verity November 25, 2008 (7:38 pm)

    Yeah. Still waiting for them to put up a real link to the information. This is taking forever.

    You’re a soldier!

  • info November 25, 2008 (7:38 pm)

    For those who just can’t stand the wait for the rest, here is most of what’s left:

    Arbor Heights program to close. Pathfinder to move in.

    Summit K-12 to move to Rainier Beach High School, co-housed with RBHS.

    AAA to close. Van Asselt to move in.

    Lowell to close. Program split between Thurgood Marshall and Hawthorne.

    T.T. Minor to close.

  • WSB November 25, 2008 (7:41 pm)

    Thanks. They just announced Summit/Rainier Beach colocation.

  • Sable Verity November 25, 2008 (7:42 pm)

    Summit to RBHS?! Laughable.

  • add November 25, 2008 (7:45 pm)

    Thank you, “info”!! Dare I turn my attention elsewhere or continue to stew in all of this? It’s like a train wreck, can’t stop watching/reading/refreshing.

  • JWill November 25, 2008 (7:45 pm)

    All the details for all closings and program changes are in the FAQ:

    Say goodbye to APP as we know it.

  • info November 25, 2008 (7:45 pm)

    I think the District should consider moving Aki to RBHS, as their programs are more similar and are serving similar populations. Summit could then be housed at Aki.

  • Sable Verity November 25, 2008 (7:48 pm)

    I’m still stuck on Summit going to RBHS. But I get it. I just can’t believe they actually DID it. Sheesh.

    And now AAA is done? Yikes. Is it just me or is all of this madness?

  • WSB November 25, 2008 (7:48 pm)

    Jwill, somebody else e-mailed us that, but I have read that doc three times. Those are NOT the details being announced currently. That doc is from last year. Those include the Jane Addams changes, which the board reviewed and approved earlier this month. Everything else is being unveiled tonight and is not yet on the district website though I’m watching relentlessly! As of this moment, 7:49 pm, there is an unlinked line “preliminary recommendation” on this page
    When tonight’s announcements are posted on the website, it’ll go there. And we were promised a printed-out copy as soon as all this is over, but it’s already run an hour longer than originally anticipated…

  • Sable Verity November 25, 2008 (7:50 pm)

    This explains why they decided NOT to make AAA a part of the SE Initiative. Had their eyes on it for some time.

  • add November 25, 2008 (7:51 pm)

    I guess apparently it was mentioned at the beginning of tonight’s meeting that the link would not be active on the SPS website til the END of this meeting (per my other live-updating friends there tonight) – true, TR?

  • WSB November 25, 2008 (7:53 pm)

    David Tucker mentioned they were trying to estimate how long the meeting would take, but no guarantees of anything printed out (or posted) till it’s over, indeed. However, I don’t know how complicated their web publishing process is, so I keep looking for it to pop up sooner.

  • Sable Verity November 25, 2008 (7:54 pm)

    If they don’t move a HUGE number of students to RBHS, then it will have to close, and that is a battle they are trying to avoid. That’s why they’re pushing Summit there.

  • add November 25, 2008 (7:55 pm)

    TR – I think Jwil is right – the current FAQ link does seem to the current recs – it’s dated today. Try it again.

  • litlnemo November 25, 2008 (7:57 pm)

    Every date on that FAQ seems to be current.

  • WSB November 25, 2008 (7:58 pm)

    Maybe my computer is jammed from sitting here. I see an 8-page document that ends “updated 11/19/08” and has no West Seattle mentions. I have refreshed, retried, reopened, including one that was sent in e-mail and another in twitter …

  • info November 25, 2008 (8:01 pm)

    For those who are not getting the most up-to-date FAQ sheet, be sure to clear your cache.

  • Rob November 25, 2008 (8:01 pm)

    What do you think will happen to APP if it’s split up and relocated into other schools like that?

  • info November 25, 2008 (8:04 pm)

    I think splitting APP at the elementary level begins to create the case to have APP split at the middle school as well. The major argument by APP parents was to maintain the group. But if the group is already in two, why not put half at Hamilton?

    Also, splitting APP at Washington makes room for Meany kids to attend.

    “jigsaw puzzle”

    The pieces have to fit.

  • WSB November 25, 2008 (8:07 pm)

    I have uploaded the updated version so if anyone else has trouble seeing the one dated today, click the link in my post above. Or here:

    (again, thanks to “info” for the “clear cache” recommendation – I don’t like caches in general but the macbook recently had a problem and it reset to all those annoying defaults – sorry and thanks again, we’re clear now in more ways than one)

  • evita November 25, 2008 (8:10 pm)

    I have read the FAQ, but that document doesn’t tell me how they are splitting up the APP program. By grade? In half? The two new locations (if I have correctly Mapquested them) are not that far apart, so I’m unclear how the new assignments will work.

  • JWill November 25, 2008 (8:12 pm)

    We already tried siting APP in a neighborhood school (Madrona), and it didn’t work. Here we go again. If the district wants APP to survive as a program, this doesn’t show that. If they want to “mainstream” APP kids, this would be a nice first step. But why mess with a program that is working?

    I think they ought to devote Marshall to APP — it’s centrally located, easily accessible from the I-5 corridor. The existing program at Hawthorne can move to Marshall–it’s only 2.5 miles away? Why split??? Makes no sense.

  • info November 25, 2008 (8:13 pm)

    @evita It would make the most sense to have 2 separate 1-5 programs at each site; one with northeast, northwest and QA / Magnolia kids, the other with central, west seattle, and south.

  • Morgan November 25, 2008 (8:14 pm)

    “Respectful public engagement” Very interesting idea mentioned above, especially when these public schools are supported by public money. ALL TAX PAYERS (with or without children) should be upset at the lack of forthright information coming from this school board tonight. Public school closures should be broadcast for public information when the announcements are made, not later. It is in the public’s best interest (the public with or with kids) that our public school system works to educate future citizens. “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.” -Thomas Jefferson!

  • info November 25, 2008 (8:19 pm)

    @WSB – No, thank you for making live blogging and for working so hard on this! Bravo to you!

  • et November 25, 2008 (8:31 pm)

    The school district just spent around $1M on improvements to Lowell’s structure last summer, as did many Seattle Schools. And now they are saying it’s in such a poor condition that the building has to be closed?

  • techymom November 25, 2008 (8:37 pm)

    That’s Thurgood Marshall, an elementary school on MLK near I-90, not John Marshall High School near greenlake.

  • timeslid November 25, 2008 (8:49 pm)

    At first blush the idea of putting the APP program APP at Hawthorne and half APP to Thurgood Marshall at the elementary level seems strange. Both schools show below 50% WASL passing. Is the district using the gifted program to elevate the scores in these schools to take the heat off their poor performance?

  • add November 25, 2008 (8:56 pm)

    I’m sorry, but I just have to say once more that it is really rude that this meeting is going into it’s THIRD hour and they haven’t even “technically” announced all the changes yet. They really should have announced the whole package first, then gotten into discussion around each with the Board. Making people stay to hear the news (without even a handout to refer to) is ridiculous! Not everyone has access to a wireless laptop! I will be writing a note to the district.

  • info November 25, 2008 (9:02 pm)

    @timeslid – It would be a mixed bag, as it is at Garfield High School.

    On the one hand, a lot of students are currently traveling north for rigorous programs. This would keep some of those students in the south end. Also, the parental involvement that would come from APP parents could benefit the entire school; just look to Garfield for that.

    On the other hand, though, we start to talk about the downsides of segregated programs. The APP program is largely white and has the lowest percentages of free and reduced lunch. Places like Garfield and Graham Hill are often criticized for the glaring differences between the programs (academically, racially, economically, etc.).

    It’s a complicated mix, certainly. As Dir. Vaughn says, it will require the right leadership.

  • rose m November 25, 2008 (9:08 pm)

    If they are going to split APP, why put them so close together? It would lower transportation costs to have them in different parts of the city.

  • WSB November 25, 2008 (9:09 pm)

    DeBell just asked that (and I chronicled) … district staff says they could not find a North End school with enough room to just drop 250 kids in, and not displace somebody else.

  • andy November 25, 2008 (9:10 pm)

    If this report is correct, the district basically nust admitted that it is going to have to cap enrollment in APP to fit into its two new spaces. If it is going to have to cap APP anyway, why doesn’t it just leave it at Lowell?

  • nch November 25, 2008 (9:13 pm)

    I am guessing at least half of APP students, if not more, come from the north end. It is baffling to move a split-up program to schools so close together….Also, as far as these students needing to “interact” with Non-APP kids, most of our kids did that already, it didn’t work out, so we moved them to socialize with their peers.

  • J November 25, 2008 (9:15 pm)

    The district has been trying to kill alternative schools, and schools that don’t fit the cookie-cutter mold, for decades. Goodloe-Johnson looks more and more like she’s aiming at absolute standardization. Heaven forbid we should accommodate square pegs–they’ll just have to make do with round holes.

    It’s frustrating that the board must put short-term savings over long-term value; yes, it may be short-term cheaper to stuff more kids in one building, but it doesn’t make for excellently educated students down the line.

  • Al November 25, 2008 (9:21 pm)

    The District’s FAQ linked off their capacity page was online for a bit–I saw it–but the link has been returning a “file not found” error for the last half hour or so.

  • WSB November 25, 2008 (9:24 pm)

    That’s why I uploaded it – figuring that might happen – so if you click the link I provided, that’s the document that at least WAS there (once I solved my caching issues!), reuploaded to our site.

  • timeslid November 25, 2008 (9:25 pm)

    Info – Mixed bag indeed. Having gone through Lowell’s and now through Washington middle school’s APP program I can attest to the success of the program. Yes it is the parents and the aptitude of the kids that make the program. Not to mention the wonderful APP staff. Making this a successful community takes work. Placing this group of people in the most disadvantaged places in the district creates undo hardships on the program. It also creates immediate division in the schools where they are placed. Don’t we remember where the students at Lowell were before they were at Lowell – Madrona. Ask parents how that went. Segregated systems are necessary if the needs of groups are disparate and truly unique – as in this case.

  • Jeremy Anderson November 25, 2008 (9:32 pm)

    I am NOT looking forward to APP being split, but honestly, this has been in the cards for a while.

    1) Lowell is full. The school is at max capacity this year and Advanced Learning enrollments are going nowhere but up. There is no room for a music room, no room for a computer lab, no room for anything.

    2) The Seattle Schools site has an assessment of everything that needs to be done to every school to bring it up to standards. Lowell’s repair bill in 2005 was estimated at close to 6 million dollars.

    3) Everyone wants to keep the cohort together. That’s why the school has stayed where it is as long as it has. I don’t want to tell my daughter “Sorry. Half of your friends are going to another school. Those are the breaks.”

    4) To accommodate future expansion for APP as a monolithic cohort, SPS needs to find a centrally located building that has capacity for 700+ students. That building does not exist, and wishing for it to come into existence is an exercise in futility.

    I guess I just wasn’t expecting the split to happen this soon.

  • JWill November 25, 2008 (9:37 pm)

    I went to Madrona as part of the APP program (then IPP–this was the first year of the program). It was a great program in a rough school, with two very different groups of students and a lot of tensions. The administration was clearly torn between the mission of serving the local neighborhood kids, who were generally low-income, and responding to a very active and vocal set of parents from the APP program, most of which were bus-riding kids from the north end—I was. I believe both sides saw it as a zero-sum game more often than not.

    The model didn’t work then, and I don’t see how it would be any different now.

  • bbakeman November 25, 2008 (9:40 pm)

    Out of all the recommendations tonight, many of which can be reasonably questioned and challenged, the one to move Summit K-12 to co-locate with Rainier Beach High School seems the most blatantly absurd.

    Why would the district put a school that is supposed to available to everyone in the city (Summit K-12) in the farthest southeast corner of the city? And then to co-locate it with a high school that has its own problems already? Sure looks like a poorly thought-out idea. Or a clear message to alternative schools about their place in the district.

  • Jeremy Anderson November 25, 2008 (9:42 pm)

    Links are messed up. Let’s try again.

    This is a short, sweet, here’s what it will cost to fix the schools:


    Here is a long, detailed list of everything wrong with any given school:


    The list of problems at Lowell runs to 16 pages. Some of the things on the list are scary (electrical system is at end of life. Fire systems are non-functional, etc. I hope those have at least been band-aided since the report came out in 2005).

    I love the APP program to pieces, but let’s face it. Lowell is the Building From Hell.

  • nch November 25, 2008 (9:43 pm)

    Didn’t they read John Stanford’s book? He devotes a chapter to why APP didn’t work at Madrona, and why he chose to move it to Lowell with SpED. (OK, I haven’t read it either, but I have heard this said…..)

  • jd November 25, 2008 (9:44 pm)

    A lot of whether the Lowell split will work will depend on the principal. Can they find people who can effectively serve the existing and the incoming populations? I have fingers crossed that they will, but recognize the potential to really get things wrong.

  • nch November 25, 2008 (9:49 pm)

    I think most people will agree that the Lowell bldg is The Pits, but what people love and want to keep together (and in the CENTER of town) is the Program Itself. I would send my kids there if they were teaching out of yurts. No one is committed to the building, it is the PROGRAM no one wants to see split up and wrecked.

  • Jeremy Anderson November 25, 2008 (9:53 pm)


    If you can find a place where we can put enough yurts for 700 kids, I’m with you.

  • JWill November 25, 2008 (9:53 pm)

    nch – absolutely agree. The building doesn’t matter, but having the program centralized is the key. It may also contribute to the “perceptions of elitism” that everyone cites but nobody will own up to.

  • Al November 25, 2008 (10:02 pm)

    I was a gifted student who had the benefit of being in a school where I could experience what the District is calling “exposure to non-APP students. I learned how to take a beating. I learned that things that stand out are begging to get cut off, cut down, and cut to pieces. I learned that I was a freak, that might is right and freaks are weak. I learned what happens to you when your social and physical development lag behind your test scores. I wouldn’t wish those lessons on anyone, except maybe whoever architected this plan. I know some things have changed, but the schoolyard bullies targeted my kid in all the ways I remember. At APP the kid became just another kid, not a punching bag for other kids’ teasing pleasure. If this plan is the best we can do, I’m glad they didn’t share the runners-up.

  • info November 25, 2008 (10:04 pm)

    Meh. My child is also an APP child, and I don’t care if the program is split or not. Extra-curricular activities play a huge role in how friendships are formed; sports teams, dance groups, etc. are formed more by neighborhood than school.

    I know there are some APP parents who will be outraged by this, but I wonder if it’s a majority.

  • karen November 25, 2008 (10:08 pm)

    Am I missing something on the AH Pathfinder switch. One of the reasons given is that Pathfinder has portables and AH doesn’t. I thought AH had a whole wing of portables connected together. How is that better?

  • pam November 25, 2008 (10:11 pm)

    thank you, thank you, WSB for this awesome coverage!!!!

  • WSB November 25, 2008 (10:12 pm)

    More than that, it’s become clear in the past few minutes, it’s the issue of moving WS North students into other WS North schools (where there’s no room) if Cooper becomes PF. And a couple board members say, that may be shortsighted, Cooper may not have enough kids in the new assignment plan to be a successful neighborhood school, while Arbor Heights is definitely a “neighborhood school.”

  • info November 25, 2008 (10:13 pm)

    Thank you for live blogging this! Excellent work and we parents who couldn’t attend could keep up.

  • lag November 25, 2008 (10:15 pm)

    THANK YOU, WSB, for your wonderfully thorough coverage of this meeting tonight. You rock!

  • socmom November 25, 2008 (10:17 pm)

    I’m okay with a split, but we live in the NW and my child already spends an hour each way on the bus to Lowell. Don’t know if I/he could stomach an extra 20-30 minutes each way. I’m disappointed that there is not a closer option.

    I love the idea of a more diverse school for my child (who is a child of color) but honestly I am very concerned about the placement of a mostly white APP population alongside a mostly poor, minority general ed population. What does that say to the general ed kids? What are the history lessons learned from co-housing APP at Madrona?

  • que November 25, 2008 (10:26 pm)

    I commented on this in the other article about the AH closure, but it bears repeating here, since this is where the big conversation is happening… I think that the idea of closing AH when the annexation of White Center is still an open question is foolish. If Seattle Public Schools is going to eventually need to absorb the student population from White Center, they are going to need seats to put them in unless they are also annexing half of the Highline School District.

  • kindymom November 25, 2008 (11:56 pm)

    Is there really nowhere north of the ship canal to put the northern app cohort? The new decatur? pinehurst? bf day?

  • Kata November 26, 2008 (12:10 am)

    There was a proposal voiced tonight to close Meany Middle School on Capitol Hill. The building is as central as Lowell and has a student planning capacity of 813, which is well above the current enrollment number of 500+ at Lowell. In my view, it is very important to keep the program together for 1-5 APP students who are too young themselves to be experimented with the earlier tried-and-failed “Madrona co-housing effects.”

    I have also found it interesting to read the WASL scores of the two schools proposed to house the 1-5 APP split (both located at the south end, therefore, would not accommodate any better the North Seattle 1-5 APP students); and to really discover the motivation behind this suggestion. . .

    Thank you for the blog.

  • snow November 26, 2008 (1:13 am)

    If building condition was a deciding factor, what was the rational of moving Nova and SBOC into Meany which has a lower building condition score than Lowell and TT Minor?

  • Debbie November 26, 2008 (5:50 am)

    Everyone seems to be missing the real issue here. There has to be a really big “plan” afoot that the public seem to have no real grasp of the magnitude. Who really can trust anything the district says?

    The district can now jump on the band wagon of the failing economy to attempt to scare the public that this must be done NOW! These closures are really just another piece of somebodies master plan to further devalue Seattle Schools. If a district has empty seats, yet our local private schools are bursting at the seams, wouldn’t they want to ATTRACT students back into their schools???

    Wake up Seattle. The district won’t answer the question of possible across the board pay cuts for the higher ups that just received SUBSTANTIAL pay increases. If the schools have to take a hit to save money, so do the highly paid individuals that make these “recommendations”.

    This issue is so much bigger than closing a few schools and moving students around. Dig deep, look hard.

  • Alcina November 26, 2008 (6:12 am)

    que, annexation of White Center really isn’t an issue here. The Seattle Mayor’s office has said over and over again that, if Seattle annexes White Center, the schools there will stay in the Highline School District and the students who live there will continue to attend Highline School District schools not schools in the Seattle School District. The City of Seattle cannot just automatically take over the schools in another school district if they annex an area as that is not allowed under the law.

    There is a legal process by which Seattle could take over the schools in White Center, but both the City of Seattle and the Highline School Board have said many times that isn’t going to happen.

  • GenHillOne November 26, 2008 (8:16 am)

    After all of the Denny-Sealth hoopla, I find it incredibly interesting that in 71 comments, only one person mentioned the co-location of Summit K-12 and Rainier Beach. The world will come to an end if middle & high school kids are next door to each other, but everyone’s okay if they add elementary? figures.

    Thank you WSB for giving up your entire night and keeping us informed – looks like we have readers from all over Seattle tonight!

  • que November 26, 2008 (10:16 am)

    @Alcina – Thank you so much for clarifying that! That was very helpful information.

    Mostly I am just worried about what that kind of influx of students is going to mean to my kid’s elementary school.

Sorry, comment time is over.