At tonight’s community meeting in West Seattle about Seattle Public Schools “capacity management” – mostly dealing with overcrowded schools – you are likely to hear about the possibilities that the district is already circulating, to deal with overflowing elementaries on the peninsula. And they include this tentative proposal for West Seattle: Reopen Boren on Delridge (originally a junior high) and “possibly reopen” Hughes in Sunrise Heights (originally an elementary), to handle a projected surplus of up to 1,100 elementary-age students in the next several years.
That might be something of a surprise to those who thought the former Fairmount Park Elementary, closed four years ago, was the most likely building to be reopened. Boren is in its second year of emptiness, after most recently serving as Chief Sealth International High School‘s temporary home for two years, through June 2010; Hughes is in its second year as the leased, renovated home of independent Westside School (WSB sponsor). We contacted West Seattle’s school board rep (and board president) Steve Sundquist for some context, and have also just spoken with administrators at Westside – read on:
From the district’s presentation of proposals, here are the two outlining West Seattle needs/possibilities (earlier in the presentation, there are maps looking at the capacity challenges school by school):
First: Sundquist tells WSB the Fairmount option has fallen out of favor because bringing it up to standards to reopen would cost an estimated $11 million, according to information shared at a briefing in which he participated yesterday, while only creating room for 250 more students.
According to the presentation now in circulation (see it here), room for up to 1,100 more elementary students may be needed in West Seattle.
Regarding Hughes already being in use, he told us, “I understand there has been a preliminary conversation with Westside School, with a more substantive conversation scheduled next week.”
We had asked Westside administration earlier this year about the possibility that a Hughes reopening might be on the table for the district at some point. At that time, spokesperson David Bergler told us that the district’s lease with Westside “outlines the terms for cancellation only if the District determines it needs to open the school for its own students. These terms include an adequate timeline for notification to Westside which the District would follow. Westside School’s Board of Trustees meets annually with the District to review their growth projection for West Seattle.”
This morning, we have just spoken with Westside’s head of school Jo Ann Yockey and communications director Jana Barber. They say the proposal to “possibly reopen” Hughes has caught them somewhat by surprise, since – as Bergler had told us months ago – they have regularly met with SPS, and at the most recent meeting in April, Yockey says, no such possibility or need was mentioned.
Nonetheless, it’s out there now, and they say they’re sending a letter home to families, and they do indeed plan to meet with the district soon to find out what changed and why. Since that last meeting with SPS, they point out, Westside – with district approval – had moved portables onto the Hughes grounds as part of their expansion into offering middle school, and that was not an inexpensive process.
In addition to Hughes, Boren, and Fairmount Park, the district has a fourth closed school in West Seattle, Genesee Hill, originally an elementary, but home to Pathfinder K-8 for many years until that school moved into the new Cooper on Pigeon Point.
Meantime, Sundquist stressed that none of the proposals are “set in stone.” You can hear more about them at the district’s capacity-management community meeting tonight, 6:30 pm at Madison (45th/Spokane), the second of three meetings around the city, the only one scheduled in West Seattle.