Video: West Seattle’s elementary-crowding-relief future – 1 or 2 reopenings, 2 new?

When Seattle Public Schools announced the date for Thursday night’s West Seattle meeting on their “interim capacity-management plan” – the next round of proposals for solving school overcrowding (see them here) – local families pointed out that conflicted with several local schools’ open houses, curriculum nights, and other special events. Too late to reschedule, apparently – though district official Tom Redman said these meetings were set up in August (the dates weren’t publicly announced till a few weeks ago) – but in case you wanted to be there and couldn’t, we recorded it all on video, and that’s what you will see above.

As for the highlights of what happened: Opening the meeting at Madison Middle School, assistant superintendent for operations Pegi McEvoy described the presentation as a “draft” plan likely to undergo changes in an “iterative” process. Other staff members said that West Seattle has the most growth anticipated in elementary-student population over the next 4 years, which their plan is meant to address … a plan that comes just two years after a school (Genesee Hill) was closed.

The district’s suggestion of adding room for more than 1,000 kids by reopening Boren (5950 Delridge) next year and possibly Hughes (7740 34th SW) later – reported here on Thursday morning – was unpopular with meeting attendees from north West Seattle.

Residents of that area noted that their side of the peninsula has the most-jampacked elementaries (Lafayette and Schmitz Park), but the two schools mentioned for reopening are both on the south side of the peninsula. Regarding the fact that Hughes is currently leased to independent Westside School (WSB sponsor), reopening it as an SPS school was described repeatedly as a “last resort” – but also described as potentially giving the district “the most bang for (its) buck.” McEvoy mentioned a meeting set for Monday with Westside administrators.

Opening Boren, for starters, was described as an “interim” move to tide the district over to new construction from the anticipated February 2013 BEX 4 levy – potentially 2 new elementaries in West Seattle. (Locations weren’t mentioned, but the district has long said a new elementary was likely in the future at the site where the old Denny International Middle School building has just been torn down.) District officials said they’re awaiting brand-new enrollment numbers to check their projections.

If Boren is opened in fall 2012 – and the district officials seemed set on it, with one saying that if the board approves it in November, design work will begin “the next day” – who will go there? That isn’t settled yet, said McEvoy – they need to decide whether it would become an option school (language immersion, for example), or whether it would become an attendance-area school so that boundaries would be redrawn, or something else. One attendee suggested making it an attendance-area school made more sense, even though that would mean new boundaries, less than two years after boundaries were redrawn, causing people to “pull their hair out.”

Officials said that Genesee Hill and Fairmount Park elementaries would need more improvements than Boren, to be ready for reopening in fall of next year, with both having lost their occupancy permits since they’ve been empty more than two years – so their only options for next year, they feel, is open Boren or add portables. “Boren is in pretty good condition,” they insisted.

Three School Board members – Steve Sundquist, Sherry Carr, and Peter Maier – were at the meeting, introduced toward the start; Sundquist said he wanted to be “in touch with the community’s reactions” to the proposal. Their vote on the first year of “capacity management” is scheduled for next month; a timetable shown during the meeting included plan tweaking from October 20th-November 1st, and then a plan to be introduced to the board on November 2nd, with a vote two weeks later. Then in December, design work would begin for anything necessary to reopen schools that the board signs off on reopening.

34 Replies to "Video: West Seattle's elementary-crowding-relief future - 1 or 2 reopenings, 2 new?"

  • Jasperblu October 7, 2011 (3:50 am)

    Please dear people of Seattle, I’m begging you. FIRE the Seattle School Board on election day. All of them.

  • Mark October 7, 2011 (7:11 am)

    One question is whether the Seattle School Board should feel an obligation to look out for ALL Seattle kids or just the ones enrolled in their own schools.

    The status quo is to allow students to move to other districts and take $s with them (Vashon), ONLY if they are moving to another public school. We are only one of two states in America that do not allow Charter schools thanks to our teachers’ union. The concept of Charter school is to introduce the free market allowing ALL students to take their $s and vote with enrollment. There is no quicker proven way to improve public school systems then to make private schools available to all, not just those who can afford them.

    Given comments made here, it seems the Board and the teachers union have found a common enemy: successful private schools.

  • Neighborly October 7, 2011 (8:01 am)

    Charter schools were on our ballots 3 times, and Voted against by majority of all voters,

    More bang for the buck? Imagine going to kindergarten in a school with that as its mission statement, with 1,000 students in building with high school sized bathrooms.

  • ddm October 7, 2011 (8:21 am)

    So Genessee and Fairmont got the dreaded “certificate of non-occupancy” designation from the city. If I have the timeline correct, it seems that E.C. Hughes would’ve gotten that same designation if Westside School hadn’t come in to save the SPS offical’s behinds. And now SPS wants to take EC Hughes back because it is the one school without the “certificate of non-occupancy” status?! Talk about unfair business practices! Forget occupy Wall Street, let’s OCCUPY SEATTLE PUBLIC SCHOOLS ADMIN AND BOARD!

  • KLJ October 7, 2011 (9:22 am)

    I am disgusted and heartbroken that SPS would even consider taking Hughes away from Westside. After all they have done to fix it up. I am a huge advocate of public education, but this is just plain wrong. Westside is a welcome addition to our community and to think that SPS would even think of screwing them over is disgusting. There HAS TO BE a better solution that is good for our public school students and those in Westside. You can bet that I will be voting for some change come November.

  • DF October 7, 2011 (9:44 am)

    I am a little confused by the wording WSB used here “north West Seattle” can you be more specific of the neighbor you are referring to please?

  • tk October 7, 2011 (9:52 am)

    The one “take away” I got from last night’s meeting was that the district is NOT proposing any “fix” to the current overcrowding in either the the north end or southern end for WS elementary schools, unless you like the idea of bussing your kid down to Boren until atleast 2016 school year (IF and when a BEX passes and IF and when a school is put on the BEX list & built/remodeled in the north and also south ends of WS).
    This is not a solution that parents can buy into and say a big “Thank you” to both the current school board and district for such great planning!
    They knew for certain a whole year ago that something had to be done for this current year & definitely for 2012 & beyond, and yet they procrastinated and let another year waste away so they can now say, sorry- it’s too late, you’ll have to take Boren as its your only “choice”.

  • Public School Advocate October 7, 2011 (11:45 am)

    As a community we are all going to need to come together to make our situation work. We can not expect the District and School Board do it alone. We are all going to need to take our frustration and anger and put it into something positive. We are going to need to take ownership for the decision making process and define a long term vision for what we want our community schools to look and feel like. We may need to re-think how these schools are structured. Perhaps elementary schools should return to a K-6 model while some schools would be better served with a K-8 model. While certain decisions may require reconfiguring or undoing what we have just done, it may be in the best interest for our community in the long run.

  • pjmanley October 7, 2011 (12:08 pm)

    Many of us in the community tried and tried to tell the current board members that enrollment was going to explode, that preschools were overflowing and had long wait-lists, that the baseball and soccer leagues were adding extra teams, and that at Halloween, the kid population went from a handful to hundreds in the span of 5 years. THEY WOULD NOT LISTEN. This board only listens to the Superintendent and her staff.

    The board members are all nice, well-intended people, but their lack of leadership is largely responsible for this mess, and I have lost all hope that the current incumbents will change their ways.

    3 or 4 new board members, along with DeBell, Smith-Blum, and Patu, could produce the board we need right now. If we re-elect the incumbents, nothing will change.

  • RS October 7, 2011 (12:45 pm)

    How much money would it take to get Genesee Hill back up and running?

  • stb October 7, 2011 (2:06 pm)

    “How much money would it take to get Genesee Hill back up and running?”

    I would guess really a lot. The place was near to falling apart when Pathfinder moved.

  • DF October 7, 2011 (2:39 pm)

    I respect Westside School, like the people there and wish them all the best. But if their agreement with the district or city really did leave them vulnerable to being booted out so soon, with little warning or compensation, then their leadership surely has some explaining to do. (Perhaps this was the best deal they could get, but if so it was still quite risky.) Public schools don’t have a monopoly on poor planning.

  • Mommalinasgrace October 7, 2011 (3:10 pm)

    Please Seattle I echo Jasperblu. We need fresh leadership and people who are committed to the Students. Equity in Seattle Public Schools is not present.

  • Sarah October 7, 2011 (3:26 pm)
    Here’s an interesting document-seems to me ALL the schools need a lot of work and none of them rate above a 3.5 out of 5…..And maybe I’m reading this wrong but a retro fit on Genessee would be about $600,000-but it looks like everyone needs one of those too! Or am I reading that totally wrong?

  • 4thaskuulz October 7, 2011 (3:43 pm)

    Let’s see if I understand all this…two years after Genesee Hill was closed, despite demographic information already mentioned here that suggested contradictory trending in population in West Seattle, we now have overcrowding and a need to violate a lease agreement established in good faith with a tenant who has conveniently remodeled a facility left in disrepair. Said tenant has improved the facility to a standard that may end up to be their undoing, if the quote from the interim capacity management plan regarding Hughes is to be believed: “as reopening it as an SPS school was described repeatedly as a “last resort” – but also described as potentially giving the district “the most bang for (its) buck.” So lets see…the other two schools being considered for reopening are decrepit ruins that, according to SPS would cost “$11 million each to renovate”, and the “last resort” was just renovated for free. Anyone care to bet how this will go down? Ask me again why private schools exist?

  • Kristina October 7, 2011 (4:42 pm)

    I was at the meeting last night, and it was incredibly frustrating experience. For example, when asked, “Are you proposing an elementary school with 1000 students?!” (an unusually large size, not conducive to community for young kids), they said, “Oh, no. We know that’s not good for your kids,” but then they said that we will get 1200-1500 new students in West Seattle over the next four years (they waffled over what the real number was), and they’d go between Boren (capacity 1000) and Hughes (capacity 300). Then they mentioned that all of their data was based on 2010 figures, even though there had been huge growth in 2011, and that they planned to rework all the numbers “soon.” I kept just shaking my head in disbelief.

  • char mckinley October 7, 2011 (4:53 pm)

    As a resident that lives directly across the street from Westside and a parent with a child in Seattle Public Schools (SPS), I am ashamed and disgusted with SPS. I have lived across from Hughs for eleven years and it has been occupied by various Seattle Public Schools on a temporary basis while the other school was remodeled. SPS allowed the building and the grounds to be derelict and in gross disrepair without any concern for the neighborhood. When they occupied the school the faculty and parents had little to no regard for the community i.e. no street parking,trash thrown on the street/sidewalks/yards and cig butts discarded on our property. Westside has done a great job of restoring a beautiful building and creating a partnership with the neighborhood. Last year SPSB allowed a superintendant and employee of hers to miappropriate school funds and now seeks to usurp a goup that repaired their eyesore and ridded the site of the rat problem. SPSB shame on you for the terrible lessons you have taught us all:do as little as you can to support teachers, students and parents; keep on stealing money from the taxpayers.

  • WS Parent October 7, 2011 (5:22 pm)

    There is a lot of frustration voiced here. I have been keeping tabs on this for over a year and participated in many of the capacity meetings. The blame game and anger will not solve the problem, nor will removing the current board. If the board was replaced, it would set us back 2 years, requiring the new leadership to figure out the next steps and how to work with each other. From my point of view we have two very core issues: 1) There is no money and the state is forecasting another 10% cut to education. With the cuts to both budget and staff, the district is forced to remain in the firefighting mode, and not have dedicated time or people to look ahead and plan. 2) The grandchildren of the baby boomers are now hitting school age, plus people are not moving to the suburbs. In the past, this migration kept our urban school population on a decline (last 40+ years), hence the painful decision to close schools years back.

    Instead of ranting, suggest real solutions. Bottom line West Seattle will grow apprx 450 students per year (basically a grade school per year). Fairmount Park holds 250 students and will take $11M to renovate to current standards. The Genesis building is even in worst shape and should be torn down and rebuild ($50M+). Boren will hold two+ elementary schools (1000+ students) with little dollars to occupy. The next opportunity the district has to ask voters to approve major funding for new schools is BEX IV (Spring 2013 vote).

    Like many of us, during these hard times my family and I have had to cut way back. So must we with our schools. We are blessed with dedicated teaching staff who are excelling. Seattle Schools have had large populations in the past (35+ in a classroom) and still done well. We need to pull together as a community and help with solutions and stop fanning the flames.

  • Mn October 7, 2011 (6:21 pm)

    I hope Westside is looking for alternate locations just in case

  • madashell October 7, 2011 (7:15 pm)

    So why does SPS hold a respectable tenant to unconscionable circumstances, meanwhile FAME can completely disregard convenant requirements at the former MLK school, while taking ownership on the taxpayer dime? That’s business as usual at John Stanford Center, where friends get gravy while the rest of us are screwed. Former Director of Facilities, Fred Stephens, is laughing his way to his latest government job at the Dept of Commerce.

    Vote the bums out!

  • Katie October 7, 2011 (8:29 pm)

    I am struck by the timeline and lack of engagement. They are voting on this in just weeks. Is this the only community engagement meeting?

    • WSB October 7, 2011 (8:45 pm)

      The only one in West Seattle. There was a preceding one elsewhere in the city and there is one more coming up elsewhere in the city. The vote, they said, will be for just the first-year actions – as in, potentially, opening Boren, while the prospect of opening Hughes would be somewhere further down the road, NOT next year.

  • Nancy October 7, 2011 (9:01 pm)

    What on earth was Westside thinking when agreeing to those terms?

  • madashell October 7, 2011 (9:56 pm)

    Those terms are pretty standard. Hamlin has a similar lease at TT Minor. Who’da thunk SPS could have so little capacity for capacity planning that they would swing drunkenly from closures to reopenings in the same of two years?

    Lack of engagement? Welcome to SPS administration. Where the public is only to be “engaged” at election time.

  • Kinderparent October 7, 2011 (9:56 pm)

    We need to come to terms with the fact that they ARE going to reopen Boren next year and we need to get proactive about what we want that school to be. I think it would cause chaos to re-draw the boundries. Keep in mind this is an interim school, they could decide to carve out a neighborhood school in the “north” West Seattle and then bus the kids to Boren for the next 4-5 years.

    Everyone needs to start thinking and talking about what we find desirable in an option school. International focus? Science and math focus? I am actually interested in single gender classrooms (controversial I know). I also think there is a desire out there for a true half day kindergarten program. We need to stop telling the school board what we don’t want and start giving them constructive solutions.

  • 4thaskuulz October 7, 2011 (10:17 pm)

    WS Parent…I can respect your “soldier on under difficult circumstances” approach to this problem, and I agree that we all need to be solutions oriented. But I cannot agree with your naive endorsement of the job done by SPS. “we are blessed with dedicated teaching staff who are excelling. Seattle schools have had large populations in the past (35 + in a classroom) and still done well.”. Unfortunately, the data just doesn’t support your assertions. Might help to review the excellent article Produced by Seattle Met last December rating all area high schools, and look at the best in class job being done in Bellevue and Lake Washington school districts, which have some of the best schools in the nation. And don’t suggest that this superiority is based upon wealth disparity…on average, SPS allocates thousands more per student annually than all of the higher achieving districts. Corrupt leadership and lack of parental engagement are better places to look for answers, and these are changes we can implement, if properly organized and unified in purpose.

  • Dude Ranch October 7, 2011 (10:55 pm)

    Is there room for some elementary classes in the Madison Jr High building? I thought I read somewhere that Madison was under-enrolled. Maybe Lafayette’s 5th graders could use a couple classrooms there or something. That would help the north end overcrowding, at least.
    Also, add me to the list of people outraged over SPS sticking it to the Westside school. They should be looking at private schools to help them solve the overcrowding problem by adding to the education capacity in the area.
    Booting Westside only puts an equivalent number of kids out of a building. But then, private schools are your enemy, right SPS?

  • Public School Advocate October 7, 2011 (11:09 pm)

    Thank you Sarah for sharing the link on the SPS website to the Inventory Summary Report Sorted by 2009 Facility Condition. It appears the “Education Adequacy Score” is more telling of the actual condition of the facility vs. the actual “Facility Condition Score”. If you look at those scores (Education Adequacy Score) here’s the rough breakdown:
    1= BEST, 5= WORST
    Genesse Hill
    Arbor Heights
    Fairmount Park
    Schmitz Park
    Cooper (Pathfinder)
    Highland Park
    I’d be interested in seeing exactly the criteria used to assign the scores and a more current report. I also don’t see the feasibility in re-opening Boren as the site for a permanent school. It’s the only school in the area that has the capacity to house 2 schools at one time. Given that so many of our schools are in dire need of a major renovation or rebuild, it seems prudent that one school be left as an “interim” facility. I wonder what it would look like if next school year 2 schools moved to the Boren site to make way for a major renovation/remodel that could up the capacity at each of those schools e.g. Schmitz Park/Alki, Lafayette/Alki or Schmitz Park/Lafayette or Fairmount Park could reopen at Boren for a few years until that facility is remodeled and share the space with another school getting remodeled. That may come close to closing the capacity shortfall gap in the Madison Service Area (it’s projected to be between 150-250). In the Denny Service Area, it becomes a little trickier since the shortfall is projected between 750-850 students. For starters Hughes could be reopened and Arbor Heights could be rebuilt. The beauty with Arbor Heights is the campus is large enough that a new school could be built on the site of the current playground without having to move students to an interim location.

  • Herman October 8, 2011 (12:43 am)

    PSA, nice to see some creative ideas out on the table. But if there are funds for a major remodel, why not remodel one of the vacant schools and avoid moving kids around?
    Also like Dude Ranch’s ideas. I agree that SPS should be looking for a public+private solution to the capacity problem. Westside had 100 applications they couldn’t fill for K alone this year, so clearly there is an appetite for private alternatives.
    Embracing private alternatives is an admission of defeat for a public system, but you have to admit, they blew it.

  • kootchman October 8, 2011 (3:23 am)

    Save the taxpayer the construction costs. Just allow parents who want them lottery vouchers. They will find the school that fits them, and their children. Obviously SSB is of the opinion they can’t teach with current funding levels. I am betting a $7800 per pupil state voucher will solve the problem quickly. Those who support the existing SPS model can decide not to enter the lottery. Those that prefer other options can form charter schools or use private school resources.

  • So over WS October 8, 2011 (7:51 am)

    There is clearly an appetite for public schools too. Pathfinder has a huge waitlist. I have the means to send my kids to private schools as do many families at Pathfinder. It’s the staff, rich experiental learning, enrichment programs and the diversity that keep us there. My children excel and love school every day.
    Maybe we need more public schools like Pathfinder. They focus less on standardized tests and more on real learning.

  • WS Parent October 8, 2011 (9:05 am)

    @4thaskuulz Sorry I was too general, my comment about our teachers was only to state that they are dedicated to our children and that they to are currently working even though the classrooms are crowed. My comments were not directed towards the leadership in the central office. The schools on the Eastside are scoring better (in general). Bellevue is completing a process replacing all of their schools (to be completed next year). Both LWSD and BSD are mid-size districts, making it easier to manage (larger tax base/student/PTA donation, etc). Seattle is a unique, streatched out district that offers many challenges. I hope that SPS is able to hire in permenant leadership that can focus on the business at hand and has solid project management experience to lead us out of where we are.

  • Mn October 8, 2011 (11:49 am)

    I am confused as to why Westside would be so trusting of the sps
    I’m just as confused as to why they would agree to a Lease with such terms
    We need a mixture of public and private schools in west Seattle
    Overcrowded public schools and private schools with wait lists

  • Herman October 8, 2011 (1:48 pm)

    So over WS,

    Feel free to send your children to a public school. I’m not debating that. However, due to exceptional mismanagement and budgetary buffoonery there is not enough space. Too bad.
    There would be more space in public schools if private options were encouraged and supported by SPS, including direct financial support (e.g. vouchers).
    For example, it might cost $11M to refurbish a school and $5M in annual operating costs to serve the extra 1,000 kids, i.e. $26M over three years.
    Instead, SPS could issue school vouchers for $3,000 per child (or whatever) or award private subsidies of $10M and it would probably create a private response that would take a net 1,000 kids out of the SPS sytem, thus solving the problem for much less, and with much more choice for all parents, including you.

Sorry, comment time is over.