West Seattle school-crowding relief: Newest proposals

Tonight, the Seattle School Board held another “work session” about capacity management – how to relieve school overcrowding now, and how to plan for the future. This is in preparation for another round of public meetings, including one here in West Seattle next Monday. The presentation assembled for the work session is already online. It includes the latest list of potential options for how current West Seattle elementary-school overcrowding could be relieved, the idea of reopening the former Hughes Elementary – leased and renovated a year ago by private Westside School (WSB sponsor)’s new home – is suddenly off the list; only the shuttered Boren Junior High and Fairmount Park Elementary are mentioned, the former as soon as next fall, the latter possibly by fall 2013 as a Science/Tech/Engineering/Math “option school.” The new document lays out what’s possible, school by school – including maybe even moving fifth graders from two crowded schools into the nearest middle school. More after the jump:

Each of the over-capacity schools mentioned below was described in context of needing to add a certain number of home rooms.

ARBOR HEIGHTS ELEMENTARY (needs 2 homerooms) and WEST SEATTLE ELEMENTARY (needs 3 homerooms) :
Possible options for both:
A: Open Boren and move fifth-graders there.
B:  Open Boren; use as interim site for Fairmount Park STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Math] option school
C:  Add portables (2 for AH, 3 for WS)

GATEWOOD ELEMENTARY (needs 1 homeroom)
A: Open Boren, use as interim site for Fairmount Park STEM option school
B: Add 1 portable

LAFAYETTE ELEMENTARY (needs 2 homerooms) and SCHMITZ PARK ELEMENTARY are both proposed for:
A: Move fifth-graders to Madison
B: Open Boren; use as interim site for Fairmount Park STEM option school
C: Add 2 portables

Again, this is from the presentation on the agenda for the School Board’s “capacity management” session tonight. One week from tonight, at 6 pm Monday, November 28th, another community discussion is planned in West Seattle, this time at Denny International Middle School, so if you have thoughts on this or other possibilities, make plans to be there. The timeline laid out in the presentation says the 2012-2013 plan will be introduced at the January 4th board meeting and voted on January 18th.

36 Replies to "West Seattle school-crowding relief: Newest proposals"

  • WSMama November 21, 2011 (10:22 pm)

    I’m glad they’ve changed their minds on a few things but I for one will not send my 5th grader to a middle school or to Boren for just one year.

  • J November 21, 2011 (10:27 pm)

    As a public school teacher and parent I am so glad to see Westside off of the list of options. Those families have worked too hard on that building to be summarily booted out because of our school board’s ineptitude.

  • west seattle steve November 21, 2011 (11:13 pm)

    I went to School Board Director Sundquest’s chat last week.

    These ideas are for the immediate future, the next 1-5 years.

    At the 5 year time (2017?), he spoke of construction of a new school, moving back into E.C Hughes, or both as options.

  • smarkle November 21, 2011 (11:20 pm)

    Why not re-open Fairmount as a neighborhood elementary school and re-draw boundaries? Wouldn’t that take the pressure off Schmitz, Lafayette and West Seattle?

  • Que November 22, 2011 (1:25 am)

    smarkle – They are right in not wanting to reopen the idea of redrawing boundaries. People have bought houses and based huge life decisions for their families based on those boundaries and their committments to sending their children to specific schools. One reason to go to neighborhood schools was to provide stability that people could rely on in terms of knowing which school your kid would go to, given a certain address. If we move lines around it undermines that stability.

    • WSB November 22, 2011 (6:16 am)

      Note that if you read the entire presentation – I’m not dissecting it bit by bit, as next week’s meeting is likely to yield something updated based on whatever discussion ensued at the board work session yesterday – boundaries likely will be revisited for the next BEX levy and its results, but that’s a few years down the line … TR

  • kayo November 22, 2011 (6:53 am)

    I like the idea of a science focused elementary option school. This would be very attractive to me as a parent with a science background. Boundary changes would cause a lot of pain for folks and I hope they leave that alone for now.

  • 3rd Gen November 22, 2011 (7:10 am)

    The School District said there are more options on the table, including moving WS kindergartens to Boren. Board member Sundquist specifically asked if this was the final list. Staff said no, it was just their cut of the most likely options.

  • A November 22, 2011 (7:39 am)

    No more portables please!

  • AIDM November 22, 2011 (8:07 am)

    Science/Tech/Engineering/Math at Fairmont is a great idea! This way the boundaries won’t have to be redrawn and the school will quickly fill with student’s who’s parents appreciate this option.

  • pjmanley November 22, 2011 (8:08 am)

    Que: That argument doesn’t fly. The boundaries were just redrawn (poorly), virtually redlining people out of the schools whose boundaries they used to be within, and overcrowding the neighborhood schools. It is an arbitrary and discretionary process, and there will be winners and losers, but the only way a neighborhood school plan works is for boundaries to be adjustable periodically, to keep pace with demographic changes in the neighborhood. If you’re near a school, great. If you’re near the edge of the boundary, not so great. A little more anxiety to absorb. Due diligence at purchasing time can relieve that a bit, but not completely. This is what we get, like it or not, under a NSAP. And it happens everywhere.

  • pjmanley November 22, 2011 (8:11 am)

    @A: Oh, to replay some of the School Board comments from a few years back, and how they despised the idea of those awful portables! “Capacity Management” was sold as a way to “right-size” our schools and finally, at long last, say goodbye forever to those awful portables. OOPS!

  • pjmanley November 22, 2011 (8:19 am)

    I predict they’ll reopen Fairmont Park, but not redraw boundaries, at least not right away. Instead, they’ll most likely put a STEM or Montessori program there to draw people there from overcrowded schools nearby. The disrict will push STEM, but what about a Montessori program there, like those thriving at Bagley, John Hay, & Leschi (formerly TT Minor)? What about a Language Immersion school? Those are hugely popular at Stanford, Beacon & Concord. What would West Seattlites prefer? Speak up, and let SPS know before their train gets rolling, or the district will choose for us and plop whatever they want into our laps.

  • SP parent November 22, 2011 (8:38 am)

    Sending 10 year olds to middle school??? In my opinion, this is a horrible idea. We will be looking into private school before allowing that to happen to our child. Is that the overcrowding solution the School Board is hoping for?

  • WS Born & Bred November 22, 2011 (8:44 am)

    Just a couple years ago we were fighting to keep Arbor Heights open when it was on the closure list and now its on the list of over capacity schools that need extra homerooms. This is so sad that for a city that continually makes lists for being of the most educated in our country we continually fail to provide adequate education for our children. I just don’t understand.

  • croed November 22, 2011 (8:44 am)

    Please keep in mind – before throwing the school board under the bus – that these options are coming TO the board FROM staff at central admin.
    It is not the fault of the board members that the admission trend numbers they were given were not accurate. It was a best guess and alot of changes to the economy have happened since then. The board has indicated that boundary lines will not be redrawn – that was the most difficult part of capacity management and the board has indicated the will remain stable until at least 2015 (double check this date). Any kind of option school would be the easiest fix as it is then a move based on choice and no one is forced to move. The idea of taking 5th graders out of their schools and putting them in a building by themselves is silly!
    Hopefully everyone who is quick to jump into online discussions is also going to the meetings where the discussion can be productive. Happy Thanksgiving and thanks all for being involved!

  • pjmanley November 22, 2011 (9:35 am)

    @croed: It’s true that redrawing the lines is difficult and they don’t want to do it unless they absolutely have to. They redrew the boundary around Garfield after one year because they HAD to do so. It was simply too big from the start. I predict within 2 or 3 years, they will be adjusting boundaries here too, because they’ll HAVE to. The Genessee closure, Pathfinder to Cooper, Cooper to Gatewood, Highland Park & Lafayette population shift is still with us and we are out of space. And all I see in my neighborhood is more strollers and pre-schoolers all the time! I love it and it makes for a healthy community, but if I’m a parent of a 2 year old living near a current boundary, I’d prepare for adjustments, just in case. On the bright side, most of our schools are very good in W.Sea, compare to other areas.

  • a November 22, 2011 (9:48 am)

    No one is throwing the board under the bus… just asking them to stand up to the decisions they have made in the past as well as the ones they will make in the future. I’m sure they tasked the staff at central admin to come up with solutions. They should take full resposibility for any and all suggestions that are released to the public as well as verifying that trend numbers are accurate. It’s easy to point the finger at others .. but accountability has to stop with the top leadership.

  • Portable Educated November 22, 2011 (9:55 am)

    What is this outrage at portables?

    Having spent 3 years in portables at Fauntleroy and another 3 years in portables at Denny did not keep me out of the Ivy League.

    I see that Westside has moved several onto the their E.C. Hughes campus.

    We all need to remember, that first and foremost it is parents that affect the outcome of their childrens’ public school education, followed by teachers and teaching materials. The physical properties, such as portables are not the basis for a good education.

    Along those lines, I fail to see significant reasons why Boren is unsuitable for capacity management.

  • Westside Parent November 22, 2011 (11:25 am)

    Westside’s portables have been a great addition to our space over the years. All of the portables are plumbed (bathrooms,)and the preschool/prek facilities have a kitchen as well. They are quite nice. They’ve been a great way for Westside to expand the program creatively and cost efficiently. I agree with Portable Educated — it’s not that walls of a school that make a good education, it’s what happens inside AND outside the walls of a school that make a good education.

    Additionally, in terms of 5th grade co-locating with middle schoolers, there are independent middle school programs, including Westside and Seattle Girls School (I have kids at both) that have 5th grade as part of their middle school program. 5th graders, developmentally, aren’t all that different from 6th graders, and in many instances are ready for more. It can work.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I am also an administrator at Westside, but I’ve been part of the Westside parent community for 10+ years.

  • pjmanley November 22, 2011 (12:58 pm)

    @PE: I think it’s faux outrage really. In an era where big money is spent renovating and building new schools, portables give the aesthetic of planning mistakes, tacky design, taking the cheap route, etc. Think “trailer park” design.

    They also vary quite a bit in that some are built well, and others aren’t, leading to costly repairs. Some have had black mold problems which really freaks people out, but the Lowell building had it on the ceiling too, so it’s not exclusive to portables.

    They are useful and necessary, but a lot of people district-wide see them as stop-gap measures that take permanent root. I.e., not a long-term solution.

    Boren is a big part of the conversation for capacity management. As I understand it, they are wrestling with what form, as I think whatever solution they arrive at is likely to be permanent. Some want to preserve it for the coming wave of middle-schoolers, some want a K-8, etc. But, it is sure to have a boundary, so, guess what people…redrawn boundaries are not far off I’m afraid.

  • Brontosaurus November 22, 2011 (6:44 pm)

    @J agreed. Westside has worked really hard on that building, it would be so unfair to kick them out. They do an excellent job. Wish I could afford to send my child there.

    @smarkle I’m guessing your child wouldn’t be effected by the redrawing of boundaries? Mine certainly would (since we live close to Fairmount). It’s not as simple as that. Constantly redrawing boundaries effects every child and the friendships they make at school, not to mention the parents. Besides, Fairmount is in an awful state. It was rundown when it was open, and it appears to have been allowed to “go to seed.” I think I heard $13K was the estimated amount mentioned for getting Fairmount up to current standards.

    We’re applying for Pathfinder next year … it’s the school I’ve been most impressed with, and boundaries don’t matter. I just hope they don’t close it, like they almost did a few years ago. Of course, Pathfinder survived at the expense of Cooper, which resulted in more upheaval and uncertainty in the Cooper kids’ lives.

  • Near Alki November 22, 2011 (7:02 pm)

    I think putting 10 year old children in a school with 14 and 15 year old teens is a BAD idea. Their is a large difference in maturity, behavior and example setting that would cause me GREAT concern.

  • jbar November 22, 2011 (8:03 pm)

    Middle school — 8th graders are typically 13, turning 14. The 5th graders (10 turning 11) wouldn’t necessarily be with the older kids. For example, I think that kids are housed on different floors at Madison (but a Madison parent would have to confirm that.) It’s not really that much different than having 8th graders with kindergartners in a K-8 scenario.

    In terms of behavior and example setting, I guess it comes down to what’s expected of the 8th graders, and how they’re held accountable.

  • raincity November 22, 2011 (8:15 pm)

    I wanted to respond to the earlier posters comments about portables. Have you been to the West Seattle Elementary schools with many portables? There are more classes in portables than in the actual schools them selves. These portables are not plumbed and are not located close to the bathrooms. SPS add portable to an elementary school and the schools capacity has increased! There have been no increases to bathrooms or the capacity to serve enough lunches in the time span allowed for lunch. There is not enough play structures on the play ground so that half the kids aren’t allowed to play on the play structures since there is not enough room. The library is the same size and there is not enough room to have an assembly together, but SPS still adds more portables. So don’t think parents are just complaining that there are portables. People are upset because SPS adds portables but does not address the functional capacity of the remainder of the building. This capacity issue has been going on for a couple years now. They could have decided to open Fairmount LAST year so it could have opening Fall 2012.

  • raincity November 22, 2011 (8:22 pm)

    I think the idea to shift the fifth grade classes from SP and Layfette is capricious and unfair. You will be taking away an important transition point from this children. I have seen studies that inclusion of fifth grade in with a middle school is not as bad as it seems, although I can’t wrap my head around it. (http://www.ncmsa.net/ressum8.htm)
    It is different when they won’t have a choice. What about all the current fourth graders who looked forward to being tops in their school musical next year? Being a role model and someone who is looked up to just like the fifth grade class before them? Having graduation and other activities as a fifth grader before moving on to middle school?

  • Portable Educated November 22, 2011 (11:20 pm)

    raincity asks, “Have you been to the West Seattle Elementary schools with many portables?”

    Yes, I was in the old style portables for 6 years, 3 of them during 4th, 5th and 6th grades. No plumbing. No air conditioning. No play structures at all. Same lunch room. No library until my mom started one.

    It seems that the biggest difference is in some of these parents. They now expect the schools to provide all. And when this is not possible, as it never has been, they complain about the facilities, they complain about the school board, they just complain.

  • Portable Educated November 22, 2011 (11:27 pm)

    Brontosaurus, have you bothered to check out some of the fine independent schools now in our community?
    You mention Westside, but they all offer wonderful learning opportunities.
    You may assume that you can not afford an indepenent
    but most of these schools offer financial aid and might welcome you and your child.

  • capo November 23, 2011 (8:13 am)

    In a perfect world, where the school district had sufficient money, the district would reopen Boren and Genessee, turn Fairmont into a STEM option school, and redraw the boundaries. That would eliminate the need to send 5th graders to middle school and probably get rid of most of the portables.
    But I understand. The district is under a budget crunch. Adding a bunch of portables to existing schools is cheaper than opening a new school with the same number of classrooms, what with administrative and support staff. And that doesn’t even include the cost of refurbishing a building that was left unmaintained and allowed to fall into disrepair.

  • raincity November 23, 2011 (9:30 am)

    PE – that’s a pretty big generalization that parents just complain. You assume we are doing nothing about the issues we feel are important for our children. Don’t assume. There is a coalition of WS elementary schools that as formed and is working with the school district on these problems, but attention has been slow coming. Many people have spent a good deal of their personal time collecting information and presenting it to make our case.
    Just because you personally “survived” portables, does not mean parents and educators should not be proactive and make their case for change now. My post is in response to westside parents post mentioning what their portables are like – and clarifying what SPS portables are like. It sounds like you have not been to a SPS school recently.

  • Dano Beal November 23, 2011 (11:22 am)

    I’m always intruiged by the pattern of change when it comes to schools and the issues they face. I’ve been a teacher for 24 years, in a variety of school districts and individual buildings… The issues have always been the same…. But the “players” are always changing, which is natural. The problem is that any institution needs time to implement true change…. And money, of course. However, by the time change really happens, kids have moved through the majority of their time in any one school…. So the issue becomes less important to the folks that may have brought up the issue in the first place.

    As a society, we want things to be fixed or changed faster than might be reasonable. Teachers in west Seattle saw this overcrowding on the horizon a couple of years ago…. Because we are close to the families here in our neighborhoods….. But the school district listens to their demographers, NOT the front line. We insisted that the prudent and smart thing to do would be that Fairmont not be closed, that west Seattle schools (especially the elementary schools…) be maintained to a higher standard, etc…. We saw this coming, but were ignored….

    People need to get into the mind set of working toward change BEFORE it reaches this type of “crisis” point….. So the parents of preschoolers should be working towards what they want in their future schools NOW….. I know this is really difficult, but trust me, given the financial constraints and the political/ socio-economic/ demand for equity climate, West Seattle schools will remain toward the bottom of the list for positive, meaningful action… They will be subject to change, but not the measured, thoughtful change that they truly deserve…. They will be forced into “quick fixes” that make no one very happy…. And certainly are not what is best for our West Seattle kids.

    We need more money for schools…. If we don’t have it, they will take it from areas like West Seattle, because because families will “make due”…. We have seen this time and time again…..

    If West Seattle-ites want significant change for the better, they should be motivated to break away from the monstrous size of Seattle Public Schools, and become a smaller public school district with a maximum of two high schools and all of the associated neighborhood feeder schools. In my opinion ( I stress that it is only MY opinion…) our strong stake holder involvement, and tax base would ensure such a district would be high performing, well maintained, and accountable to the people it serves. Please understand that my intent in writing all of this is not to inflame or anger anyone… I share the concerns, and I’m struggling with the issues as well… I hope things become clearer and more comfortable for all of us.

    My two cents….
    All the best to the wonderful kids and families in West Seattle!

    Dano Beal
    Teacher, Lafayette Elementary

  • pjmanley November 23, 2011 (11:54 am)

    @PortableEducated: In some of the most severely overcrowded schools, the issue with portables is that while the district can always plop them down on the playground, they don’t serve the other needs with larger capacity, like extra bathrooms, cafeteria space, etc. I think 2 or 3 portables can work, but when you get beyond that many, the existing infrastructure fails to serve all the needs of the extra kids. It’s a capacity problem, not just a portable issue or aesthetic. I got the “Oh, not portables” excuse and lament more from district staff and board members than I did from the community, btw, during capacity management meetings years back.

    I think the other chafing issue that we have supported levy after levy to address these problems, while SPS burns money on shoddy work, and cost overruns, not to mention things like Pottergate. Garfield’s cost overruns were approximately 70 million if I recall, and a lot of the work in the building was shoddy and not workmanlike, while their library and performance halls are ridiculously ostentatious for a public high school. And unfair: compare West Seattle’s library to Garfield’s oak-paneled cathedral. Even those who attend Garfield know its over-the-top.

    The Garfield cost overruns alone would’ve funded all the reopened elementary schools in the city in the last 2 and next 2 years.

    And, as Melissa Westbrook has detailed on the Save Seattle Schools blog for years, the district spends money like crazy on new buildings and supplies, while letting older building rot, allowing a backlog of deferred maintenance to accumulate to over 500 million in needed work. This is because they fund the cost overruns by depleting the maintenance fund, just like congress w/social security.

    The capital budget, completely separate from operations, which funds teaching and learning, is an ongoing train wreck, with facilities most recently presided over by none other than Fred Stephens, Silas Potter’s boss.

    So, in sum, while I make light of the faux outrage about aesthetics, there’s more to the issue than meets the eye with the anti-portable crowd. There’s a much larger dissatisfaction with a district that has been too well-supported by the community in years past to have bungled the capacity issues so badly, especially in West Seattle.

  • pjmanley November 23, 2011 (12:07 pm)

    Amen Dano! And we parents saw it too, even before, and while you taught my daughter! Every year we saw more kids in preschools, more kindergarten classes being added, more kids at the YMCA, more soccer & baseball teams, waitlists at kindergartens & private schools, more PEPS groups, more kids everywhere. And it’s even worse today. But as Dano says folks, parents, including myself, in this community were ignored and dismissed, as were parents in the CD when they closed TT Minor. Oddly enough, SPS saw the growth in the NE and opened new schools there, but the same people couldn’t see it here in West Seattle. Why? Because parents in the NE formed the “NECC” – Northeast Cluster Coalition, modeled after a similar parent/community group that organized on and around Queen Anne, resulting in them getting funding and reopening needed schools in their area.

    Take note of those efforts, West Seattle folk, and organize. My kids are now in 4th and 7th grades, and the fight never ends.

    But heed Dano’s advice and ORGANIZE NOW!

    Our own district, Dano? Hmmm…Intriguing. As the son of a former Shoreline counselor and teacher, I heard about the benefits of a smaller district all my life. They also have only 2 high schools, and people are nuts about their schools up there. Very, very intriguing.

  • Dano Beal November 23, 2011 (2:22 pm)

    Yes indeed, PJ….
    We really need to examine the benefits of working toward “smaller”…. But also, very simply, getting what we pay for, and what we work toward. Sadly, it’s not a perfect funding formula…. And West Seattle, being the largest urban neighborhood, AND a highly desirable ( ie; “high property taxes…”) is the largest contributor toward the district funds. I understand that we pay towards the operations, upkeep, etc…. Of less fortunate schools in the district. However, we have crossed a line….. We are paying so heavilly toward those schools that are in such desperate need, that we are not fully funding the schools that are in our own neighborhood….. We need to recognize this and facilitate some sort of change.
    The idea of creating a smaller district in the West seattle pennisula would certainly be met with huge opposition…. It would create enormous problems for the rest of the district, and I’m sure cries of financial inequity would be heard even under the waters of Elliot Bay…. But until the powers that be find solutions to the problems that COULD have been avoided, it’s a conversation that would open minds to possibilities…. And real change. This, of course, would remind politicians and district officials that they need to truly LISTEN and ACT.

  • Neighborly November 23, 2011 (11:49 pm)

    Let’s lease the vacated Petco space and create a small school there while we wait a year for Fairmount Park and Genesee Hill to be brought up to code. Yeah, it’s not perfect, but I’d send my Kindergartener there rather than to a class of 28, or to a giant middle school building on Delridge.

  • wsparent December 6, 2011 (11:40 pm)

    ACT? Well, at least we voted out a couple incompetent and unresponsive board members.

Sorry, comment time is over.