Newest West Seattle school-capacity proposal: Open Boren, and…

Though a mostly final proposal isn’t expected until the January 4th Seattle School Board meeting, we do know now what Seattle Public Schools is suggesting for relieving the crowding at six elementary schools in West Seattle. Their proposal is in the PowerPoint presented last night at the board’s Committee of the Whole meeting (see it here). Pages 16 and 17 are the heart of what’s proposed here, broken out by middle-school “service area.” The booed-at-last-month’s-community-meeting (WSB coverage here) suggestions about splitting off kindergarten or 5th graders appear to have been scrapped. But reopening Boren (the former “junior high” at 5950 Delridge Way SW) as the temporary home of a STEM (science/technology/engineering/math) option elementary is on the list. Portables are suggested for Gatewood, Lafayette, Schmitz Park, and West Seattle elementaries, but not Arbor Heights and Roxhill. From the above-linked presentation:

We have a message out to West Seattle’s new school-board rep Marty McLaren, asking for comment. The official schedule calls for the final “short-term capacity management” plan – this is only the first phase, covering next school year – to be introduced at the January 4th school-board meeting, and then put to a vote two weeks later. (A longer-term plan, involving reopening/building more school/s, will be hashed out next year – and that’s when the district proposes figuring out where the new STEM elementary would be permanently located.)

32 Replies to "Newest West Seattle school-capacity proposal: Open Boren, and..."

  • A December 15, 2011 (1:42 pm)

    Really!!!! 5th Grade in Middle school! Then what? move 6th grade to high school….what happen to not wanting our kids to grow up too fast.
    It was bad enough when they moved 6th grade to middle school.

  • Delridge mom December 15, 2011 (1:58 pm)

    I think this is a wise short term solution. There has been a movement amongst parents at Lafayette to advocate redrawing of boundary lines and reopen Fairmount Park as a new neighborhood school serving Delridge and Alaska Junction area families (thus moving Delridge kids out of Lafayette as a capacity solution there.) I am relieved that apparently this won’t be on the table in any form for next year. Hopefully, that will also be true in the long run Portables are not a great long term solution, but until a larger school can be built in the north end, this seems like the best option that will cause the least disruption to kids and families. Hopefully, the STEM school can attract some private Tech money to help it get off the ground and become a great additional option for West Seattle public school parents. The popularity of Pathfinder hopefully indicates some strong interest in an additional option school.

  • Delridge mom December 15, 2011 (2:01 pm)

    It looks like moving 5th graders has been taken off the table. I couldn’t agree more with that decision. Kids do grow up too fast as it is!

  • GenHillOne December 15, 2011 (2:47 pm)

    Sure seems like it would have been easier to move Pathfinder to Boren in the first place. I know it wasn’t the *prettiest* building on the list, but it’s beyond me how the option for future growth, including in middle-school grades, would not have made it a perfect match.

  • agreed December 15, 2011 (2:54 pm)

    I so agree with you Delridge mom! I was quite frustrated at that form letter they wanted us lafayette parents to send to the school board as I do not agree with their “recommendation” either! If I had sent that letter I would have been asking for my own kids to move schools. Another option school is the way to go!

  • Walnut December 15, 2011 (4:01 pm)

    Why is STEM being pushed down to elementary aged kids?
    Is this a successful model in other districts?
    I’m not sure I understand why focusing more technology at that age is helpful.

  • West Seattle mom December 15, 2011 (4:10 pm)

    What’s the downside of adding portables? That’s what they did when I was a kid.

  • SchmitzParkAlum December 15, 2011 (4:12 pm)

    We moved from WS to Edmonds and our kids go to one of the K-8 schools there, maybe one of the WS schools should be reopened as a K-8? Takes care of many problems, including skipping that awkward “growing up too early” middle school stage!

  • FormerPathfindermom December 15, 2011 (4:23 pm)

    GenHillOne – There were several problems with the “move Pathfinder to Boren” solution, not the least of which appears to still be a concern and to have led them to “not recommend” moving kindergarten kids from the various schools to Boren. Boren is to big for Kindergarten and early elementary school kids. The drinking fountains, toilets and “playground” will not work for this age group. My objection to Boren as a Pathfinder parent had nothing to do with how “pretty” the school was, but how inappropriate it would be for little kids, both in location and facility.

  • A December 15, 2011 (4:32 pm)

    We had portables at Lafayette, Madison and West Seattle High so why not add them back. I like the idea of K-8 also but don’t think there is a school big enough around here.

  • Anon December 15, 2011 (4:34 pm)

    K-8 schools in my opinion are not the way to go. You pretty much stay with the same small group of kids as you grow up. The awkward middle school transition still sucks, but it helps you learn how to meet new people.

  • Jim Landau December 15, 2011 (4:48 pm)

    Personally I like the longterm solution of reopening Fairmount and making it an international school. The city just spent a bunch of money to upgrade the play equipment. I’m for this!

  • raincity December 15, 2011 (4:57 pm)

    Portables are a problem when there are so many of them that the main core building functions cannot withstand that added capacity. At Schmitz Park there are more classrooms in portables than in the main school buidling themselves. These portables have no plumbing.It is not considered a long term solution.

  • junebug December 15, 2011 (6:06 pm)

    Are you sure the portables don’t have plumbing, raincity? We’ve also had portables at Westside School, and Explorer West has used portables for years as well. They have bathrooms, and in some ways are nicer than the big drafty classrooms. At Westside, the kids would alternate one year inside of the school and the next year in a portable (the portables comprise two classrooms for the same grade, with one full bathroom in-between). Now, Westside is using the portables for the middle school. That’s the big advantage of portables–they are flexible, comfortable and the configuration can be changed.

  • Walnut December 15, 2011 (6:49 pm)

    Portables are a problem because they are sub-standard learning environments. Add to that they are costly to maintain (horribly inefficient), don’t meet code standards for permanent construction (think seismic, energy and others) and don’t typically leave a school until they are literally falling apart.
    And yes, you can get any sort of portable today (regular classroom, science with plumbing, admin offices, etc).

  • lynn December 15, 2011 (6:59 pm)

    I am wondering how much all of this will contribute to the “white flight” when over 20 years ago busing West Seattle kids to the Rainier area caused many families to move out of distict.
    And then district is left with a lot more problems than capacity issues.
    And to any of you that think portables are just fine, please go spend a day in them. And watch happens when the special needs students take off.
    And NO! The portables Seattle uses do not have plumbing. Which creates santitary issues. And they have carpet which creates mold issues.

    • WSB December 15, 2011 (7:20 pm)

      Lynn, what do you mean? None of this proposes busing kids miles away. Boren would open as an option school, which means nobody goes if they don’t decide to go. Also, what does “when the special needs students take off” refer to?

  • WSMama December 15, 2011 (8:11 pm)

    Maybe lynn is referring to years ago when the school district screwed around with so many students that many people either sent their kids to private schools or left the district altogether? Example: living by Lafayette but being bussed over to Beacon Hill.

    • WSB December 15, 2011 (8:39 pm)

      Right. I know about that. But what in the current proposal would make someone think that is happening again?

  • MB December 15, 2011 (9:51 pm)

    I went to elementary school in the Boren building when it was Cooper…we managed just fine. I think I turned out alright ;) I don’t remember having any problems with the size of things. I understand that it may not be ideal for the smaller kids, but if the alternative is classrooms with too many students then I think it’s a great option. My parents and the adults around me never told me the building was too big for me or unmanageable, so I never saw it that way. In fact, I think it made the transition to middle school easier because I was used to things at that size.

  • LE December 15, 2011 (10:50 pm)

    When Pathfinder was at Genessee Hill, grades 6,7 and 8 were in portables all day long. The portables may not have been ideal, but there was always a wait list anyway. The teachers and principal were more important than whether the classes were in portables.
    To my recollection, the biggest problem was that the district responded very slowly when there were mantainance issues, such as the heat not working. But those problems werent inherent in using portables, they had to do with an unwieldy
    maintanance bureaucracy.

  • GenHillOne December 16, 2011 (6:12 am)

    Agreed, MB, Boren has been used for younger kids. Yes, a play area would be needed (there is lots of field space), but the “too big” argument is bunk. Anyone who has been inside knows that there are three not-too-big buildings. There could easily be K-2, 3-5, and 6-8 wings. Sure, replace some plumbing fixtures for the littlest ones in the K-2 wing. Way back when, my grade school had the two-wing system and I remember it well. It was always fun to go see our older reading buddies, or whatever, in the other building. Boren could have the unique ability to have areas that are comfortable for the youngest students while giving the older students a more mature environment. AND give them space for a growing program. Every suggestion was shot down by the Pathfinder community until the brand new Cooper building came up. It’s about the people not the building though, right?

  • Forest December 16, 2011 (10:01 am)

    For a certain person who writes a variation of the same comment after every WSB item on public schools, it’s about never missing a chance to badmouth Pathfinder.

  • Yeah-me December 16, 2011 (10:20 am)

    Junebug — as a parent of a 4th grader at Schmitz Park I can assure you they do not have plumbing. They barely have heat. They are also dusty — glad my kid doesn’t have allergies as it would probably be an issue.

    While I am happy to be at the school, I am less than happy that the actual building only has the capacity to hold the K-2 classes. 3-5 are ALL in portables. There is not enough room in the lunchroom for all of the students — and with only one gym, computer lab, and music portable there is no way for every student to even benefit from those important classes.

    The school district is making a mess of our schools.

  • junebug December 16, 2011 (12:54 pm)

    I hope that if the school district does purchase new portables, they will be nicer than the ones you describe. As I say, they can be very comfortable, with bathrooms and kitchenettes and large classrooms. Also, many other schools, public and private, have 5th and 6th grades combined, or a variation of that model. This New York Times article explores two approaches:
    I think a lot of schools struggle with the limited space for cafeteria, gym and other classes. One of the options we’ve used successfully is to have the music/technology/language/art teachers come to the classroom and teach the subject and have PE outdoors 1 or 2 days a week.
    I don’t think these ideas for dealing with larger capacities are so bad for the students or the school district. They are dealing with a limited budget. Students are getting an education. Are there better choices out there? Yes…you can buy your child a better education if you can afford it and want to make the sacrifice. Are there any perfect schools? No…even private schools have issues with space, crowding, special needs and budgets.

  • Lura Ercolano December 16, 2011 (1:26 pm)

    Locally, Bainbridge Island school district has a school that is only 5th and 6th graders.

  • Beth December 16, 2011 (1:42 pm)

    Yeah-me pin-pointed my problem with the “portables solution,” no matter how nice a portable can be, the public spaces (lunch room, gym) are a problem.

    Schmitz Park already has 2 lunch periods that leave kids only 20 minutes to collect their food and eat; for anyone who eats hot lunch, that is just not enough time (why we started packing our daughter’s lunch). I have no clue how they handle assemblys and gym time, but lunch is a crowded mess.

  • GenHillOne December 16, 2011 (1:49 pm)

    Forest, if you mean me, I don’t make the same comment on every SPS story. This one happens to be in direct relation. I was involved enough to see and hear the manipulation that was the Pathfinder move. Proof that the squeaky wheels can get the oil they want. I feel very badly for the previous Cooper community. From some of our perspectives, opportunities to really get creative with the Pathfinder program – partnering with a Native American group, occupying a space that could offer age-/milestone-appropriate benefits, etc. – were poopoo’d in favor of the newest building available (neighborhood students be damned). Shameful.

  • Need a change December 16, 2011 (1:55 pm)

    I agree that the best idea is to place Pathfinder in the Boren building and give Cooper back to the neighborhood.

  • pjmanley December 16, 2011 (2:43 pm)

    I didn’t like the Pathfinder move for logistical reasons of 1. locating an option school on a perimeter, 2. displacing a rapidly growing, family friendly community in North Delridge, and 3. removing kids from their neighborhood school, contrary to the goals of every other “neighborhood school” plan in the NSAP. Kind of crapping on Delridge as a neighborhood, wasn’t it? Their “neighborhood school” is now Lafayette? And we call this a Neighborhood Student Assignment Plan? Huh?

  • GenHillOne December 16, 2011 (5:24 pm)

    Yuuuup. If you look at the boundary map here:
    Pathfinder is now smack in the middle of a neighborhood that has been reassigned way over in the Admiral Junction to Lafayette, which is – you guessed it – overcrowded. Now the district leadership is in a pickle, because they either have to get portables or go back on their neighborhood school/boundary map plan (which could happen if they re-open a school like Fairmount as anything but an option…or what will happen if not enough families take that option?). Neither popular. The ideas of moving either K or 5th grades went over like a lead balloon, so yeah, back to the pickle. Boren being no one’s assigned school, used for an option school, would have been common sense, but…

  • lynn December 16, 2011 (6:58 pm)

    WSB- what I mean is that the families that are able, will go private or move out of Seattle rather waiting to see what how the district will resolve the current issues. That happened over 2 decades ago. Many of us were unwilling to risk our child’s education while the district was trying to figure things out.
    And, what I mean about placing Special Ed. students in a portable is a huge problem if you have a “runner”. Does the classroom teacher stay in the portable with 28 kids or leave to chase after one student?
    Again, anyone who thinks portables are okay for today’s student population should visit one.

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