Board members question ‘option school at Boren’ plan

At Seattle Public Schools HQ downtown: The district proposal to reopen Boren as an “option” elementary school drew fire from 3 board members, including West Seattle’s newly elected rep Marty McLaren. She says she will propose an amendment to remove that from the plan. Two other board members said they had been ‘flooded’ with mail from West Seattleites saying they want a new neighborhood school instead.

This came after district managers admitted a new option school next year likely wouldn’t draw enough from any single school to avoid having to plan for adding portables, saying they thought they would still need the same projected amount of homerooms at the existing elementaries, so they are proceeding with planning for portables and then waiting to check numbers after “open enrollment.” They said they hadn’t proposed a new neighborhood school in the short run because they want to hold off on boundary redrawing as much as possible until the BEX IV levy – to raise more than half a billion dollars to build new schools, among other things – is mapped out.

Board president Michael DeBell warned the other members that trying to appease any one group of constituents creates issues for others. “More to come on this,” as DeBell put it. A vote is scheduled in two weeks – amended or not. We’ll be following up before then. (Our previous report on a staff briefing about the originally proposed Boren-plus-portables-elsewhere is here.)

ADDED: The issue of overcrowding at Chief Sealth International High School came up too; while not part of the “Short-Term Capacity Management Plan,” it surfaced as Sealth staffers spoke during the public-comment period at the start of the meeting, discussing their petition asking the district for more portables (previously reported here). We recorded their remarks on video:

With the remodel a few years back, they lost nine portables and gained five classrooms, but with the student population rising by 400 in the past few years, that wasn’t enough, they said. (As we reported earlier in the day, district administrators say they are considering one portable for Sealth for next year, but won’t make a decision till later this winter.)

ALSO OF NOTE FROM THE MEETING: A lot of hot topics, which is why it didn’t adjourn till 10:45 pm. Transportation guidelines for next school year were approved in the late going; the presentation included a chart of “civil twilight,” so the district can figure out how to make sure its youngest students aren’t walking to or from bus stops in the dark. The only West Seattle mention was the fact that Denny and Sealth are legally required to stagger their start times, so any forthcoming bell-time adjustments would have to work around that fact. … Then there was the issue of rules for schools to get waivers if they want to use instructional material that is not standard-issue, with notable examples including Schmitz Park Elementary‘s use of “Singapore math” (and the resulting achievements). … The board authorized a superintendent search, though some members told interim Supt. Dr. Susan Enfield they are hoping she reconsiders her decision not to seek the permanent job. And one more item:

SURVEY ON ‘SCHOOL DISTRICT LEADERSHIP AND PRIORITIES’: We attended a briefing on this right after the capacity-management-plan briefing this morning. The PowerPoint with toplines is here. Among the research findings – Dr. Enfield had a 65 percent favorable rating from staff, 56 percent from teachers. In other groups, views were more “neutral” – they didn’t know her well enough – than unfavorable. The survey showed an almost-universally positive level of “satisfaction with quality of education” – 73 percent among families, 66 percent among the general public. In terms of “essential qualities of the superintendent” – now that the district is launching a search – “local knowledge” rated the lowest. The highest, after “leadership to staff,” was “education background” – notable since the district has had two superintendents in the not-too-distant past whose backgrounds were elsewhere.

73 Replies to "Board members question 'option school at Boren' plan"

  • WS Mom January 4, 2012 (10:11 pm)

    There was a highly organized email campaign from parents at Lafayette to request boundary changes and it looks like it worked.

    Shocking that the people least likely to be affected by another big round of boundary changes would be so in favor of them.

    What about those of us who will be impacted yet again?

    Should loud voices at one school get to dictate the future of all public school families in North West Seattle?

    What a mess.

  • Amanda January 4, 2012 (10:15 pm)

    This is just silly. There is an empty school building in the area with a shortage. Does the school district have the money to build a new school? Zeesh! Can someone please explain to me why Boren would not be a good elementry school option?

  • J January 4, 2012 (10:22 pm)

    That’s Lafayette PTA.

  • WSMama January 4, 2012 (10:22 pm)

    So are they redrawing the lines just to make those Lafayette parents happy? Squeaky wheel gets the grease. I guess if it doesn’t have any impact on your child and it gets the kids you don’t want out of the school they’ll do anything. Hmmm… Very interesting.

  • TFP January 4, 2012 (10:55 pm)

    Has Ms. McLaren hosted any West Seattle meetings or chats to talk with her constituents?

  • Dan January 4, 2012 (11:01 pm)

    I think that being “highly organized” and letting your elected representatives know how you feel is exactly how the system should work…. If others feel they have a differing opinion, I suggest they do exactly the same thing…. get “highly organized” and inform their elected representatives.

  • Zen please January 5, 2012 (1:12 am)

    I seriously wonder how being highly organized equates to being a sqeaky wheel. And redrawing boundaries does infact impact families at Lafayette and it’s neighborhood. There are families within 2 blocks of this school who can’t use it, but instead must take the bus to Alki. I see a lot if sideline criticism on this topic. It is beyond ironic that the people who are reaching out to be part of a solution are deemed ‘squeaky’.

  • Momof3 January 5, 2012 (6:09 am)

    Lafayette parents are engaging in this conversation, because the Lafayette school was deeply affected by the last round of boundary changes, and is severely over-crowded as a result. We have more than a third of our kids in portables. In supporting the re-opening of another elementary school in West Seattle, Lafayette parents are not trying to do only what’s best for Lafayette, but what’s best for the entire West Seattle community. The school district made a mistake in closing West Seattle elementaries and made mistakes in redrawing the boundaries. The only way to remedy those mistakes is to re-open at least one more elementary school, and to redraw the boundaries again. It may not be popular, but it’s the only realistic solution, and will ultimately be positive for all of West Seattle.

  • proudpugetridger January 5, 2012 (7:02 am)

    It is interestintg that the presence of DESC is not being discussed, as it will be just 2 blocks from this (proposed) elementary school.

  • WS Mom January 5, 2012 (7:22 am)

    The Lafayette PTA is a great organization and raises a ton of money for the school which is wonderful. My point is that there are neighborhoods who don’t have the capacity to organize in this way and these are the ones that are likely to be most affected in a wholesale fashion by boundary changes. These are the same neighborhoods who were most affected by the closures of Cooper and Fairmount Park exactly because there wasn’t the organizing capacity of other areas. It is just unfortunate that yet again these areas are in the line of fire. It is incredibly stressful for families to be putting them through boundary changes every other year. The reality is that when the next Levy passes there will be yet another round of boundary shifts. When will this stop? I just hope both of my kids are in school by then!

  • n.a. neighbor January 5, 2012 (7:35 am)

    The district should FIX THE PROBLEM they created a few years ago by closing schools and reopen neighborhood schools! Creating option schools is all well and good but it’s not going to provide any relief anytime soon. Lafayette (along with Schmitz park and Gatewood) has mushroomed since the district closed schools and redrew boundaries. If organizing and asking the board to take a thoughtful approach to how best to solve the problem is “squeaking” maybe we all should organize and squeak together as a West Seattle Community to get what we need: more schools with logical, fair boundaries!

  • genessee hill January 5, 2012 (7:49 am)

    a couple comments
    1) If Sealth needs portables, why dont they take the ones sitting empty at Genessee hill elementary (2 or 3)and move them there. Nothing like letting a needed asset weather away a couple miles from a documented need.

    2) why don’t they just sell Gennessee Hill, or tear it down and put in a pool/community center already…Pretty Please.

    • WSB January 5, 2012 (8:12 am)

      Gen – Don’t know about #1. Re: #2, I believe the district already has come under fire for selling off or leasing properties that could have been held in reserve and is somewhat down to its bare-bones minimum, at least in this area. Jefferson Square comes to mind.

  • DBurns January 5, 2012 (7:50 am)

    I have never thought of being the “squeaky” wheel as a negative. In fact, I think it’s impressive to have a voice that creates reaction. I agree with Dan, inform the PTSAs and get all of the WS voices heard!

  • sks January 5, 2012 (9:31 am)

    The district needs to see this as a social justice issue as well as a capacity management issue. Reopening Boren is an excellent idea. It would draw people with a STEM or immersion program, and it would highly benefit the Delridge community. The school is already there would not require any boundaries to be redrawn. To respond to requests that are coming from a majority of white, middle class parents who already have their kids in a quality school would be myopic and unjust.

    I have emailed several people in the district about the DESC issue and they have not responded. If you live in Delridge and are concerned about DESC, you should be emailing the district with requests to re-open Boren!

    @genessee hill–a pool? REALLY???

  • Denny January 5, 2012 (10:37 am)

    Let’s be clear, the only WS building that can be physically reopened in time for fall is Boren. However you want to draw kids there – STEM, Neighborhood, Montessori, even Circus Academy, it’s the only choice besides loading portables at every school.
    In addition, it will be three years minimum before a new school is built. Drawings, permit, funding, construction…Genessee is worn out, we probably shouldn’t throw millions into Fairmount Park that could go to a new elementary.
    So let’s rally around getting all of our WS kids into quality classrooms with great teachers. Let’s all demand this of our newly elected board, and demand it today.

  • Active WS Parent January 5, 2012 (11:03 am)

    Wow – I wish Lafayette’s PTA had the kind of power you are suggesting it has! The fact of the matter is that schools should not have been closed in West Seattle. Throughout all of West Seattle, capacity issues continue to be on the rise since that has happened. And any solution out there will have a negative impact on some families – there’s no ideal solution. Most parents I know like the idea of STEM. However, it is not a solution that directly solves capacity problems for the Madison reference schools at least for another 2-3 years. West Seattle parents need to come together to create a long-term solution for our area and not pit east vs west West Seattle, or north vs. south West Seattle. Every solution has a trickle down affect and everyone who has children in West Seattle should be advocating for improvements in West Seattle, regardless of the school your kids attend.
    @ WS Mom & WSMama — redrawing boundary lines directly affects Lafayette. The reality is Lafayette has over 120 kids more than it ideally should. (and Schmitz Park is even worse with their portable ‘city’!) Re-drawing boundary lines in the next year or so for a new neighborhood school (i.e. Fairmount Park) will impact all of the Madison-area elementary schools but a new neighborhood school is the only way to close the flood gates of portables that continue to plague Lafayette, Schmitz Park and Gatewood.

  • Melissa Westbrook January 5, 2012 (11:34 am)

    Genessee Hill, the portables there are very old. I don’t think they are even worth moving at this point.

    Beware of selling district property because (1) the district tends to undersell (see MLK, Jr. building which still doesn’t have the community uses that were promised) and (2) once that land is gone, it’s gone.

    Pegi McEvoy said that at community meetings in West Seattle that parents wanted STEM more than Montessori. I hadn’t hear that. Did anyone attend those meetings and recall that being the number one request? I ask because the district knows how to create a Montessori program but they have never done a STEM elementary. It is also very costly to do STEM (see Cleveland where 35 of the laptops ended up in the same pawnshop).

    “…until the BEX IV levy – to raise more than half a billion dollars to build new schools, among other things…” Tracy, the district wants to ask for nearly a BILLION dollars (Between $750=800M) for the next BEX building levy. Takes your breath away, no?

    • WSB January 5, 2012 (11:46 am)

      M – The number cited yesterday/last night was “between 560 and 800 million dollars,” so I went with the conservative description of “more than half a billion.” But I know you have read more about it than I have – we’ll be paying close attention as BEX III started before we began covering West Seattle news in earnest in 2007, so I came in on that one after the train was way down the track (for readers, that’s the ballot measure that included the Denny/Sealth co-location, which some complained in 2007 had not been adequately pre-publicized). – TR

  • Cares about Kids January 5, 2012 (12:07 pm)

    I do not see why advocating for reopening a new neighborhood school for an area of West Seattle that currently does not have one (and was wronged by past school closures) is a bad thing? And not just Lafayette parents want a real solution…parents/students at other schools do too. Other parts of Seattle have reopened neighborhood schools to deal with overcapacity and those neighborhoods welcomed having their schools back (Viewlands, Sandpoint, etc.) — and it relieved pressure from other local overcrowded schools.

    Doesn’t every neighborhood deserve a neighborhood school? Or do only some get it? If past closures were misguided and our schools are clearly suffering with overcrowding as a result, then reopen a school and actually solve the problem. And allow students within a few blocks of Schmitz and Lafayette to actually attend and walk to their neighborhood school again too instead of everyone being bused around to schools far from their homes. Isn’t the enrollment plan based on having “neighborhood” schools?

    Even district officials admit openly that an option school at Boren will not solve the capacity issues…yet it is proposed as an “immediate” capacity solution for next year? I am not opposed to STEM, but to compound past mistakes in our region by another poorly thought out option school that will not relieve any pressure on WS north schools for years (if at all) is foolish and costly.

    Reopen a neighborhood school asap, give it a STEM focus so that this curriculum can eventually be exported to all WS schools that are interested, and actually solve the growing capacity problem.

  • WS Mom January 5, 2012 (12:45 pm)

    The neighborhood school (cooper) was taken away and is now occupied by another school. There is no going back from that decision. Fairmount Park is not any closer to north delridge than Lafayette.

    I also find it ironic that people who were negatively impacted by previous boundary changes are advocating for the same thing to happen to other families.

    The people at my kid’s north delridge bus stop for the most part have no idea any of this is even going on so as someone pointed out, it is a social justice issue. If boundaries are redrawn most of them will be forced to move their kids because I am guessing bussing will not be grandfathered in even if the kids are. I should just worry about myself I guess, since I have the means to drive my kid every day.

    It completely stinks that this does feel in any way adversarial. It is hard for it to not feel that way when emails go out weekly asking parents to write emails in support of my neighborhood being drawn out of the Lafayette boundary. It is not conducive to a feeling of being wanted even if it is under the guise of making things better for everyone. We should be honest about who, exactly, this is really better for.

  • Stand Together January 5, 2012 (1:25 pm)

    The families of West Seattle should stand united to demand that the district open enough new, neighborhood elementary schools to adequately serve all the kids of our community. Instead of railing against each other, we should be railing against the school district that made the terrible decisions that have put us in this situation. Overcrowded classrooms and fields of portables are NOT the way to best serve our kids. All kids in West Seattle deserve a high-quality elementary in their own neighborhood. In other areas of the city where the school district closed schools, the communities rallied together to demand that schools be reopened, and they have been. Why should it be any different in West Seattle? Let’s reopen Fairmount Park, and put a great school together there. Let’s get Cooper back and put a great school together there, too. Nothing short of reopening/opening 1-3 neighborhood elementary schools in next 1-5 years is going to come close to solving the overcrowding problem that currently exists in West Seattle. This will only occur, though, if we stop casting blame on others within our community, and focus our energy on getting what we need from the school district for ALL our kids. As for the overcrowding at Sealth, the problem could be easily rectified by improving the program at West Seattle High. Right now, there’s a complete inequity in the offerings of those two schools, with Sealth’s superior academics causing many people from the north end of West Seattle to try to go to Sealth. Again, having high-quality schools for each age group in each neighborhood will help all kids in the West Seattle community. We need to work together to make this happen for West Seattle.

  • Parent January 5, 2012 (1:43 pm)

    I don’t have much experience with this stuff but has there ever been an option to remodel and expand the existing schools. Obviously that wouldn’t solve the problem and would lean towards a long term solution but I would bet most of the schools need some major updating. Making better use of space, update technology capabilities,etc. This would allow more people to stay at their neighborhood school with the option to apply for STEM.

    • WSB January 5, 2012 (1:45 pm)

      You know what – I didn’t mention that in the story. It was noted that adding “new wings” to some schools could be part of the upcoming BEX levy. No specific schools mentioned, but definitely something the district says it’s considering, given the enrollment upswing … TR

  • Parent January 5, 2012 (1:57 pm)

    Remodeling and expanding should be more viable now that the courts have determined that the state is in violation of the law and not meeting requirements by cutting education budgets.
    It will be interesting to see how that is defined and how it will effect changes concerning our schools.

  • In the know January 5, 2012 (2:30 pm)

    Marty McLaren reached out through this excellent blog (Thank you WS Blog!) for constituents’ thoughts on the short-term capacity management proposal. Here is the original thread. It’s not too late to let her know your thoughts.

    Community meetings are in the works so stay tuned. In the meantime, Marty’s Facebook page is:!/marty4ssd

    Follow her on Twitter at Marty_SeaSchBrd.

    • WSB January 5, 2012 (3:42 pm)

      Thanks, ITK. Just a friendly reminder … WSB is a news service, not a blog. All news, no opinion, no rumors, no personal reflections … Journalist owned, operated, staffed. Someday we’ll get the b-word out of the name … but at the moment that’s more trouble than it would be worth :) [We started this 6 years ago with no idea it would become what it now is.] Meant to link back to that particular story but the tide of yesterday, going to both events at district HQ, kind of kept me jumping … TR

  • In the know January 5, 2012 (4:29 pm)

    I will grant you that, Tracy. Will have to make name change in my head.

    signed, Marty Fan

  • West Seattle Parent January 5, 2012 (5:09 pm)

    Get a 6 year lease on 12 portables, put them at every school in West Seattle that needs them (Short term) while rotating the elementary schools to Boren for two year cycles while expanding (additional wings or second floors)each current Elementary school. Opening one more school away from the exisiting area is not going to help us in 6 years. Each school need a permenant expansion (construction) to support the influx. Have we not seen more high capacity buildings in the junctions, with only more being permitted. Lets look at the long term solution beyond just opening another elementary school to only be in the same state again after the Bex levy and not properly planning to fully update our exisiting. If we fail this time the problem is going to be three fold.

    Plan: move in portables to all schools and rotate schools under upgrade construction through Boren!

  • Dad January 5, 2012 (9:54 pm)

    If I had my way, I’d break down walls around option schools and mix neighborhood with option programs. If this will be done, Pathfinder’s middle school age students could move into Madison neighborhood School, enriching its program, and open up elementary school capacity in Delridge & Pigeon Point. Likewise, the rebuilt Fairmount Park neighborhood school (the real long-term solution in WS) with an option STEAM program could relieve pressure from grossly overcrowded north West Seattle Schools. This might require a policy change, but seems like a sensible solution that serves the community equitably.

  • AH Parent January 5, 2012 (10:21 pm)

    I came across a collection of Seattle school “histories”. They show the various arrangements the district implemented throughout the years to accommodate the ebb and flow of student capacity. It’s interesting; I recommend taking a look.
    For example, here is the one for Arbor Heights –
    No doubt portables aren’t ideal. Arbor Heights has been using them since the 1950’s and these same ones are still in use (yes, they were eventually connected in an attempt to make them feel less like portables, yet they are still portables) and over 50% of our classrooms are housed here and we make it work. Sure, we’d all love a new building, yet I’d rather live with these conditions that disrupt our school communities again with boundary changes. I hope other school communities will consider the same.

  • Dad January 5, 2012 (10:29 pm)

    I really like “Active WS Parent’s” and “Stand Together’s” suggestions. Right on target and refreshing to read ideas that rise above the scrum.

  • Ear to the ground parent January 5, 2012 (10:35 pm)

    School district staff and board members, I hope you ALL are reading the article and responses. Go back 8 and 10 responses from this one and reread what Stand Together and Cares About Kids wrote – they are reasonable and reflect how I suspect the MAJORITY in WS feel. Redrawing boundaries will NEVER make everyone happy, but it needs to be done asap with grandfathering if necessary. We are overcrowded. Put a long term vision in place and fix the problem. Don’t do another shortsighted solution at Boren. The school district/ school board is using the need for consensus conveniently to foot drag and waste valuable time. We need neighborhood schools. Draw the lines and put schools back! I understand WS Mom’s frustration (~9 responses up) with the prospect of Delridge north neighborhood being jerked out of LaFayette after losing their neighborhood school. It makes the most sense to leave that area in status quo, not add insult to injury for the time being. We need to be united in getting ALL of our needs met, hard as it is with tighter budgets. There are thousands of new families about to enter the system, ready to start at a neighborhood school, not a portable – clogged campus far away. How sad that we believe we have to fight each other over scraps.

  • Neighborly January 5, 2012 (10:35 pm)

    I’d rather have a portable than 28 kids in a kindergarten class. It’s a building, not little soul who needs to be given more attention than is possible by one teacher. You can manage a class that size, but can you nurture each individual? This is the crisis that needs to be addressed with urgency. How a building looks from the outside doesn’t reflect the quality of the learning environment inside.

  • Going to be Blunt January 5, 2012 (11:13 pm)

    Sadly, I believe we are seeing a massive organized effort by the Lafayette community to redraw boundaries to ensure students in the Delridge/Pigeon Point areas are assigned elsewhere. I’m sure Lafayette isn’t happy their Seattle Schools level ranking dropped to a Level 4 (previously Level 5)and their Free & Reduced Lunch population grew to 15% (previously 12%) in a year’s time. Bringing on more socio-economically disadvantaged students has hurt their test scores and ranking (yes, test scores are usually directly correlated to socio-economics) and they are going to do whatever they can to return to making their school a little island within West Seattle.
    I’d much rather we attempt to “fix” the problem by working within the school communities that exist today before creating brand new school communities. I’d like to see how far we can get down this path before redrawing boundaries and opening new neighborhood schools. If in a few years the BEX $ becomes available again to remodel/rebuild schools where upped capacity can be handled without the use of portables.

  • Zebra (or Zulu) January 6, 2012 (6:38 am)

    It’s really quite simple. Lafayette Spectrum parents do not want to see a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) School open in West Seattle because it will draw students and resources away from their school. A STEM school at Boren or Fairmont Park will in reality have all the characteristics of a private school (e.g. Explorer West), but on the public dime. Who would send their kids to the Lafayette Spectrum program when they could get real math (i.e Singapore or Saxon), advanced science (not the District’s tired old kits), and a jump start on a career path while attending a K-5 or K-8 school?

    The only option that makes sense for West Seattle is a magnet school with some real 21st Century curriculum, led by the best science and math teachers in Seattle, guided by a community with a vision of academic empowerment for children. A STEM school in West Seattle will place the Spectrum Model into question as viable and useful…and that’s why its (Spectrum’s) proponents are fighting against it (can you say, “Club de Paris?”).

    This whole mess in West Seattle is so…well…Seattle. In the effort to please everybody, nothing gets done. Or, if something does happen, it will be too late, poorly realized, and certain to please few (if any) of us who only wish to see the best for our community. Delay a is certain death to good ideas in Seattle Public Schools. Act now! Create a STEM school.

  • Dad January 6, 2012 (7:12 am)

    I’m delighted that there’s a real discussion about viable solutions.

    The truth is, boundaries must be redrawn because there’s just not enough space in the north West Seattle’s elementary schools. I agree the transition should be community-friendly and minimize disruption though… we all know how it feels from last time– for example, allow kids to continue attending their current school, drawing new and opt-in students for the newly refurbished facility.

    Since there’s not enough time for next year and maintaining community is important, portables will have to work short term– but long term, cleaning up and reopening schools is the only viable solution for badly overcrowded West Seattle elementary schools, the worst in the city. This ought to be supported by every West Seattle parent, working together as a community.

    United we stand, divided we fall (or rather, the quality of our kids’ education will fall).

  • WS Mama January 6, 2012 (7:23 am)

    I couldn’t agree with Going to be Blunt more. Lafayette is simply upset over their scores going down and having the ‘Cooper kids’ there at their school. I have to admit our school (not Lafayette) still refers to all their problems as ‘the Cooper kids’ so I’m sure that Lafayette does too and it is wrong. Don’t fix the problem by trying to get them out.

  • 3rd Gen January 6, 2012 (8:24 am)

    Trying to stir up a race/class issue where it doesn’t exist is offensive to all the parents who are working to try to create a solution to the problem and short changes the kids who depend on this solution-WS needs new neighborhood elementary schools to handle all the kids. PERIOD. This is what the majority of parents at the two schools who have sent out surveys believe should be the solution. (Schmitz Park and Lafayette-which also have the biggest problem with overcrowding).
    * No one I have heard is talking about reassigning students in Delridge/Pigeon Point elsewhere. There should probably be a neighborhood school in the Delridge area, but it (Cooper School) was assigned to Pathfinder. Now, Lafayette is the closest school to Pigeon Point and it makes sense for kids in this neighborhood to go to Lafayette.
    * I don’t think any parents of kids at Lafayette (or any other school) are worried exclusively about test scores-only about whether these test scores are an indication that kids are not getting the education they need. In fact, Lafayette test scores were falling BEFORE the new student assignment plan changed the boundaries and have started to come back up in some areas.
    * Why should good science and math education be reserved for only a few kids who attend a special school (like a STEM option school)? All kids in WS elementary schools should have access to good math and science programs and the school should not have to get special permission to teach (as Schmitz Park has to do to teach Singapore math).

    Why should I have to choose between sending my kid to a neighborhood school or giving my kid a good education? A good STEM curriculum should be developed in WS (maybe building off Schmitz Park’s math program) and should be made available to all kids. Likewise, Spectrum should be expanded as a program at other schools to meet the need of those kids without forcing them to move away from their neighborhood school. This should not be a choice between Spectrum and STEM, it should be an effort to get kids the education they need, without massive overcrowding, at their local neighborhood school.

  • Enough Already January 6, 2012 (8:32 am)

    Call me crazy, but I am a Lafayette parent who spends a good deal of time at the school, and I have never, ever, ever heard anyone there say anything about getting the “problem kids” out. I am not alone when I say that I actually am thrilled to see some diversity in our school. But the FACT is that the school is too crowded. Period. End of Story. If the boundary redraw that made our reference area nearly 50% bigger included the Junction or Genessee Hill area or Timbuktu, we’d still be upset at how overcrowded our school is and working in an organized fashion to see a solution that works best for the whole community. There are plenty of parents there (myself included) who are excited about STEM – we just don’t think it’s going to give us any relief any time soon, and we desperately need some. STEM or no STEM, we need more community schools.

    Please, people, quit reading more into what Lafayette is up to – if your school had nearly 600 kids, and a program that worked you’d be looking for solutions that kept successful programs in place too. Stand Together and Cares About Kids are right on – we need to all come together and quit villifying Lafayette or anyone else.

  • Ear to the Ground Parent January 6, 2012 (9:00 am)

    I agree with Enough Already, Stand Together and Cares About Kids. Zebra (Zulu), and Going to Be Blunt, how can this be a race/class issue when the special ed students at LaFayette no longer have a classroom, but meet in the end of the hallway on the way to the gym? If LaFayette behaved the way you wanted, they could be accused of marginalizing their sizeable special ed population! Kids need classrooms – and not 30+ kids in part of a portable village where they are out in the rain every hour like at Schmitz Park. Neighborly, it’s not a choice between good quality vs. new bldgs anymore. The quality is rapidly deteriorating at all overcrowded WS schools. Playground space is shrinking and kids are breaking arms running into eachother. There is one boys and one girls bathroom at Schmitz Park to serve 475 kids. We need at least 2 new neighborhood schools immediately.

  • Ear to the Ground Parent January 6, 2012 (9:03 am)

    I agree with Enough Already, Stand Together and Cares About Kids. Zebra (Zulu), and Going to Be Blunt, how can this be a race/class issue when the special ed students at LaFayette no longer have a classroom, but meet in the end of the hallway on the way to the gym? If LaFayette behaved the way you wanted, they could be accused of marginalizing their sizeable special ed population! Kids need classrooms – and not 30+ kids each portable of a portable village where they are out in the rain every hour like at Schmitz Park. Neighborly, it’s not a choice between good quality vs. new bldgs anymore. The quality is rapidly deteriorating at all overcrowded WS schools. Playground space is shrinking and kids are breaking arms running into eachother. There shouldn’t be one boys and one girls bathroom to serve 475 kids. West Seattle needs at least 2 new neighborhood schools immediately.

  • jd January 6, 2012 (11:23 am)

    Bravo Stand Together! We need to come together as a strong collective group … the entire community of West Seattle and demand that each and every child receive a quality education regardless of anything. This finger pointing and criticisms of a group of people should stop. We need to take all that energy, positive and negative and unite. I believe it is in the best interest of our children if we put our personal opinions aside and act together. Would people of West Seattle regardless of the school (elementary, middle school, or high school) be willing and able to meet together in a public forum and go after the real problem … Seattle School District? Why are we arguing with each other when we need to take it up with Seattle School District that created this problem for our children. Could we meet at a community center? Enough talk … we need some concrete united action.

  • AH Parent January 6, 2012 (11:30 am)

    It would be interesting to see what school capacity would look like if every student actually attended their neighborhood school using current boundaries. For example, what percentage of AH students currently enrolled live within the AH attendance area and of the students who live outside that zone, what is their attendance area school? My guess is some of the higher capacity schools have a fairly large percentage enrolled from outside their attendance area. It would also show us if the boundaries as they stand today are truly viable without grandfathering and grandfathered sibling preferencing. We might be surprised that by redistributing that we get part way there in solving the problem.

  • Pigeon Hill Jim January 6, 2012 (11:31 am)

    As the parent of one of the Pigeon Point kids that was reassigned to LaFayette, I can happily say we have never felt that the LaFayette community wanted to throw us under the bus. We have always felt welcome there. The school is painfully overcrowded and that should be no surprise to any one. In the ham-handed school closures of two years ago (that we were all emphatically told were so essential to the district’s well being) neighborhood schools were closed and in our case Cooper was replaced by an “option” program: Pathfinder, which seems to be immune from most of this discussion. A Pathfinder parent recently told me that they were discussing a single portable there and it sounded like the apocalypse; they should ask the parents at Schmitz Park what 12 looks like. The STEM option plan while attractive on some levels is just giving cover to the board who is reluctant to wade into the boundary line mess that will obviously (see above 42 posts) get people riled up (pitchforks and torches). They need to clean up the mess they left two years ago. Nobody wants to redraw boundaries but it should be done, more kids means more schools, or at least bigger schools. I don’t know where that leaves my 2nd grader, but there are a lot of kids in West Seattle and nobody should be in an overcrowded school.

  • Going to be Blunt January 6, 2012 (1:12 pm)

    A simple, yet controversial solution would be to give Cooper back to Cooper and move Pathfinder to Boren (at least temporally). They are a community that has been and wants to be together so I don’t see this as creating a “brand new school community”. That is the one area of WS that has been left with gaping hole, without a neighborhood school, so think that the entire community would be much more accepting of redrawing the boundaries if Cooper was given their home back. In a bigger school, Pathfinder could also “take on” an additional load. Perhaps 3 classrooms per/grade vs. 2 and be part of the solution.

  • WS Mom January 6, 2012 (1:32 pm)

    I don’t want this to devolve into anger and resentment. The situation sucks. We need to find a better solution. At one meeting, some of the Lafayette capacity team members wisely spoke up about how there really needs to be a good mid and long range plan in place and putting band aids on in the short term without knowing what that will look like is not the smartest approach. I couldn’t agree more. This rush to make a decision is nuts. Why not use portables for a year while the school district and community work together to develop a good long term solution? Maybe combining the two ideas of a neighborhood school with STEAM option is truly the best approach. However, rushing to redraw boundaries will likely lead to that needing to happen again within a few years, causing upheaval and stress for families yet again. Wouldn’t it be prudent and smart not to rush this decision through in such a short time?

    Like Pigeon Point Jim, my child is a delridge area kid (not pigeon point though) who attends Lafayette. We are happy at the school and don’t want to move, which is why it has been such a bummer to see the campaign to move us out. As a west seattlite, with many friends at other schools, I would also really like to see a solution that helps everyone in west Seattle. Not just those in the north end. This is also why I think an option school is needed in some capacity whatever that looks like.

    • WSB January 6, 2012 (1:36 pm)

      I’m writing about this separately – but FYI all who are checking in on this thread, just heard from School Board member Marty McLaren, who has scheduled three community meetings, the first one tomorrow:
      Tomorrow, 1/7 at SW Library from 10 to 12
      Monday 1/9 at West Seattle Library from 10 to 12
      Saturday 1/14 at Delridge Library 11 to 1.

  • Amanda January 6, 2012 (2:29 pm)

    As a Delridge resident, I am a offended that our area is being targeted in a re-districting effort once again. It is fustrating to feel so consistently marginalized.

    As for adding schools, if a solution needs to be made for next year, then Boren needs to be opened up. There is no way the school district could plan, fund and build a school in nine months. Lobbying for no new school will only mean the overcrowding will continue because we won’t come to a solution.

    I would like to see a STEM program at Boren. It would add another high quality education option for the City of Seattle. It would activate a perfectly good building that the school district has no intention on letting go for private development. It could also help alleviate the overcrowding in more than just LaFayette.

    Another WS school would be lovely, but we need a solution ready to go within nine months. Re-drawing lines will only feed the ‘feelings’ that the Delridge district is continually targeted for neglect.

  • maplesyrup January 6, 2012 (2:51 pm)

    Wow. WS mama and Going to Be Blunt, as a Lafayette parent I’m bothered by your assertions. And aside from being untrue, they don’t add anything to the discussion.
    I have nothing against you or your kids, or any of the other kids that come to Lafayette recently. I understand that you want good schools. I want your kids to have good schools, I really do.
    But you can’t be mad at the Lafayette PTA for organizing against an illogical patchwork “solution” that would mean sending my kid to a school that is not in my neighborhood either. Plus I’ve also heard that part of the solution would be to send my kid to Jr. High in 5th grade. Would you want that? And that solution wouldn’t even solve the initial problem of overcrowding.
    I realize it’s frustrating. It is for everyone. But I would much rather see one of the schools in your area re-opened and turned into a great school. And turning a school around can be done faster than you might think. So why aren’t you fighting for that? It takes some work but it’s possible.

  • huh! January 6, 2012 (4:13 pm)

    Going to be blunt, I wholeheartedly agree. Isn’t that what “option” means? That a family CHOOSES to attend a school because they like the program? The North Delridge/Cooper area deserves their neighborhood school back.

  • huh! January 6, 2012 (4:26 pm)

    maplesyrup I’m a (recently) former Lafayette parent. I agree it was inane for someone to say “well, I know Lafayette MUST be kicking our kids out, based on no actual evidence mind you!” But I do not ascribe to the “our kids, your kids” dichotomy. What, your fifth grader couldn’t hack Madison? They could do far worse. My child is thriving at Madison (which has excellent teachers. We are blessed).

    I believe neighborhood schools must be re-established in the Delridge corridor. Shame on the idiots who ***ked us over. Cooper families must be re-enfranchised, vested in their new building; no more experimentation by central admin – c’mon, where have they successfully done STEM at elementary? A thoughtful, long-range view at the lowest cost (but that’s water under the bridge!) should lead to less pain for all concerned.

  • Parent January 6, 2012 (4:40 pm)

    While the courts are defining what the state needs to do to comply with “basic education” West Seattle parents, PTA and students should work to be heard by Olympia. Our district has too many Chefs in the kitchen and nothing is being done well (even the most basic office duties) – cut the fat and invest the money in the community schools.
    And while we are there we need to make sure we are retaining GOOD teachers with pay appropriate to their skills not just seniority.

  • Wry January 6, 2012 (6:23 pm)

    Here’s an idea — Seattle School District can rename Boren the “John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence” and move administration into the building. Then, the District can sell the existing headquarters to pay off its $50 million debt, which the District has no source of revenue to pay for without raiding the capital budget devoted to educational excellence.

  • Public School Advocate January 6, 2012 (7:54 pm)

    One of the core issues at hand is the disparity that exists within our schools on several fronts e.g. student mobility, Free/Reduced Lunch (F&R L), English Language Learners, Special Education populations, parent volunteerism, fundraising abilities, etc… Unfortunately it becomes very polarizing, yet can’t be ignored. When you have a school with >10% F&R L, >5% student mobility, 0% ELL and ~5% Special Ed, has a plethora of parent volunteers, parents that can support their student outside of classroom and can raise over $100K and contrast that to another school that has 85% F&R L, ~30% student mobility, ~30% ELL and ~25% Special Ed, very few parent volunteers, parents that struggle with the language and ability to support their student outside of class, no organized PTA and raises little to no funds it’s not hard to see the dilemma. Schools that comparatively have the resources become pitted against the schools that do not. It doesn’t seem fair, yet its reality.
    Some school districts in the country attempt to have socio-economic “balanced” schools to ensure the entire community doesn’t get to either extreme. Often a school is defined as being “balanced” by maintaining 40% or less F&R L. If it goes above this percentage it becomes an impetus for change. Also, in order to maintain this “balance” the neighborhood schools often drawn from a much larger geographical area and there are several “option” or “magnet” type schools to choose from within the area for those families that want a more specialized program. I would love to see a mock-up of this model (and others) to see how this would look in West Seattle. We need to look beyond what’s best for our school and look at what’s best for the entire community and share equitably our resources and talents.

  • Zebra (or Zulu) January 6, 2012 (9:34 pm)

    @Public Schools Advocate – 7:54

    What’s best for our community is what is best for our kids. That is, we need schools that build pathways towards high paying jobs in our community and state. Language immersion schools are a great feel-good concept, as is Montessori, but they will not build the type of long-term academic identities necessary to foster students that will one day become the technicians, engineers, chemists, geologists, hydrologists, or climatologists we will need to sustain our national economy in the future. STEM schools build future middle and upper middle class workers. Language immersion schools are side-shows to give parents the illusion they are getting a private school education on the public dime. Smoke and mirrors…self-delusion.

    It is an odd notion that we need more mushy academic programs when the standard of living for our own children is falling with each generation. We need to educate powerful, adept minds to solve big national and global problems. We don’t need more schools teaching languages that are no longer necessary to conduct international commerce or diplomacy. Do you remember when French was de rigueur? Now it is nothing more than a novelty language to all but the French and Quebecois.

    The only viable and efficacious option school in West Seattle to solve both the overcrowding problems (as a magnet school) and prepare our children for the economy of the 21st century is a STEM school. All the rest are merely feel-good solutions that have no viable or logical foundation from which to perch and bow to the gods of mediocrity. I hope West Seattle doesn’t go the way of the rest of Seattle Public Schools…more pabulum…more procrastination.

  • Marty McLaren January 6, 2012 (9:34 pm)

    I’m very thankful for the WSB and those of you who have contributed to this dialogue. Your genuine concern for all of our children is very clear. You’re making all of us readers stretch to think more deeply and broadly about how to solve these complex issues — reasonably, equitably, and imaginatively. It’s difficult, painstaking work, and I see this as the way we will create more great schools for our children in West Seattle, and continue to strengthen and support those already in place.

  • why not January 6, 2012 (9:51 pm)

    Why not put the STEM option school at the former Cooper campus? Give Pigeon pt. families the option to enroll in an option school in their neighborhood (imagine that)or stay at LaFayette – their choice. This might start to remedy the mess this community has endured. A STEM option school at the old cooper site might also draw from overcrowded schools north and south better than the Boren site would. But this idea would require that Pathfinder move to Boren until a permanent site is found. Pathfinder could take the bullet. One school population unhappy, majority happy, overcrowding starts to wane. Has the district ever managed better happy/unhappy ratios? (poetic justice too) Then draw lines and open Fairmount in 2013. Just too many kids in West Seattle not to.

  • WSB January 6, 2012 (10:31 pm)

    A reminder of WSB rules: We don’t require you to use your real name in the comment section – though you are more than welcome to do so! – but once you have chosen a “handle” for any particular story’s comment section, you need to stick to that name. We see the IP and e-mail addresses showing the same person behind multiple names but others might think those multiple names are really multiple people, which is not appropriate, so we will delete – or, if the filter catches it, not approve – any subsequent comment you make with a different handle. Feel free to resubmit with the same handle you previously used, as multiple comments by any one participant are welcome, just as long as it’s clear they are from the same person. We have just noticed this problem turning up in this thread so we’re issuing this reminder. – TR

  • Cares about Kids January 6, 2012 (11:18 pm)

    What is the long term plan for solving capacity in West Seattle? How can we work together to achieve it?
    I am very grateful for Director McLaren’s proposed amendment to postpone opening a STEM school. The district is rushing into this “immediate” capacity “solution” because they need to avoid paying extra for retro fit money on Boren’s facility, and the district is planning on giving WS schools the same amount of new portables regardless because they know it will not fix any of our capacity problems.
    Thank you Director McLaren for listening and for taking the time to work with your constituents to begin to craft a real long term solution.
    For example, none of us know what the feeder plan is for this proposed STEM school at Boren into middle school and high school. Will it be a K-8 that then feeds into Cleveland Highschool’s STEM program? Does West Seattle realize that right now there is no plan nor guarantee for a West Seattle “track” for STEM in middle school and high school but it might be a quiet strategy for relieving pressure from Sealth by metro busing WS high school STEM kids to Cleveland? And that there is no model for a STEM for the young elementary school aged kids?
    Does this STEM school eventually move into another WS building in a future year thereby limiting our region’s options for reopening a neighborhood school that would actually relieve pressure from local overcrowded schools? Or does it stay at Boren? I’d like the district to share openly what the plan is…because we’ve suffered enough from a lack of foresight in our region.
    It’s not easy to fix past mistakes and clearly not everyone will be happy…but if we take the time to work together to restore neighborhood schools where they’ve been closed mistakenly, do it in a way that takes care of communities that have been through too much already (grandfather with busing to ease the transition for existing families for example), and work together to make every school in WS great for every kid.

  • Brontosaurus January 6, 2012 (11:20 pm)

    As the parent of a 2012/2013 Kindergartener, I feel like I’m jumping onboard a sinking ship (with everyone desperately trying to plug the leaks and keep it afloat). I just read this whole discussion and thought “arghhh!” Guess I’d better don a life jacket and plunge in with everyone else. Let’s see. I want my kid to go to Pathfinder but he probably won’t get in because EVERYONE wants to go there, and even if he does get in, they might give the Cooper building back to Cooper so then he’d move to Boren. Our neighborhood school is Gatewood so we know he’d get in there, but we live close to Fairmount Park so he’ll probably get moved in 2nd grade when they reopen that school and redraw the boundaries!

  • Caprial January 7, 2012 (8:00 am)

    I’m just curious…if STEM is an “option” school (another term for “alternative”) and Seattle Schools is a “public” school district…don’t those terms create “private” school conotations?

    That being said, why didn’t the idea of combining APP with Spectrum creating an “Option” program (because you don’t “have” to enroll in it) and placing those peers together in a newly re-opened building come up?

    I don’t think the school district has the funds to not only develop a new option program, but to also open more buildings. The advanced programs are functioning, why not let them function together? Something to think about.

  • Dad January 7, 2012 (9:10 am)

    Brontosaurus, I hope the board will solve your quandary in a way that is kind to your kindergartner and results in a great school to attend, whatever happens. The School District made a big mistake two years ago by closing schools based on inaccurate population data, allocated capital improvement funds out of our neighborhood as we were in the midst of a baby boom. Children in West Seattle suffer from that bad projection and its inequitable funding.

    I hope WS parents unite and insist, demand a real solution to solve and make up for damage done, rather than acquiescing to District Staff proposals that don’t solve our problem, but heap insult on top of injury and make neighbors squabble like fools and suckers. Correcting it will require insistence by WS parents and an honest sense of fairness by the elected board members by funding real solutions serving our neighborhood, with a kid-friendly approach to make changes gradually, not threatening an abrupt, mean transition that divides community or leaves us with poor quality schools.

  • Holli January 7, 2012 (4:13 pm)

    Why is Pathfinder the step-child in this debate? It serves many neighborhood families. I don’t have percentages, but our bus stop in N. Delridge serves 8 kids, and it’s a full bus, with ours being the second stop (believe there’s 3 total for N.Delridge).

    My point is that many suggest pushing a one school out, because it’s an “option school” but disregard the empty schools in West Seattle.

  • pjmanley January 7, 2012 (6:06 pm)

    @Holli: As I’ve stated before, Pathfinder at Cooper was a good building choice for Pathfinder, but a bad location choice, because of how it displaced a growing population of kids on the perimeter of the W.S. cluster, which worsens over time. Solving one problem created multiple others. Bad move in the long run, from a demographic standpoint. Option programs must be centralized to be equitably located and available, AND to avoid the musical chairs scenarios like we have now. Such population moves are mitigated by centralized locations, and exacerbated by perimeter locations. When they approved the P to C move in 2008, it went directly against district policy of locating alt/option programs in central locations. That’s my .02 on that.

    Otherwise, I implore my neighbors to stop the vilifying and bickering about Lafayette parents. I was one once, and I fought to keep Cooper kids at Cooper in 2008 and to get Pathfinder a new building instead of moving them there. Everyone involved knew Lafayette would be immediately, severely overcrowded, but they did it anyways, all in the name of “Capacity Management.” Can you believe it? And here we are today. The only thing that will right the ship is hard work, cooperation, collaboration, and some horse-trading when necessary, among neighbors and friends.

    If you don’t hang together, you’ll damn sure hang separately. Remember that.

    • WSB January 7, 2012 (6:18 pm)

      FYI for anyone interested, I did cover this morning’s meeting with Marty McLaren. I counted 17 members of the public, which is pretty good for those informal gatherings (I’d covered several during Steve Sundquist’s tenure, mostly when hot topics were before the board). When they went around the room, there were parents from a variety of schools – more north end, no surprise, but Schmitz Park came up much more than Lafayette, for a variety of reasons which hopefully our forthcoming story will detail. There is no major headline from the meeting aside from – if you have something to say about this issue, especially if that something is what you think the district SHOULD do now, more than what it should NOT do, be sure to speak up ASAP. – TR

  • lynn January 7, 2012 (7:34 pm)

    Takes me back to 20 years ago when the district was in a mess with busing and switching programs around. Those of us that were able moved out of the district or went private. As a parent of 2 middle schoolers, I didn’t want to take a chance on the quality of their education in Seattle. Best choice I ever made for them.

  • Dad January 7, 2012 (8:05 pm)

    That’s a good point Holli. I brought up an idea about Pathfinder myself, just thinking, but wish I hadn’t. Sorry about that. I think Marty’s statement above is a thoughtful and healthy approach, “I see this as the way we will create more great schools for our children in West Seattle, and continue to strengthen and support those already in place.” This is truly what we need.

  • pjmanley January 7, 2012 (9:05 pm)

    @Dad: Well stated.
    @Brontosaurus: Argh & Ugh. I feel for you. I really do. When will the uncertainty end, if ever? I so wish the district will abandon it’s “right sizing” Capacity Management approach that missed the mark by roughly 1000 kids in West Seattle alone, when they started closing schools instead of preparing them for the onslaught of youngsters in the schools today.
    And imagine what the space demands will be in 2020, 2030 and beyond, as the district today sells “surplus” properties to close budget gaps. What will it cost to acquire land for the 2 or 3 new High Schools we’ll need in the future? Perhaps they’ll occupy floors in a downtown high-rise? Or I guess there’s always Ipads & online schools. (Where will their sports teams practice? Will they compete via Kinect? If not, we’re nuts to sell “surplus” district properties. We could sure use some foresight at SPS.

  • Katie January 7, 2012 (10:36 pm)

    I am confused that in all this talk about Lafayette, why hasn’t there been any discussion of moving the Spectrum program out of Lafayette.

    Spectrum is an option program and one of the reasons why Lafayette is over-crowded. If Spectrum moved, then you wouldn’t need to change the boundaries. You could easily move Spectrum to Boren and then co-house the 1-5 Spectrum program with the new STEM program. Seems like a win-win. The new school has a cohort and Lafayette is right sized and Pigeon hill keeps their school.

    Is this even an option?

  • Dad January 8, 2012 (2:51 pm)

    Moving Spectrum was proposed, but got shot down as a bad idea for many reasons. Personally, I think it’s much better to preserve and protect programs that work well and instead focus on changing those that do not work well or could work better.

  • pjmanley January 8, 2012 (7:34 pm)

    I’d have to see today’s numbers, but when my daughter was at Lafayette, far more than 50% of the Spectrum kids lived within the Lafayette boundary, so Lafayette was their neighborhood school anyways. Dad’s right: Better to emulate and replicate strong programs instead of moving them out and around. Wherever you move Spectrum will likely become overcrowded too, so moving a program is only kicking the problem down the road. Should we add another Spectrum program at Boren or Highland Park? Maybe worth considering.

  • E16GWest January 12, 2012 (1:38 pm)

    if the numbers show West Seattle needs 2 more elementary schools by 2013 where should those be established? Note: SPS wont build anything before 2014 and Genesee Hill cant be occupied due to its condition. Boren is a fast, quality option and STEM there would be an asset. Fairmont needs repair and improvements but could reopen as a neighborhood school in 2013 with community support. The vote on 1/18 is only about Boren in respect to moving towards easing growing enrollment in West Seattle. New boundaries for West Seattle are not part of the Action Report being voted on at the Jan 18th meeting. Thats a whole new petition for action. Anyone drafting that petition?

Sorry, comment time is over.