Seattle Public Schools’ BEX IV levy possibilities: Merge Roxhill and Arbor Heights? Move Schmitz Park?

One week from today, Seattle Public Schools will bring its touring meeting about the BEX IV levy to West Seattle. That levy is meant to generate construction money – as BEX III did (with its projects including the Denny International Middle School rebuild and Chief Sealth International High School renovations). Some of the ideas proposed for West Seattle are new, as first reported in Melissa Westbrook‘s coverage of a School Board work session yesterday on

From the presentation, which you can see here, possibilities include building a new school at Arbor Heights Elementary and merging Roxhill Elementary and Arbor Heights there; building a new school for Schmitz Park Elementary on the Genesee Hill campus; reopening Fairmount Park Elementary (maybe as a permanent home for the school opening this fall as K-5 STEM at Boren); reopening E.C. Hughes (also a possible home for K-5 STEM), which is currently leased to Westside School (WSB sponsor); building an addition to West Seattle Elementary.

No one possible “scenario” includes all of the above; the district is trying to settle on a philosophical direction for the levy. Of the scenarios currently on the table, the cost range for voters would be between half a billion and $855 million dollars. We have a message out to West Seattle’s school-board director Marty McLaren to ask about the briefing.

In the meantime, if you are interested, the BEX IV feedback meeting for West Seattle is next Thursday, April 5th, 6:30 pm, at Denny International Middle School (see the original announcement in our events-calendar listing). Whatever form the levy takes, it will go to voters next year.

ADDED 11:38 PM: We haven’t heard back from Marty McLaren yet, but a WSB’er did forward us a post on her public e-mail discussion list in which she addressed the BEX IV proposals (we didn’t know about the list but we’re subscribing now – subscription info is here). Read on for the entirety of her post, which includes a little more background on the AH/Roxhill merger rationale, and dates/times for her 3 upcoming community conversations:

The draft of the BEX IV Levy Proposal has just been published at (link). It shows a lot of focus on West Seattle’s overcrowded elementary schools, and some of our deteriorating buildings. You may already have heard – in the three scenarios, some of the possibilities are: re-opening Fairmount Park, building a new Schmitz Park at the Genesee Hill site, re-opening the Hughes building, (where Westside School is now situated – there is surely some concern about this idea), a new addition to West Seattle Elementary, and, there is a new option being presented– the idea of merging Arbor Heights and Roxhill in a new building on the Arbor Heights site, to open in 2017. I do wish that community members as well as instructional staff at the two schools had been able to consider this last concept earlier.

I also want take this opportunity to thank all of you who have put in uncounted hours on the Facilities and Capacity Management Advisory Committee, as well as those who have tirelessly advocated for years so that our urgent issues became visible to the community as well as the school district. You know who you are, and we all owe you a debt of gratitude.

Arbor Heights and Roxhill? I first heard of this concept just 3 weeks ago. I was immediately intrigued because it solved several issues at once – both buildings are in deplorable condition, and, although they’re only 1.4 miles apart, the program needs in each building are extremely uneven. I’ve learned that both principals believe that there may be many advantages to merging. And, apparently there are already several very successful elementary schools of similar size (over 550 students) in nearby districts.

Because the BEX IV rollout was imminent when this suggestion emerged, there was no time to gather input about the concept from the community. Just last Friday, I learned that both Facilities and Finance staff in the School District see this as a viable and desirable option, because it would address the extreme deterioration of both buildings, and because merging the schools would reduce operating costs significantly. Although there hasn’t been opportunity yet for instructional staff at the two schools to weigh in on the idea, or for community conversation, there will be several chances for community dialogue in April.

We will have four community meetings in West Seattle to talk about BEX IV, with its three draft proposals for the whole city – first will be the initial presentation by district staff on April 5th, and then I have three more meetings scheduled. The three additional community meetings will allow time for in-depth, authentic dialogue about all the possibilities suggested, and whether any of them or some hybrid or new view of the three scenarios will be a good option for West Seattle.

I’m looking forward to a robust conversation in the West Seattle community.
The upcoming meetings are:

BEX IV presentation, Denny International Middle School: April 5th, 6:30 to 8:00 PM

Community Meetings with Marty McLaren:
Tuesday, April 10, 1:15 to 3:15 pm
Delridge Branch Library
5425 Delridge Way SW

Tuesday, April 24th 1:00 to 2:30 PM
Southwest Branch Library
9010 35th Ave SW

Sunday, April 29th, 1:15 – 3:00 PM
West Seattle Branch Library
2306 42nd Ave SW

I’m inquiring about support with translators from Neighborhood House for one of the meetings, and/or about scheduling an additional community gathering at High Point. If any of you has other suggestions for successful outreach to the broader parent community, for participation in this important conversation, please let me know.

I hope to see you at one or more of our meetings.

Marty McLaren

ADDED EARLY SATURDAY: For the record, director McLaren did send a reply to us the day we wrote this story – but our mailbox didn’t yield it till now! There was one note of interest regarding Schmitz Park – she says that one potential advantage to the idea of building a new school at Genesee Hill instead of at SP is, “If we build on the Genesee Hill site, we don’t have to close Schmitz Park during construction.” As for what would happen to the current SP building, she says, “it remains to be seen.” And she cautions that regarding all proposals that have surfaced so far, “none of this is set in stone.”

29 Replies to "Seattle Public Schools' BEX IV levy possibilities: Merge Roxhill and Arbor Heights? Move Schmitz Park?"

  • foo March 29, 2012 (4:43 pm)

    I thought that kicking Westside school out of Hughes was off the table, and now it’s popped back up again :-(

  • Teacher March 29, 2012 (4:48 pm)

    I was just told, while working in my classroom, that the school district is proposing merging Arbor Heights and Roxhill. I had to see for myself and there it was on the West Seattle Blog. Why were we not consulted before this was made public?

    • WSB March 29, 2012 (5:34 pm)

      Teacher – Probably would be a good question for your principal. According to Melissa W’s writeup, the principals at least had been consulted. I hadn’t heard word 1 about this before reading her website very very early this morning (aka late last night) and following the link to the presentation, but it sure seems like something that people should hear about BEFORE attending next week’s meeting and being asked, possibly, to comment on it. Don’t know how much revision this presentation will go through, if any, before that meeting … TR

  • Snow Wimp March 29, 2012 (4:53 pm)

    Great idea about building a new school on the beautiful Genesee Hill campus. Gorgeous campus.

    Just wonder what the doggie downer off-leash owners will do. Oh, that should open up the former Schmitz Park site for their selfish doggie interests. All on our dime, of course. Tear the signs and gates down and let your doggies roam.

    Never mind.

  • wsea March 29, 2012 (4:56 pm)

    Humm.. How is a new Fairmount school going to help reduce Lafayette capacity? I don’t see any redistricting in the powerpoint but maybe I missed that comment. I would gladly pay more (double the amount suggested) to improve the public school situation but I just don’t see the benefit. I would rather see tutors (at least one at Lafayette) and teacher aids.

  • Neighborly March 29, 2012 (6:25 pm)

    Is there any truth to the understanding that Schmitz Park Elementary’s property was given to SPS with the covenant that there be a school adjacent to the park? If so, I wonder if they plan on rebuilding there, or keeping it as an interim site.

  • Mike March 29, 2012 (7:12 pm)

    Snow wimp, please enlighten us as to what costs a dog owner has caused you? I’ve had to tell kids not to hit my kid at the playground, yet to have any issue with a pet there.

  • saropa March 29, 2012 (7:19 pm)

    Can someone with an ounce of wisdom, long-range vision, knowledge of West Seattle schools, and common sense PLEASE run for school board? Or at least will the SPS think about the big picture before throwing out dramatic ideas? Are they just itching to push buttons and see who balks? It’s really no way to administrate.

    AND Please: can’t we all stop fighting over crumbs and address the stolen pie? National and state governments need to support and fund education. Small class-size neighborhood schools with full academic and arts curriculum in state-of-the-art buildings. Enough of the petty rearrangement of chairs on the Titanic. It’s time to rethink the education strategy of our county and march on D.C.!

  • SMP March 29, 2012 (9:03 pm)

    I can’t imagine they would kick-out Westside after negotiating in good faith for what I think is a 10+ year lease. That would be pretty low blow to all those families who have fixed up the school.

  • add March 29, 2012 (9:06 pm)

    @saropa – LIKE!
    @smp – I believe it was a 5 year lease. But still.

  • Former SP instructor March 29, 2012 (9:39 pm)

    @ Mike – perhaps you’ve had no issue with pets at SP because playground employees or the school custodian had already scooped dog poop off the grounds and washed it off the big toy before your child arrived at school? It was an ongoing problem – hence the signs on the fence. We had to fight to get those signs.

  • gypsyhippie March 29, 2012 (10:24 pm) redone while arbor heights and roxhill Become extinct??????? Not fair

  • New AH March 29, 2012 (10:56 pm)

    I am re-posting my comment from the Save Seattle Schools blog for further West Seattle thoughts and insights…
    I agree that the number of kids at Roxhill plus the number of kids at Arbor Heights is more than the 600 reported, and a “mega-elementary” is NOT what we need.  And from what I understand, don’t know for sure, the 2012/13 incoming Kindergarteners are a large group across West Seattle.

    And doesn’t Roxhill house a self contained program for students with Autism? I don’t imagine that parents of these students would want their kids program in a huge “Mega”school? I too am interested to hear from Roxhill families on a potential merger with AH. My initial thoughts are keep Roxhill open where it is and make necessary building and program improvements. Or keep Roxhill open where it is and continuing the self contained Autism program at the new AH building.

    At Arbor Heights Elementary, build a new school to replace arguably one of the two worst buildings in the entire district. Create a designated Spectrum program (and actually develop and fund it…) at Arbor Heights that Spectrum qualified students from all over West Seattle can attend. The newly formed AH Spectrum program is already trying to gain momentum. AH neighborhood kids who qualify for Spectrum could get priority seating in that program if capacity became an issue. And keep the rest of the AH population for neighborhood boundary kids and as a choice school for other students as space permits. Consider a space in the new building for a self-contained Autism program for kids from all over West Seattle.

    Give Arbor Heights Spectrum program students a path/option to go to Madison for middle school and the rest of AH students go to Denny. Parents who have more than one child, and may have one in Spectrum and one not in Spectrum, can have the choice if they want one at Madison or to keep the siblings together at Denny.

    Arbor Heights Elementary can go from historically being on the closure list (and impressively being saved by the neighborhood), to subsequently being termed “The Dump,” to being a gem in SPS.  Add a waiver for Everyday Math, and AH will tough to beat.

  • AH Parent March 29, 2012 (11:24 pm)

    I too am re-posting 2 comments I made on the Save Seattle Schools Blog.

    I’m a bit befuddled as to why the district is proposing the merger of Arbor Heights and Roxhill. Given the enrollment at these two schools the population would be around 750, not around 600 as reported earlier. AH currently has 364 and Roxhill 377. If you take the total # of SPS K-5 students living within both of these attendance areas you get close to 800 potential students. That’s not the size elementary school we should be pushing. Even Dir. Kay Smith-Blum spoke about making middle schools smaller (between 500-700 students) at the last School Board Meeting. How does it make sense to make mega-sized elementary schools while reducing the size of middle schools?

    One thing that hasn’t been addressed is what happens to the Schmitz Park campus if that program gets moved to Genesse Hill?
    Do you think the district would consider moving Pathfinder to the SP site (SP backs up to Schmitz Preserve Park with old growth forest, walking paths, hiking and nature study — just the things Pathfinder wanted) and return Cooper back to Cooper as a neighborhood school. That’s the area of WS that geographically needs a neighborhood school. Unlikely senario, yet something to consider.
    I always thought that the district would build a new school for Roxhill on the old Denny site or move them to EC Hughes, not combine them with Arbor Heights. AH in a new building would certainly draw more neighborhood families back to the school that “go private” or attend other SPS schools. Right now if EVERY SPS K-5 student living in the AH attendence area went to AH we’d be at 432. I’d love to see what that # would be if K-5 students in private or going out of district e.g. Vashon were included. It would probably soar to well over 500.

  • Nick March 29, 2012 (11:59 pm)

    If you wanna re-do Schmitz, that’s fine. But please don’t move the school! It wouldn’t even be Schmitz Park anymore! It’s already in an awesome location, if you’re gonna re-do it, re-do it where it is!!!

  • Charlestown Hill Residents March 30, 2012 (9:13 am)

    I second Nick’s comments.

  • Yeah-me March 30, 2012 (10:46 am)

    I, like Neighborly, believe that there is a covenant in place regarding that the use of the Schmitz Park land was given to the city with explicit directives that it be used as a neighborhood school.

  • MB March 30, 2012 (12:02 pm)

    horrible horrible idea!

  • parent March 30, 2012 (12:07 pm)

    1) doesn’t this BEXIV levy need to be voted in by the voters? if it does not, then what?
    * * *
    2) 2017 and beyond is a long time from now. I bet most if not all our current elementary kids won’t see or minimally experience the changes to AH/Roxhill. So I choose not to get worked up over it.

    • WSB March 30, 2012 (12:30 pm)

      Parent – it does, but so far, school levies seem to be pretty much shoo-ins around here, so if there is anything of concern, getting involved before it is finalized for the ballot might be wise, for those who are interested. We were not doing WS news when BEX III was being put together in 2006, but wound up covering the fallout in 2007 when people said they hadn’t really been aware that the ballot included co-locating a middle school (Denny) and high school (Sealth), something the district had never done before, and months of controversy ensued – AFTER the ballot measure had passed. This time around, we are determined to do our part to at least help make sure information is out there while there is a chance for people to be involved, whether they love the proposals, hate them, want to propose other options, whatever. In the 2007-2008 case, though the co-location went forward as planned, there were some changes made along the way, including additional renovation work for Sealth, that were considered to be the result of citizens (including some teachers, as I recall) getting involved and speaking out … TR

  • New AH March 30, 2012 (2:26 pm)

    @parent, not in my case, I’m potentially looking 8 years at AH Elementary until 2021! Also effects of a great or lousy elementary school in the neighborhood could have measurable impact on house values and direction of the community well beyond that. I hear your point though, I was always already about three years out the door before improvements were completed at my alma maters. Not as exciting.

  • Snow Wimp March 30, 2012 (7:07 pm)


    I have problems when dog owners tear down “no dogs allowed” signs on Public School property. Then, let their dogs run free on said property. No leashes. That is a problem to ME. The lazy dog owners using OUR land for their own selfish interests. Even when it is clearly posted “No Dogs.” I guess if you tear down the signs, it is OK. Well, sorry, not to me.

    I guess if one tears down all the speed limit signs, one can go as fast as one wants, HUH?

    That, Mike, is my problem. People using PUBLIC LAND for their OWN SELFISH interests. And, yes, Mike, that applies to “Snickersville.” Public land grabbbed for SELFISH interests. Yes, PUBLIC LAND grabbed for SELFISH INTERESTS.

  • Mike March 31, 2012 (12:19 am)

    Snow Wimp, I’ve never seen one of those signs torn down. Perhaps you blame dog owners when you might look at kids that like to steal random crap for their bedroom for fun (I remember the kids in school that would do that stuff). BTW, it’s not ‘no dogs allowed’ the rules are they need to be on leash and the owner must have on their body a bag to pick up poop, not while school or school funded activities are going on, that’s ‘the law’. I too get annoyed with people that allow their dogs to crap and leave it, even if it’s not on school grounds. Your dog, you pick it up and dispose of it in the appropriate manner (ideally not my garbage can, which has become a community disposal site, even for peoples personal granola bar wrappers which never seem to make it INTO the garbage can) <– see, I hate humans
    Former SP instructor, my daughter does not attend school yet, she's too young for public school. However, I also have not seen dog waste on a playground and I'm there when the dogs are typically there. Not sure what your custodians are doing, I do find balls (labeled with the schools name on it), coats, gloves, shoes, etc…

  • WSMOM March 31, 2012 (8:30 am)

    I can’t believe the sterotyping and yes, I’ll say racisim I’ve enountered here in WS. And it’s really dishearting.

    I hear comments like: your child goes to AH, that’s the WORST school in the district! I don’t want my child going there. Of course these people don’t send their child there, therefore don’t see all the hard working staff, families and staff. Yes, the building is a dump – but the people are not!

    I also hear people wanting to avoid “that area” of West Seattle as a reason not to go to STEM, Denny, Sealth — they act as if it’s Compton. They comment “those kids” would be intermixed with the others if Roxhill and AH merged. Is this really the majority opinion? How sad if it is. How sad that at the elementary level these kids alreay don’t have a chance because adults are labeling and assuming their future based on societies fears and sterotypes that are not true. IE: what they look like and where they live.

    Yes, some schools have a ‘reputation’ and issues -I ask, which shcool doesn’t? How many stories have we heard on the news about “upper economic” areas in the Greater Seattle Area where kids are selling drugs, there are drug houses, etc. For sure not one of “those areas”.

    Again, just very sad and disheartening.

  • D-mom March 31, 2012 (3:26 pm)

    Add and SMP – For the record, Westside’s lease is 10 years and it started in 2010. We would very much like to hold on to our school at EC Hughes as well as create good schools for all kids in West Seattle.

  • goodgraces April 1, 2012 (11:22 pm)

    I was wondering how far down into this comment thread I’d have to read before Pathfinder came up. Answer: #14! Well, we couldn’t have a post on the WSB about Seattle Public Schools without someone, somewhere bringing up Pathfinder and its location. It just wouldn’t be right!

    The irony of @AH Parent’s suggestion is just a bit too much for this weary SPS parent: Move those lucky Schmitz Park familes out of their (aging) facility into Pathfinder’s former location (Genessee Hill) — yet give the SP families a brand spankin’ new facility there! And THEN move Pathfinder into the site that SP fled in favor of fancy new digs.

    Yes, let’s move Pathfinder for the second time in 4 years. We “alternative school” families are just the epitome of flexibility and resilience. That would solve everyone’s problems. Why didn’t *I* think of that!

  • wondering April 2, 2012 (2:30 pm)

    I wonder what the school situation would be like now if AH was allowed to close when the district wanted it to years ago?
    If the chips were allowed to “fall where they may” then, all the AH parents might have want they want now instead of yet again feeling “under attack” from SPS. The school is still in the same if not worse deplorable condition it was then, and now tearing it down with a combo option isn’t making the AH community happy either. What would?

  • Nick Esparza April 2, 2012 (5:19 pm)

    First of all I would like to hear Marty McLaren answer on this blog personally and not by proxy of Rod Clark. I know Marty personally and I am sure there is more to this than meets the eye as those comments do not really seem like her. This is bigger than Math and APP, and STEM, because again it involves the District disrupting actual people’s lives. With no advanced warning. Without REALLY using community input. In the end the District will do what it wants. Instead of righting the previous wrongs, they continue to throw more bad, disruptive, hurtful ideas at the wall in hopes that something will stick.
    Second, This whole mess started with the closure of Cooper. Now with the advent of a STEM elementary, does West Seattle really need two options schools, which will increase transportation costs for the District? Do we need to continue to support the option school, Pathfinder which is in step 5 of failing AYP? If we must insist upon keeping that program on life support, move it to the Boren building and call it an option hub, give Delridge its school, and stop trying to tweak with every other successful West Seattle program in order to prop up a failing one.
    Three, this community has spent too much time and energy exalting APP at the expense of General Education. The majority of students don’t even get into APP or STEM, so resources are not fairly allocated in this regard. General Ed students are not second class citizens. The classism in this community astounds me. So much for so few at the expense of many
    Oh yeah, it’s not their money…

  • ahmom April 4, 2012 (11:45 am)

    As an Arbor Heights parent and proud member of the Arbor Heights community, I would like to address the question of “What would make the AH community happy?” I would be very happy if our neighborhood and our school were treated with respect by the district. We have a great community with a building that is horrible. Why not ask the district for a new building? Why don’t we deserve a safe place for our kids to go to school? And by the way, yes, we will fight the district because it is blatantly disrespectful to assume that because we live in a poorer end of West Seattle, we are alright with being shoved aside. Neither school deserves to be swept under the carpet in a numbers crunching game. It would be super nice to have a rich donor give both Roxhill and Arbor Heights new buildings, but we aren’t in that position. What we at Arbor Heights have are active parents who are able to do a lot with very little. We have been able to pull our school up by the bootstraps, so to speak, without a deep pocketed PTA. Our test scores are improving. We have a fantastic new principal who has been able to help motivate our community. Why is it unfair to ask for a new school, so that we can continue to grow as a community. Why is it unfair to want to have a neighborhood that would benefit from a new school? I see nothing wrong with demanding this of the district. Arbor Heights is a great neighborhood and we deserve a wonderful new school.

Sorry, comment time is over.