Video: Arbor Heights questions dominate school-levy meeting

Just getting Arbor Heights Elementary rebuilt isn’t enough, community members told Seattle Public Schools officials during the BEX IV levy community briefing/comment meeting Thursday night at Denny International Middle School – it needs to be rebuilt sooner than the possible 2018 date mentioned in draft proposals. “We can’t wait,” said one mom. (District officials acknowledged that capacity issues are taking precedence over school-condition issues in planning of this levy.)

If you’re looking for touchpoints in the video – the first 26 minutes were taken up by procedural points and backstory; then there were 8 minutes of presentation about the 3 currently proposed options (see them here), bringing the video to the 34-minute mark, at which point the district officials on hand began answering questions, first written, then, at 48 minutes into the meeting, open-mike.

Following up on the Tuesday night meeting at Arbor Heights (WSB coverage here) at which AH and Roxhill Elementary‘s principals expressed surprise that two of the three first-draft “options” call for closing Roxhill and “merging” it into AH, assistant superintendent Pegi McEvoy acknowledged that what started as an idea in casual conversation was “moving fast.”

Capital projects/planning director Lucy Morello said, “If the community really doesn’t want to co-locate Roxhill and Arbor Heights, we won’t do that,” but added that no scenario has enough money to rebuild Roxhill as well as AH. Morello said they could take a look at the idea of moving Roxhill to E.C. Hughes (which Roxhill principal Carmela Dellino mentioned during Tuesday night’s meeting at AH).

At about an hour and five minutes into the meeting, a mom identifying herself as an immigrant stood up and said she wanted to know who is going to advocate for the Roxhill community and its large population of immigrants and low-income, multiple-job-breadwinner families who cannot mobilize as easily as the Arbor Heights parents who filled the room on Thursday night.

There also were questions with no answers, such as, where would the K-5 STEM school opening this fall at Boren be located permanently? Maybe a reopened Fairmount Park or Hughes, but nothing’s been decided, district reps said.

WHAT’S NEXT: This was the second of three general briefings/public-comment meetings being held around the city this month – the final one is next Tuesday, 6:30 pm, at Mercer Middle School on Beacon Hill. Here’s the online feedback form to tell the district what you think about what they’re circulating for BEX IV so far. (McEvoy also mentioned an environmental-impact meeting regarding BEX IV for April 11th – we’ll be checking on that later today.) Whatever winds up in the final version of the levy – current options range in cost from $500+ million to $800+ million – it’s expected to go to voters in February 2013.

ADDED FRIDAY MORNING 9:58 AM: Here’s the district news release we just received about the environmental-impact meeting:

Seattle Public Schools will hold a public meeting on Wednesday, April 11, to discuss the Environmental Impact Statement process now being conducted for the Building Excellence Program, Phase IV.

Date: Wednesday, April 11
Time: 7-8 p.m.
Place: John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence, 2445 3rd Ave. S., Seattle 98124.

The meeting will provide information on the BEX IV Environmental Impact Statement process, content and schedule. The Draft EIS will be published for public comment on Monday, April 9, and the comment period will extend through May 9. The Draft EIS will be published and available for review at the Seattle Public Schools District office in hard copy and CD. The District is providing a CD to each of the city’s branch libraries and the Central Library.

The evening’s agenda includes a description of the alternatives being considered for BEX IV, an overview of the EIS, and opportunity for members of the public to ask questions of the environmental team.

The Building Excellence capital program enables Seattle Public Schools to continue renovations and improvements to the buildings. While the public is still weighing in on the three levy options, the district needs to move forward with the environmental impact process. The School Board will vote in October on the final list of projects for the levy, which goes before voters in February 2013. To see the current options for BEX IV, visit The public can also take an online survey about the three options.

In addition to the April 11 public meeting, Seattle Schools will hold a public hearing on the Draft EIS on May 3 at 7 p.m., also at the John Stanford Center.

44 Replies to "Video: Arbor Heights questions dominate school-levy meeting"

  • A Parent April 6, 2012 (7:17 am)

    One word: lawsuit. I never hear this come up. Does the district really think they wouldn’t get one should – God forbid – a lot of kids/faculty come down with long term health issues from being exposed to the mold, and other issues at Arbor Heights? The electrical is daisy-chained. What about a fire?
    I would be willing to donate funds to have a Seattle health inspector come out and look at the school.

  • Another Parent April 6, 2012 (7:31 am)

    I agree with A Parent. I would donate funds for the health inspector too.

  • Another AH Mom April 6, 2012 (7:53 am)

    So it sounds like they are basically saying that they don’t care about Roxhill and they just have to ‘settle’ for a crappy school? Is Schmitz Park in as bad shape as AH and Roxhill? I don’t think so. They are over capacity, which could be easily fixed with boundary changes.

  • AH Parent April 6, 2012 (7:59 am)

    I was at the meeting last night and spoke out about the school district having just that…a health inspector come to AH. My question to the district was, “do you ever have health inspectors provide the district with consult inspections of schools before BEX levy planning?” If they did, they would be forced to prioritize safety, health, security ABOVE capacity issues!

  • A Parent April 6, 2012 (8:05 am)

    I understand that ALL students have to have a seat in a school building, so yes, capacity should ALWAYS be first priority. That said, I would like to know why AH is treated like it’s in some slum neighborhood. It’s not!

    I propose to the AH PTA that we get a health inspector out to the school ASAP! Maybe once we all find out how sick everyone is or could be we should ALL apply to a different school. That would send a message and really force them to look at capacity wouldn’t it?

    Also, STEM needs to find a home as well. Where is it going in 2 yrs?

  • Another AH Mom April 6, 2012 (8:09 am)

    AH is not a slum neighborhood but they sure try to treat us like it because we are on the south end of WS. One of the reasons people probably didn’t want to come to AH in the past was 1) horrible building and 2) lame duck principal until this past year.

  • A Parent April 6, 2012 (8:32 am)

    I am not sure how many realize the ‘perfect storm’ of events that may occur over the next few years. STEM gets it’s money to start up from “pot A”. The rest of the schools get money from “pot B”. Having gone to the STEM meetings when they first started, it’s clear that STEM only gets the money to start up this first year it’s open. Then guess what happens? All other funds it needs for a building, textbooks etc., all come from “pot B” like the other SPS schools. unless the outside sponsors of the STEM school donate funds. Common sense tells me that neither RH or AH is going to move anywhere like Boren, for a remodel until STEM leaves. And STEM can’t leave until it has a place to go. See the ‘big picture’?

  • Amanda April 6, 2012 (8:44 am)

    I would like to know how to mobilize the Roxhill Community. My son is scheduled to attend Roxhill starting in 2014. And just as AH school is falling apart, so is Roxhill!! There is a .2 point difference between how bad AH is and Roxhill. EC Hughes building is a public school building – belonging to the community. However, the capacity of that school (304) will be reached in no time by Roxhill. I propose building a new school for Roxhill on the old Denny site, as well as a new school for Arbor Heights. I am willing to pay even MORE in property taxes to see this happen. However, if we get passed by AGAIN for schools in the North – I will file a lawsuit. It shouldn’t be merge Roxhill and Arbor Heights or nothing. And that “casual” comment that the AH principal made to Marty McLaren – well, it’s not so “casual” anymore is it?

  • Tony April 6, 2012 (8:55 am)

    #A Parent- the electrical isn’t ” daisy chained” by the maintenance electricians. I know because I am one. Everything we do is up to code. We get permits for all new work. We notify teachers/admin when we find code violations ie plug strips plugged into plug strips. The electrical systems are outdated in that there isn’t enough plugs for all the new electronics, foot heaters, coffee machines, microwaves, etc. but when computer labs are added we build to code with sufficient circuits for everything. So if there is a fire, it’s not because we don’t do our job.

  • credible witness April 6, 2012 (9:23 am)

    Can someone please articulate why the communities of RH and AH are so adamantly against combining? If there is absolutely no money to build two new buildings, but both are in need, doesn’t it make sense? It seems like it would benefit both communities to integrate and become more culturally balanced, as well as to begin to adjust to the size of schools like Denny, Sealth and beyond. The kids will likely end up together beyond elementary so why not?

  • Que April 6, 2012 (9:24 am)

    As a lighter aside, (because this is absolutely a serious issue but humor makes everything better) I can’t help but giggle at the screen shot for the video included in this article. It sums up my thoughts about SPS’s process rather succinctly.

    • WSB April 6, 2012 (9:44 am)

      Que – Since you bring it up, I do want to note that is NOT a framegrab we chose. YouTube (and most other uploading services) have some automatic way of doing that. They claim to later offer alternatives but in my experience, the alternatives, even if chosen, never kick in. (This caused a kerfuffle once after we covered a political forum and the framegrab chose a particular candidate, whose opponent insisted that was a sign of our bias toward that candidate. Can’t tell ya if YouTube has some secret bias, but we don’t …) … TR

  • star April 6, 2012 (9:44 am)

    Department of ecology should be called as well, to investigate the leaking oil tank under the school.

  • A Parent April 6, 2012 (9:47 am)

    @QUE – my thoughts, too!

    @Tony – EAK! not my intention to blame staff…it was directed toward the district not providing adequate plumbing/electrical etc. If they did, clearly we’d have a broiler that works, clean water out of ALL faucets and enough outlets for what’s needed. It must be tiring to work and feel like you’re beating a dead horse.

  • HPMom April 6, 2012 (9:51 am)

    I agree with credible witness. I think before dismissing the idea of combining AH and RH we should first look at all the positives. The positives I see are: new building, more diverse school, more options for what the school offers with the larger population, maybe the possibility of having a spectrum class at each grade level, larger PTA… Can anyone else think of any positives? I have a child at Roxhill and have not yet decided wether I think combining would be a good or bad choice. I need more information before making a decision about what to support or not support.

  • HPMom April 6, 2012 (9:53 am)

    One choice I saw on the form that I do think is a bad choice is adding more seats to West Seattle Elementary. What are the thoughts out there on this proposal?

  • Que April 6, 2012 (9:54 am)

    Oh, I assumed that it was some YouTube framegrab and that it was NOT WSB’s doing. Nonetheless, it still makes me laugh.

  • AHMom April 6, 2012 (10:17 am)

    To credible witness – AH and Roxhill communities would like to keep their own schools as they are already imbeded in their own communities. Both schools are actually becomming more culturally diverse. Have you visited either school lately?

    All schools in the South Cluster are culturally diverse and I for one am proud to be a part of our cluster of schools. Maybe your “culuturally diverse” concern should be directed towards the North Cluster schools. Nobody seems concerned that Schmitz Park is pretty much all vanilla and of a upper socio economic community.
    Take a good look at Pathfinder…not too diverse either and neither will STEM.

    AH and Roxhill support eachother, we each have strong communities and each have our own uniqueness. We want to keep our schools and we should not have to be shoved into one building to save money. We are both long over due for upgrades.

  • AHMom April 6, 2012 (10:20 am)

    I too would donate and support a lawsuit. I would also donte money for a health inspector to come out.

    Tony – our computer room at AH was deemed a hazard by visiting SPS Board Members. Nobody blames the electricians and maintanence staff, just the neglect of the SPS admin.

  • Que April 6, 2012 (10:27 am)

    Merging the two schools without a huge re-do of the boundary lines would result in an elementary school of about 700 students. No kindergarten parent would be enthusiastic about that. It becomes way too difficult to catch kids that may “fall through the cracks” in a school of that size. It is a ridiculous proposal.

  • Tony April 6, 2012 (10:55 am)

    #AHMom-if the custodian puts in an emergency work order , stating there is an immediate danger to students & staff, we are obligated to respond within 24hrs. A lot of problems arise from no work orders/wrong status. We don’t do medium rated work orders, only high & emer. We fix things for a living, its what we like to do. Given a project, we get after it & solve the problem. The thanks we get from students & staff more than make up for headaches generated back @ The Mothership downtown. Have the CE or principal write up their concerns, we’ll fix it!

  • Bonnie April 6, 2012 (10:56 am)

    I have a 2nd grader at AH and I do not want her to go to a super huge school. I realize that she will be in middle school before this all happens but I, personally, wouldn’t want such a big elementary school for my children. Of course, I understand it will only be 500 kids but what will they do with the other 250? Push them off onto another over capacity school that is in need of many repairs.

  • Melissa Westbrook April 6, 2012 (11:11 am)

    A few things to keep in mind:
    – the last BEX was a bond and not a levy. The difference is that you get all the money upfront with a bond so you can start more projects.

    However a bond requires 60% voter approval and the district doesn’t not want to chance it and so is doing a levy (where you get the money in bits).

    – the competition between capacity management and building condition is going to be interesting to watch. The Eckstein meeting was much more about capacity than building condition so this video is a very different meeting.

  • credible witness April 6, 2012 (11:13 am)

    AH mom – so funny that you automatically assume that I am not part of the AH community. Precisely why those of us who are open to the merge idea are staying quiet. And interesting that you seem to speak for the whole AH community. Yes I am in the school daily, are you? If you think that we have a diverse community we obviously would not agree on the definition of that concept. I am not concerned with the north end at this point because we have so many of our own issues here in the south. The neighborhood assignment plan was going to create that problem in the north and other places too but we have an opportunity to make it better and possibly grow and share resources and maybe even become “imbedded” into one!

  • StringCheese April 6, 2012 (11:18 am)

    The concerns regarding larger school size is overblown. I grew up in a suburb of a large city where each grade level consisted of 5-6 classrooms with a school population of around 750 students. Not only did I know every other student in my grade by name, the teachers knew everyone as well (including the music, art, and PE teachers).
    What gets forgotten is that larger school doesn’t equal larger class size. The teachers would still be teaching 26 kids. I believe that more students was actually beneficial in meeting the needs of every student at their level. When kids are in one room (out of two) for the whole day, the teacher is forced to then differentiate for 5-6 different levels of academic readiness in each subject area. More classes meant more flexibility in finding the right pace and rigor for every child. (No, I’m not talking about the verboten “tracking” but rather flexible cluster grouping). There is also an increased chance of your child being placed with a teacher whose teaching style best fits your child’s learning style.
    Honestly, I never realized how wonderful my educational opportunities really were until I looked at the options available for my child. Yes, the schools were big but I knew that if I walked into any of the schools in my district I would find the same opportunities in each. EVERY school had PE, art, music, science labs, and computer labs. This was in the 80’s when computing meant writing code in Basic…
    Sorry. Got a bit nostalgic there. Heaven knows I don’t want to live there again but I do have to give the ed system credit. Back to the point.
    You don’t need to be afraid of a larger school. It may just solve more issues than you ever imagined.

  • Bonnie April 6, 2012 (11:58 am)

    As I stated before I am not wanting a larger school BUT one of the special ed teachers gave me a little bit of input about a larger school. For instance, the special ed dept: In the south end the Developmental Kindergarten is at Concord now, Transitional Kindergarten at Roxhill, General Special Ed is at Arbor Heights. Why do they have to move the kids around so much? If the schools were larger they could all go to one school. That would be a plus.

  • AH Parent 2 April 6, 2012 (12:06 pm)

    I’m concerned that some of the dialogue here is going to be counterproductive to what each school truly needs — new homes. I think the district would prefer we get distracted by the merger proposal to take the focus off the real issue –years and years of facility and maintenance neglect.
    I just finished a book called “Collective Visioning: How Groups Can Work Together for a Just and Sustainable Future” by Linda Stout.
    I kept thinking of her message in the context of education activism/advocacy and our situation in Seattle. I would love to see some of her ideas and strategies put to work. Pieces of her message that particularly resonated with me:
    * focus first on what worked before focusing on problems/critiques
    * express a complaint or concern with a suggested solution
    * vision what you want, not what you don’t want — vision what’s possible
    * actions need to involve the entire community
    * shared leadership and lead with vision to mobilize people to make change
    * present a collective vision to decision makers
    We all have a voice. As pointed out in the book it’s imperative we reach out to different groups, listen to and understand needs and concerns of the group, create a welcoming space for all voices, foster agreements, ensure the visibility of all members.

  • wseavirgo April 6, 2012 (12:33 pm)

    AHMom, please check out the school district site and read the demographic info for Pathfinder and Arbor Heights. Not too much of a difference there. Our K-5 is 62% White, compared to Arbor Heights 54%, and our amazing middle school is 41% White, 20% Black, 21% , Hispanic, 8% Asian/Pacific Islander, 7% Multiracial. I am in the school every week
    (are you ever here?) and see many amazing kids of all colors,ethnicities, mixed families, and beliefs. Please stop vilifying Pathfinder on the blog.

  • Roxhill and AH booster April 6, 2012 (1:29 pm)

    The Roxhill mom’s testimony spoke to me because we too moved to the neighborhood as immigrants (decades ago) and walked to Roxhill. Lucy Morello made the obtuse reference to “members of the community” suggested combining the schools. Who? And the principals had no clue?

    And don’t be fooled by an argument of there just not enough money for two schools. SPS staff has flagged $32M for a school in South Lake Union, you know, the place that has a street car to know where and a bunch of Paul Allen properties!

    It strikes me that, rather than refurbish Hughes and add a wing to WS Elem, SPS should build a NEW Roxhill at the Denny site (still walkable and neighborhood friendly) and a NEW school at AH. The new Roxhill can be designed for 450+ to absorb residents to the north.

    Take the SLU school off the list and provide two new schools in the SW area.

  • Mark April 6, 2012 (2:48 pm)

    Great comments, AH Parent 2. A positive approach to this major change will yield a better outcome for the whole community. Well said.

  • Melissa Westbrook April 6, 2012 (4:40 pm)

    The answer about AH and Roxhill joining is that the school would not be 700+. It is likely Roxhill’s boundaries would be redrawn and part of their community goes elsewhere. Not a happy thought.

    But the district can’t afford to do both; there are too many other poor condition buildings AND capacity management problems elsewhere.

    Also, to be fair, capital building has been spread throughout the district.
    district staff have been showing a map with the distribution of projects and it is about even. In fact, in sheer numbers there have been more BEX projects done in the SW/SE than in the NW/NE.

  • Roxhill and AH booster April 6, 2012 (4:47 pm)

    Ditto what Mark said! Don’t let them control the dialogue, no matter what they say about “casual conversation”. If you look at board work session meeting minutes from before the election, board members were making “spontaneous” comments about the importance of working with “city planners and the South Lake Union Development” whatever.

    That is how they set it up, you see. It isn’t until you look at the background conversations, controlled by businessmen with little skin in the game, that you see who truly calls the shots and spends our money.

  • WS Parent April 6, 2012 (6:07 pm)

    Simple math tells you that a RH/AH blended does not work. A modern 4 classroom per grade school has between 550 to 600 students. Currently RH has around 230 and AR as 350. That puts a school today at 580 students…now add the projected growth the district forecasted last year for both schools in 2015. RH will be at 440 and AH at 580, for a total of 1020 students…no a blended school will not work.

    Yes a redraw of boundaries would bring down some numbers…but all of our schools are growing at a consistant pace.

  • AH Parent 2 April 7, 2012 (8:37 am)

    Roxhill is at 377 and Arbor Heights is at 363. That’s a current combined population of almost 750. If you take the total # of SPS K-5 students living in each of these attendance areas you get closer to 800. Take in the projected growth in the Denny service area; it is only prudent that the district maintain the current level operating schools in this service area.

  • Ah Daddy April 7, 2012 (9:33 am)

    I totally agree with A parent. Yesterday while dropping off my kid at AH I did an exercise. How many new Mercs, land rovers, and other high end cars are pulling up to drop off kids. Lots of them filled with those upper income “taxable” parents the state county and city love. Just because the school absorbs some lower income kids from the southwest community doesn’t mean it’s in the ghetto. If we were allowed a look at the numbers I would venture that it is the most undeserved primary school in WS when per capita tax base of the boundery is taken into account.

    AH parents may not be as full of themselves as those in north admiral but don’t mistake them for a bunch of uneducated people lacking the resources to put pressure on when it counts.

  • Roxhill and AH booster April 7, 2012 (2:17 pm)

    ” Just because the school absorbs some lower income kids from the southwest community doesn’t mean it’s in the ghetto.”

    Okay, I’m sure the impression these loaded words convey was not intended. Can we please respect both school communities and not use loaded words? I grew up in this “ghetto” and refuse to let SPS and its ham-handed mismanagement and crap community engagement tear us asunder.

  • vs April 7, 2012 (2:44 pm)

    “don’t mistake them for a bunch of uneducated people lacking the resources to put pressure on when it counts.”

    Ouch. I’m totally disgusted that a handful of people seem to think that higher earning families somehow deserve more respect and influence…unlike those people in the “slums” and “ghettos”?! Each and every community and child in it needs and deserves the best this city and school district have to offer. The district needs to start making intelligent decisions that are based on justice, integrity, and the genuine best interests of the kids–all of them.

  • AHMom April 7, 2012 (5:05 pm)

    wsavirgo – You are right I did not check my facts out before I wrote an ignorant comment about the demographics at Pathfinder. I apologize. My intent was not to villify Pathfinder. I know several students there. I do have some ill feelings that date back to the last round of close closures, but not of the school, staff, families and students.

    Off of the computer and back to the sun! Have a good weekend.

  • Ah Daddy April 7, 2012 (5:34 pm)


    This is exactly my point. The SPS administration thinks everything south of downtown is the ghetto.


    Sorry for bursting your bubble but this is not Finland where equity in the school system is paramount. While the utopian dream is an appealing vision I open my eyes and see those with power and influence at the front of the line. As long as the bureaucrats think they can overlook you without consequence they will. If money and influence don’t matter why does Paul Allen get his pet school built at SLU? Why do you think they chose to rebuild Arbor Heights and not Roxhill, because they make random decisions? No because a couple of years ago they figured out the Arbor Heights community was going to be harder to push around than Roxhill. No disrespect to Roxhill. Sorry I have kids to raise and at the end of the day I need to be a realist. Not all communities are the same and if your community is viewed as powerless that is exactly what you become at the will of people with limited resources making decisions based on path of least resistance.

  • vs April 7, 2012 (6:07 pm)

    I have no bubble to burst. I’ve been around this district plenty, always lived in under-served neighborhoods, and also have kids to raise. But if you talk about your community and your children like they matter, and other people’s like they don’t, there are other, less flattering, labels for you than “realist.”

  • boy April 7, 2012 (6:14 pm)

    Maybe if the seattle schools didn’t get itself 50mil in debt on a new dulux office building in the sodo area it mite have been able to proprly maintain these to schools. But I guess new fancey offices were more important then our kids

  • Roxhill and AH booster April 7, 2012 (7:03 pm)

    Ah Daddy,

    Actually I live in AH and I have kids to raise to0. I am realist and do not allow the power-that-be free license to push me around without a major fight that involves bloodletting from all around. At the same time, I urge all of us to refrain from using poor word choices.

  • Ah Daddy April 7, 2012 (7:40 pm)


    I’m sure the folks at westside would be happy to lobby for you at their expense. They might even go so far as to voluntarily give up their site to help their “undeserved” neighbors. Oh I’m sorry I forgot that is a reality that doesn’t exist.

    God help me I love pushing the buttons of the self righteous.

    Can anyone explain why we can raise funds for libraries that are architectural masterpieces but we can’t maintain our primary schools?

  • Roxhill and AH booster April 7, 2012 (11:53 pm)

    Ah Daddy, I’m not disagreeing on the inoffensive side of your comments, but question putting on the attack in an area where, together, we are stronger and more apt to get what should happen in S of WS.

    We must, at every juncture, disabuse JSCEE and their cronies that $32M should go to Paul Allen’s development and that every available dollars should go towards preserving our communities and providing new, efficient designed and constructed schools.

    As I’ve said, use the funds saved from Hughes and WS Elem expansion to build a new Roxhill at the Denny site. Does that still keep things tight with portables, well SPS ya shoulda thought of that before caving in to $50M in overruns on a poorly run Garfield remodel, or startin’ up a new flavor program at Boren.

Sorry, comment time is over.