(4:41 PM UPDATE: New info added at end of story, from West Seattle’s school-board rep and from the district)
9:38 AM, FIRST REPORT: According to an announcement just made by Seattle Public Schools, the new elementary school will not be the only program housed on the Louisa Boren Building campus at 5950 Delridge Way SW this fall. We reported earlier this week on the impending departure of the alternative Middle College High School – with 70 students enrolled this year – from the South Seattle Community College campus. Now the district has just announced its new location will be portables at Boren, where it hopes the MCHS students may help “mentor” students at the new K-5 STEM at Boren. Here’s the letter that the district’s executive director of West Seattle schools, Aurora Lora, has just sent to Middle College students’ families:
I am writing to let you know about changes being planned for our Middle College program for the 2012-13 school year.
The first announcement concerns the Middle College High School program at South Seattle Community College. We have been located on the South Seattle CC campus for more than 20 years and have enjoyed a strong working relationship with the faculty and staff there. However, the college recently informed us that they have received two large grants and need to re-occupy the space currently used by Middle College students.
We have been looking for a new South Seattle location, and on June 22 we will be relocating the program to portables in the Louisa Boren building, located at 5950 Delridge Way S.W. in West Seattle. We anticipate no changes to our curriculum as a result of our move to the Boren site, although we do know that it will mean a longer commute for some of our Running Start students.
Seattle Public Schools will be opening a new K-5 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) elementary school in the Boren building this fall. Our hope is that we will be able to establish a mentoring relationship between our Middle College and K-5 STEM elementary students, similar to the tutoring program that has been created – in conjunction with Seattle University — between students at our Northgate Mall Middle College and nearby Northgate Elementary School.
Our second announcement involves the Indian Heritage Program. I want you to know that we are transitioning most of students in that program, currently located in the Wilson Pacific Building, to the Northgate Mall Middle College site. The Wilson Pacific building is in very poor condition and we are looking forward to having a more suitable learning environment for our Indian Heritage students at Northgate.
Finally, we will be opening a new Middle College program at Seattle University this fall. This new location will primarily serve students living within the boundaries of Garfield High School but will also have additional room for students from both our South Seattle and Northgate Middle College programs.
We appreciate the support of our Middle College families and, as always, we welcome your questions and suggestions.
We have some followup questions out – for one, since Boren’s main mission has continued to be described by the district as that of a temporary campus, is this a permanent or temporary home for the MCHS program? Plus, we are renewing a request for comment from SSCC on the grants mentioned by SPS as a reason for the move. Earlier this week, the 34th District Democrats passed a resolution that urged the two school systems to work out an agreement for MCHS to stay at the college, since a hallmark of the program has been college readiness, and being in that atmosphere was considered one of its key points.
ADDED 4:05 PM: Reaction in the comments includes a statement on behalf of the K-5 STEM PTSA’s steering committee, which is expressing concern and asking for an “emergency meeting” – read it here.
Also, we have just heard back from West Seattle’s elected school-board rep, director Marty McLaren, answering our e-mail request for comment on the planned MCHS move to Boren:
From what I know about Middle College, (I’ve visited the program at SSCC), and from having taught students of similar backgrounds at South Lake HS in the Rainier Valley, I believe having MCHS occupy portables at the Boren site can only benefit students in both Boren STEM and MCHS. After I left South Lake HS in 2002, The New School (which started with pre-K and is now a complete pre-K-8 program, renamed South Shore K8) was opened in the same building, and the high school and elementary were co-located for several years before each school’s new building was completed. Although the schools were separate, there was a very positive relationship between the two communities. My close neighbor taught at the New School for its first few years, and I recall her telling some delightful stories about occasional shared activities, mentoring, and so on. My former teaching colleagues at SLHS were also upbeat about the situation.
From the standpoint of Middle College: I have been aware of Middle College HS’s expected move for about the last two months; my understanding is that it was precipitated by space constraints looming at SSCC. It’s a big loss to have Middle College leave the SSCC campus, and I had hoped that space might be found at the college after all. Due to the leadership transition that’s in progress at SPS, with several senior staff members leaving, as well as a new Superintendent due to arrive in two weeks , I didn’t get a clear picture of the efforts to resolve the question of a home for Middle College until recently. I’ve been extremely busy, as has virtually everyone in SPS, and until the last few days, had not been in close touch with senior staff about this issue.
Although I haven’t had a chance to discuss this option with Middle College representatives, Principal McKinney of STEM, or with families of either school, my “first blush” personal reaction is favorable. If Middle College must be uprooted, Boren seems to me to be a good destination; I think the two schools would be good neighbors.
ADDED 4:41 PM: Two things from SPS spokesperson Teresa Wippel, in response to a followup question we asked after receiving the “letter to Middle College families” this morning – First, she says “the location of Middle College at Boren is indeed temporary but we still need to work through the details of a permanent location and that has not happened yet.” Second, “there will be a letter coming soon … from Aurora Lora to Boren K-5 families about how the campus will be arranged to ensure that the two programs remain separated.”