As-it-happened: School Board work session on new BEX levy project list; Hughes no longer proposed for reopening

(TOPLINES: Current version of BEX IV levy proposal calls for new Schmitz Park @ Genesee Hill campus 2015, new Arbor Heights on current site 2019, add to and reopen Fairmount Park, NO reopening of EC Hughes, NO decision yet on K-5 STEM’s permanent location)

4:07 PM: As reported here yesterday afternoon, the newest list of projects proposed for the Seattle Public Schools BEX IV levy is out – and it includes some changes from previous West Seattle proposals. The School Board is getting more information right now at a work session at district HQ, and we’re there. We’ll update this story “live” as West Seattle-relevant information is discussed – so if you’re interested, open this story’s page (click the headline) and hit “refresh” every so often. The board and staff members’ microphones aren’t working but we’re listening as hard – and sitting as close – as we can!


4:09 PM: Assistant superintendent Pegi McEvoy, who has presided at most of the meetings about this (including the community meetings we’ve covered in West Seattle), is opening the session. She says that the district’s mid-level growth assumptions bring in 7,000 more students districtwide over the next 10 years – high-level projections are about 4,000 more than that. (That’s beyond the 49,500 or so students in the district now.) She acknowledges that the board has asked for a reduced reliance on portables at over-capacity schools.

**Documents for this session are linked here**

4:16 PM UPDATE: The co-chairs of FAC-MAC – a citizens’ advisory committee that’s been working on school-capacity issues for months – say they think the “mid-level” projections are too low for at least some parts of the city. They want to see the city analyzed region by region before the data is used to make major decisions. “We are continuing to grow,” says enrollment manager Tracy Libros. She says the district right now has 1,000 more elementary students than it did last year at this time. Since they can’t tell for sure how things are going to go, “building larger core facilities” will give them flexibility, she says. She also cautions that the numbers the district has right now are “early” and “volatile.”

4:31 PM UPDATE: Still talking enrollment projections – since bad numbers have factored into some bad decisions in the past, closing schools that have since had to be reopened, at sizable cost. Board president Michael DeBell asks if the numbers include “in-migration” – not just looking at birth rates, but also looking at who’s coming into the city to occupy all the new construction that’s starting up. DeBell says it might not be “gradual” either since he perceives 10s of thousands of new units in the works.

185 portables districtwide right now, after adding more than 30 over the summer, says Lucy Morello.

4:54 PM UPDATE: “The situation with the portables isn’t going to go away the year after we pass the levy,” observes board member Sherry Carr. Right now the board is furrowing its collective brow at a projected slide showing that enrollment will be higher than capacity for a few upcoming years. Right now, the district has about 12 percent of its students in portables, the administrators say, so there’s a big gap between that and the board’s hopes of five percent. (Minutes later) Lucy Morello explains why the new documentation shows new schools like the new Arbor Heights and Schmitz Park (at Genesee Hill) to be built at “500 to 650 seats” – she says it’s that “larger core facilities” concept; build them with cafeterias, etc., able to hold the higher number, but pending the newest round of enrollment projections before construction, with flexibility in terms of the overall building site. “We’re trying to build as much flexibility (into this) as possible,” she said. … A bit later, board member Harium Martin-Morris clarifies that what they’re discussing is building INFRASTRUCTURE for 650 though the school itself might just have 500.

5:08 PM UPDATE: That’s the kind of numbers-juggling that allowed them to shave $100 million off the BEX proposal, Morello explained. Board member Kay Smith-Blum says it’s important to have principals weigh in on the “ever-burgeoning” school sizes. Board member Betty Patu says it’s great that they’re addressing capacity but she’s not hearing enough about how to take care of schools with safety problems. (Though no one has mentioned it yet, one example of that would be Roxhill Elementary.) Board member Sharon Peaslee asked if best practices are being used to make sure these big schools are being designed with best practices, to feel smaller than they are. Carr, meantime, says she thinks the flexible lid of enrollment could be ‘quite a bit higher.”

5:28 PM UPDATE: The one-year pushback for Arbor Heights hasn’t been addressed yet but Morello reminded all that there’s a cash-flow issue – since this is a levy, not a bond measure, they only get so much money each year. (5:30 pm) Now she’s getting to it – she says Schmitz Park is earlier because it’s so urgent, given the amount of portables now being used – they could certainly move Arbor Heights ahead and push Schmitz Park ahead, though. Fairmount Park will get an addition to go to 500 seats capacity *and that means we will not have to open Hughes.* (Finally, confirmation of what was suspected from looking at the plan made public yesterday.)

5:38 PM: Martin-Morris expresses concern about Arbor Heights having been pushed back to a fall 2019 opening, and wonders how that could be addressed. Pegi McEvoy says they were hoping to hear from the “West Seattle community” regarding their thoughts – Schmitz Park soon? Or a little later, and move up Arbor Heights? Then though, it was acknowledged the two projects really address two very different projects. So, no resolution there yet. The West Seattle community meeting on the plan is September 24, 6:30 pm, Madison Middle School.

6:36 PM: The meeting has gone overtime but is wrapping up with board members’ remarks. Nothing else of West Seattle-specific note, but we hope to ask an administrator in a few minutes, once the figurative gavel falls, what this is all supposed to mean for K-5 STEM at Boren’s permanent home (which has not been mentioned – not aloud, anyway).

7:35 PM: Talked with district officials right afterward. Bottom line, Lucy Morello told us: Hasn’t been decided yet. When WILL it be decided? She pointed us to Phil Brockman, executive director of school operations, who had no clear answer. Depends on the board’s leanings regarding the STEM “program” – is it something they might want to see in multiple schools (the officials compared it in that regard to a program such as APP or special education), as the district pursues an equitable education for all, for example? So it might not remain a separate school forever? we pressed. All yet to be decided, was the reply.

11 Replies to "As-it-happened: School Board work session on new BEX levy project list; Hughes no longer proposed for reopening"

  • Nitro September 12, 2012 (6:49 pm)

    Thanks, TR, for keeping us posted on this meeting. Much appreciated!

  • WS parent September 12, 2012 (7:41 pm)

    Schmitz Park has an overcrowding issue which can be addressed by limiting enrollment to its neighborhood and not to all the out of area parents that prefer it. Arbor Heights is unfit for learning. The heating/cooling system is dysfunctional and too expensive to fix. It is bordering on unsafe if not already there. Why is there any debate here??

  • West Seattle person September 12, 2012 (9:21 pm)

    This year Schmitz Park has 5! Kindergarten classes. All kids are from the neighborhood. I don’t think any kids from the waiting list got in.

    I kind of worry whether or not a building for 650 will be big enough. There are already 500+ in the school.

    But yeah, A.H. Needs to be imploded stat!

  • Genessee neighbor September 12, 2012 (9:29 pm)

    It’s so sad to see a small neighborhood school like Schmitz Park turn into a huge overcrowded school with so many portables. The lunchroom can’t handle capacity for all the students. (Has the fire department been there on assembly days???) And the restrooms are too few for the number of student. Shame on the school district for putting us all in this position!

  • Fulana September 12, 2012 (9:49 pm)

    Schmitz Park has the smallest square footage per student in the district. There aren’t enough bathrooms for students or adults. There isn’t enough room to have all school assemblies. With the increase in students and teachers this year, the copiers are jamming every day, the servers are crashing, and there aren’t enough places for kids to play during recess. Please school board, do not delay in building a place that the Schmitz Park students and teachers deserve.

  • WS parent September 12, 2012 (10:32 pm)

    Really? 5 kindergartens of neighborhood kids. I stand corrected! Sounds like we all have major issues. SPS is in a mess of hurt- but after meeting Jose Banda, I am feeling a little more optimistic. He is a very smart, confident and capable leader. We are lucky he accepted the challenge of leading SPS.

  • Bonnie September 13, 2012 (7:14 am)

    I hope this doesn’t turn into a struggle of whose school gets ‘fixed’ first. The problem is BOTH schools need to be rebuilt and shame on the district for allowing Arbor Heights to get so bad and Schmitz Park to be so overcrowded.

  • curious September 13, 2012 (7:47 am)

    will WS need another junior high in 3-5 years? I mean if we’re overcrowded at the elementary levels, three (pathfinder, madison and denny) aren’t set up to handle that many more are they? Sealth now has portables!

  • Genessee neighbor September 13, 2012 (9:44 pm)

    I am moving out of West Seattle. The SSD has gone out of control.

  • scott Olsen September 13, 2012 (10:18 pm)

    Why isn’t the new STEM K-5 mentioned? They are in a temp building waiting for a place to call home if the district Dosent do anything at boren. Sps get your head out of the Alki sand!

  • george September 14, 2012 (12:04 am)

    And to clarify further on the SP wait list, no siblings made it into the kindergarten classes. 130 kids in 5 classes! And now several families have two elementary schools to support. While crowded, there should have been a grandfather clause for siblings attending the same school at the same time.

Sorry, comment time is over.