Seattle Public Schools’ revised BEX IV levy: What’s proposed for West Seattle

(WSB photo from then-Superintendent-to-be José Banda’s tour of Arbor Heights in May 2012)
This afternoon, Seattle Public Schools sent the district’s families and community an update on the newest proposal for what to send to voters in the BEX (“Building Excellence”) IV levy next February. To get right to the point, here are the three toplines for West Seattle:

Arbor Heights Elementary: Replace existing building with new/expanded facility by 2019

Fairmount Park: Open this existing building with necessary upgrades, add classrooms and a lunchroom by 2014

Schmitz Park: Replace existing Genesee Hill building with a new/expanded facility on the Genesee Hill site; relocate Schmitz Park to the new facility by 2015

The Arbor Heights community was unhappy with the previous plan (here’s our report from May) for a 2018 opening for a new school; now, it’s been pushed back another year.

Also of note: The former EC Hughes Elementary campus – currently leased to independent Westside School (WSB sponsor) – is not mentioned in the announcement (nor is it on the accompanying draft slide). We may not be able to confirm until tomorrow whether that means the prospect of reopening it as a public school is off the table.

Read on for the complete announcement sent districtwide, including the list of public meetings ahead (in West Seattle, the meeting’s at Madison Middle School at 6:30 pm September 24):

Dear Seattle Public School families, staff and community:

We opened our doors to about 49,500 students last week and had a great start to our 2012-13 school year. We spent time in several schools and it was wonderful to see our students already engaged in learning.

Seattle Public Schools is growing!
Anticipating approximately 1,000 new students this year, we have been working hard to address our enrollment growth challenges. Projections show continued year-to-year increases in our enrollment for the next five years and beyond. We estimate an enrollment of more than 57,000 students by the 2021-22 school year, if current trends continue.

Part of our long-term solution to meet the demands of this growing enrollment is the continuation of our capital levies, including the Building Excellence IV (BEX IV) Capital Levy, to be submitted to Seattle voters in February 2013. This levy would provide capital funding for six years (2014-2019) and would help with necessary remodeling and replacement of existing buildings, along with new/expanded school facilities.

This status report provides you with our updated BEX IV project list. We want your feedback on this latest proposal, and will be sharing the list at three upcoming community meetings. The School Board is expected to vote on the final BEX IV list in early November.

What are we doing to plan for this growth?

During the summer, we have been doing in-depth work reviewing a variety of potential capital projects, all of which were screened using four important criteria established by the School Board. These criteria require that proposed projects address issues surrounding:

1) safety and security
2) meeting capacity needs
3) building condition
4) maximizing flexibility for programs and services

In putting together a proposed Building Excellence plan, our staff is continuing an extensive review process. During the past spring and summer, we have:

Conducted community engagement in April to receive ideas and feedback from the public.
Solicited input from school principals, the Facilities and Capacity Management
Advisory Committee (FACMAC), District program staff and our School Board.
Analyzed new enrollment projections and demographic data from several different sources.
Updated project cost estimates from construction estimators, architects and engineers.
Continued to analyze and update school building capacity numbers.

What is the latest proposal for BEX IV projects?
Based on the variety of suggestions we received last spring and the resulting analysis of data, estimates and projections this summer, the district has revised and refined the proposed list of potential BEX IV projects. It’s important to note the project list shown below is not final. We will continue to take into consideration future feedback and input from our staff, advisory committee and community before the final recommendation is sent to the Board for consideration and approval this fall. The following is a summary of currently proposed projects under consideration for BEX IV:

Arbor Heights Elementary: Replace existing building with new/expanded facility by 2019.
Fairmount Park: Open this existing building with necessary upgrades, add classrooms and a lunchroom by 2014
Lincoln building: Modernize and open as a new high school by 2019
Mann building: Modernize and construct a new addition for NOVA by 2014
Meany Middle School: Reconfigure for a comprehensive central region middle school by 2017
Mercer Middle School: Build an addition to meet enrollment projections by 2019
North Beach Elementary: Replace the existing building and add capacity by 2018
Northeast Seattle elementary school: To meet growing capacity, add K-5 school on Thornton Creek site.
Olympic Hills K-5: Replace existing building with a new/expanded facility by 2017
Queen Anne Elementary: Build classroom and gym addition to the building by 2019
Schmitz Park: Replace existing Genesee Hill building with a new/expanded facility on the Genesee Hill site; relocate Schmitz Park to the new facility by 2015
Wilson-Pacific: Replace building with a new elementary and middle school for additional capacity by 2017
Wing Luke Elementary: Replace existing building with a new/expanded facility by 2020

During the construction period, we will house students at interim sites, including Boren, Columbia, the original Van Asselt building, Lincoln and John Marshall. In addition, this plan builds flexibility for housing instructional programs such as Accelerated Placement Program (APP).

The following two schools were on the list of possible projects last spring, but are not currently being recommended:

Jane Addams K-8: Will not move to Cedar Park
Daniel Bagley Elementary: Because of revised enrollment forecasts, it has been determined that additional capacity is not needed to the degree originally projected.

What other possible BEX IV projects are under consideration?

Technology improvements: Wireless in every school and needed hardware upgrades.
Seismic Improvements: A total of 67 schools would receive seismic upgrades.
Lunchroom and core facilities: Currently planning lunchrooms at Green Lake and McGilvra elementary schools.
Major preventive maintenance and infrastructure improvements.
Interim downtown school: dependent upon external partnership funding.
Capacity flexibility: Building stronger core facilities to provide for expansion and including academic program placement and services close to where families live.

The latest BEX IV list of possible projects totals about $650 million. Additional information is online at

In addition to meetings with staff, FACMAC and the School Board, we will have another important round of community meetings later in September to present updated information and ask for feedback. You are invited to attend one of these meetings:

Thursday, Sept. 20, 6:30-8 p.m. at Whitman Middle School
Monday, Sept. 24, 6:30- 8 p.m. at Madison Middle School
Thursday, Sept. 27, 6:30-8 p.m. at McClure Middle School

In the meantime, we continue to collect, record and review all input. Send comments to

22 Replies to "Seattle Public Schools' revised BEX IV levy: What's proposed for West Seattle"

  • Bonnie September 11, 2012 (6:07 pm)

    Curious. Is Fairmount Park being reopened for STEM or is it going to be a new neighborhood school?

  • West Seattleite September 11, 2012 (6:13 pm)

    I love the idea of using the Genesee site for a new elementary school. I will vote YES.

  • Tony September 11, 2012 (6:23 pm)

    I think Fairmount will eventually be the home to STEM. They want to keep Boren as an emergency building, and putting the STEM there this year allowed them to keep their certificate of occupancy. Maybe one more year @ Boren for STEM??

    Portables are the plan for many years to come, I’m afraid….

  • Carla Rogers September 11, 2012 (7:17 pm)

    Thanks for your great report and full coverage of this plan. Good to have the details. There have been rumors around the prospect of moving Alki to the old SP site, which is a nice school albeit small for the current capacity. It seems obvious that SOMETHING would happen to the current SP facility. Alki is at capacity and cannot be expanded due to the size and configuration of the lot and it’s proximity to the Alki CC and park. Since Alki can’t grow, but yet we know that capacity will force growth, there has to be some long term plan for Alki ES. I’d love to know more about this but I’m guessing nothing is worked out just yet. Keep us in the know Tracy!

  • Melissa Westbrook September 11, 2012 (8:34 pm)

    Keep in mind that if I-1240 passes and a conversion charter occurs, all bets are off.

    In this initiative, an approved charter can take over ANY existing school, failing or not, with a simple majority of signatures from parents OR teachers.

    For example, an elementary school could have 18 teachers. Only 10 would have to sign a petition to flip the entire school community.

    And then, for ANY levies approved while they were a district school – including BEX IV – an equal portion will go to them.

    So if BEX IV is about $650M and we have say, 95 schools, divided those and that conversion charter would get a check, straight up, for $6.8M. That would really change what could be done. Probably wireless upgrades would go, maybe even the upgrades to Fairmont Park.

    Worth considering as you cast your vote in November. I-1240 WILL impact our district in ways, big and small and, as well, send ripples throughout the district.

  • WS SPS Plans? September 11, 2012 (10:04 pm)

    Why has Arbor Heights with the worst building in the district been moved even further down the list until 2019?

    • WSB September 11, 2012 (10:20 pm)

      WS SPS – I tried pinging Marty McLaren tonight for reaction but she is apparently out of contact till next week. Which I guess means she will not be at tomorrow’s board “work session” for BEX – which we are going to attempt to attend (4-6 pm, district HQ, open to the public but not for public comment, it’s more a briefing for the board and a chance for them to ask Q/A of staff) if we can move around some other things that were on the docket.

  • E September 11, 2012 (10:17 pm)

    I have a child in SPS and will never vote to give them money. I think they are horrible and have no idea what the hell they are doing. I will be voting against this BEX IV and yes for charter schools!

  • hmmm September 12, 2012 (6:48 am)

    I am curious to know that the total number of kids from the Arbor Heights pull area for that school actually go somewhere else? I wonder if the low count of students – from what it could be! – is one reason? Or maybe the district has another plan for the school they won’t share knowing it would upset the neighborhood parents.

  • mamaof2 September 12, 2012 (7:36 am)


    I take offense to your term “lynch mob” mentality. I doubt that you work or have a child that has to work/learn in the worst building in the district.

    • WSB September 12, 2012 (7:42 am)

      Mama – Hmmm asked, before your comment, that theirs be deleted.

  • hmmm September 12, 2012 (7:43 am)

    Yeah, actually I do! And I am starting to think that while it’s necessary to state your concerns, the over-zealous “do as we want or else” attitude of some parents is backfiring.

  • Dave September 12, 2012 (7:55 am)

    When they refer to “the Genesee Hill site” for Schmitz Park, are they re-building on the current site or using the old Pathfinder site? It sounds like they’re rebuilding on the current site, probably housing students at Boren after STEM moves to Fairmount Park.

    • WSB September 12, 2012 (8:00 am)

      The old Pathfinder site, which is the former Genesee Hill Elementary School. That proposal has been in the plan for several versions now. Since they will build on another site, they will not need to use an interim site.

  • madashell September 12, 2012 (11:44 am)

    Dovetailing on Melissa Westbrook’s comment: downtown business types are still pushing for a school (as a neighborhood “amenity”) in Paul Allen/Amazon’s high density development ala “urban village”. That would likely encumber over $30M of our levy tax dollars, and probably be candidate #1 for a charter run by League of Education Voters/Our Schools Coalition/”generic” ed reform group. Frankly, if developers and Gates Foundation representatives want a school so bad, let them build it and pay for it themselves.

  • Bonnie September 12, 2012 (11:50 am)

    I am wondering if Arbor Heights is pushed back due to timing? Meaning they have to finish Schmitz Park, move STEM somewhere else in order to move all the Arbor Heights kids into another building.

    I believe there are a lot of kids who live in the Arbor Heights area that go to Arbor Heights. I drive my daughter to school there every day and there are lots who walk to school. It is full of Arbor Heights kids.

  • Mark Ahlness September 12, 2012 (12:47 pm)

    Having taught at Arbor Heights for the past 21 years, I’m saddened, but not surprised, to see it bumped down to 2019. It astonishes me to see how long the school continues to be ignored. The fact that it is still a wonderful school – and in fact even still standing – is testament to a dedicated teaching staff and caring and involved parents.

  • U'hum September 12, 2012 (6:05 pm)

    It has been discussed that AH could occupy its building while its replacement is built on the massive site so it appears right now to be cashflow. I do not agree with bumping SP and K-5 STEM to the front of the line.

  • Public School Advocate September 14, 2012 (12:53 pm)

    For those interested in school populations, attendance areas and where kids “pull” from, here is the SPS link you’ll want to look at (Sections 3 & 4: (2011-2012 figures)
    Earlier this year I did some analysis and I found that Arbor Heights, West Seattle and Concord are the 3 WS schools with the HIGHEST percentage of students that draw from their respective attendance areas e.g. most # of students ATTENDING that school that also LIVE within that schools’ attendance area/zone.
    Specific School Populations:

    Schmitz Park – 67% (311 of 463) of SP’s students LIVE in the SP zone
    Gatewood – 60% (292 of 484) of Gatewood’s students LIVE in the Gatewood zone
    Lafayette – 54% (299 of 547) of Lafayette’s students LIVE in the Lafayette zone
    Alki – 52% (185 of 355) of Alki’s students LIVE in the Alki zone

    West Seattle – 70% (287 of 406) of WS’s students LIVE in the WS zone
    Concord – 71% (278 of 391) of Concord’s students LIVE in the Concord zone
    Arbor Heights – 69% (250 of 363) of AH’s students LIVE in the AH zone
    Highland Park – 52% (229 of 434) of HP’s students LIVE in the HP zone
    Sanislo – 49% (149 of 302) of Sanislo’s students LIVE in the Sanislo zone
    Roxhill – 45% (168 of 377) of Roxhill’s students LIVE in the Roxhill zone
    Looking at it from a different angle, what percentage of kids living within a particular attendance area attends their neighborhood school and things look slightly different:

    Schmitz Park – 62% (311 of 504) of students living in the SP zone, attend SP
    Gatewood – 56% (292 of 520) of students living in the Gatewood zone attend Gatewood
    Lafayette – 56% (299 of 530) of students living in the Lafayette zone attend Lafayette
    Alki – 52% (185 of 356) of students living in the Alki zone attend Alki

    West Seattle – 43% (287 of 660) of students living in the WS zone attend WS
    Concord – 72% (278 of 385) of students living in the Concord zone attend Concord
    Arbor Heights – 58% (250 of 432) of students living in the AH zone attend AH
    Highland Park – 50% (229 of 461) of students living in the HP zone attend HP
    Sanislo – 44% (149 of 337) of students living in the Sanislo zone attend Sanislo
    Roxhill – 49% (168 of 344) of students living in in the Roxhill zone attend Roxhill
    With STEM opening and the 3rd year of the neighborhood attendance plan in effect, these numbers will certainly change. Two schools impacted greatly from the opening of STEM are Gatewood and Arbor Heights. In Spring 2012 Arbor Heights was planning for 4 Kindergarten classes for Fall 2012 and ended up with 2.5. Over 35 incoming K’s opted to go elsewhere, mainly STEM and Pathfinder. Why? The #1 reason sited was the condition of the building. If the building is in such bad shape and is deterring families from attending, why isn’t SPS stepping up and doing something about it NOW and making it their #1 priority? Are they just going to continue to ignore that community and let Arbor Heights bleed to death? The timing of Arbor Heights’ rebuild doesn’t just impact the Arbor Heights’ community; it impacts ALL of us across West Seattle whether we have a student enrolled in SPS or not.

  • P2WS September 18, 2012 (5:16 pm)

    Hmmm, I am also offended by your comment. As parent of students at AH (the worst school building in the district), I of course am advocating for a remodel in an acceptable time frame. The school does draw a large number of neighborhood families. I think we have eight families that live on the same block as the school. Oh and not to mention that the school site was a donation from the Arbor Heights neighborhood. Also, I do not see a “do what we want or else” attitude among any parents. Really, what is the the “what else”? Seems to me you are someone who just likes to stir the pot and actually has no interest in the bex levy proposals.

  • WS K Mom September 25, 2012 (9:39 pm)

    I am bewildered why the levy would not consider the E.C. Hughes building. It was in great shape before Westside took over – Westside spent only a few thousand dollars to “update” the site (which mostly involved paint, a few windows, polishing the floors and fire alarms). SPSD only charges $3,750.00 per month in rent, which is a pittance when there are public school buildings falling apart in West Seattle. Don’t believe this? See the rental contract at

    The whole move cost Westside so very little, that they did not even need to increase their tuition for families.

    Why is this asset NOT being used for SPSD kids? Especially those further south, like the AH kids?? Why should it only be used for the kids of families who can afford private tuition? My son is not at AH, but I think that those students could use the building more than Westside.

Sorry, comment time is over.