Video: Who gets the levy money and when? BEX IV levy meeting in West Seattle

(UPDATED TUESDAY AFTERNOON with the completed text summary)

(WSB video of tonight’s meeting in its entirety, unedited)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

In West Seattle tonight, parents with a school that’s not mentioned in the BEX IV levy plan gave district officials almost as much of an earful as parents with a school that is.

Parents from the new K-5 STEM at Boren option elementary wanted to know what the plan is for their permanent home – district answer, in short: there still isn’t one – and also took the occasion to voice complaints about a lack of supplies and incomplete facilities, saying it will be difficult to believe promises the district makes for the future, if they are breaking other ones now.

But the biggest contingent was from Arbor Heights Elementary, most dressed in yellow, some holding signs, recounting health, safety, and climate-control challenges on the campus, and pleading for the promised rebuild to be moved up.

Right now, it’s not scheduled to be completed until fall 2019 – toward the end of the levy’s lifespan.

Before getting to Q/A and attendee comments, district managers went through multiple levels of background explanation, including why BEX IV is a levy and not a bond measure. (All the explanatory documents are linked here.) Unlike previous BEX IV-related meetings, this time they added information about the ballot measure that will also be on the February ballot.

District communications manager Tom Redman emceed the meeting; the presentation was led by assistant superintendent Pegi McEvoy, with district capital projects/planning director Lucy Morello also participating, and brief appearances later by interim assistant superintendent Bob Boesche and executive director of school operations Phil Brockman. Also pointed out, though they did not speak, were School Board members Marty McLaren (who represents West Seattle) and Sherry Carr, and this area’s executive director of schools Carmela Dellino (whose former school Roxhill Elementary was not mentioned at all, though it is in relatively bad shape).

The feedback from this meeting and two others around the city will be taken into account for one more draft of the levy, to be presented at a school-board work session next month. We have much more to add to the story of what happened tonight (check back by midmorning Tuesday) – but are publishing this short version first, along with video of the entire meeting (above).

ADDED 12:53 PM: The rest of the story, ahead:

The background presentation took more than half an hour – the ground rules, almost 10 of that. So we can cut to the chase, you can see the background materials here – including the district recapping that it grew by 1,000 students this year, now 49,500, and expects at least 7,000 more over the next decade.

As McEvoy described it, the BEX IV draft currently in circulation is “the third iteration,” and the district is now “trying to reach consensus.”

We’ve covered its key West Seattle points before (the summary page is here):
*New school for Schmitz Park Elementary, to be built on the grounds of the current Genesee Hill and open in 2015
*8-room addition and other upgrades for Fairmount Park Elementary, to reopen in fall 2014
*New school for Arbor Heights Elementary, on its current campus, to open in fall 2019 (a year later than the previous BEX IV draft)

The priorities for the levy, according to the district, are:
-Building safety/security
-Capacity (more room for more students)
-Building conditions
-Accessibility and flexibility for programs and services

As noted in our previous coverage, the district no longer is proposing to take back the former Hughes Elementary – currently leased by Westside School (WSB sponsor). While this was not specifically discussed during last night’s presentation, district staff said at the recent work session that this is no longer needed because the Fairmount Park addition will make room for more students.

The other areas were not discussed, since it was clear this was a hometown crowd – McEvoy asked for a show of hands for who was from which part of the district, and only a scattered view raised their hands for areas outside West Seattle. She did briefly mention what’s been a sore spot for people around the city, the “interim downtown school” that is still part of the levy, though advocates have questioned the need for it – to address possible future downtown families – when so many other trouble spots exist now.

Morello said 40 schools are in line for seismic work, though she stressed it is not urgent; she said structural engineers have checked schools and did not find any “significant structural problems.”

Boesche then took the microphone and talked about the other levy that will be on the ballot, and what it pays for – basics that, despite decades of lawsuits, the state still isn’t fully funding, he said, from textbooks to school buses to student activities, comprising more than a quarter of the district’s budget. One slide suggested that Seattle’s “total education levy rates” were lower than many other major districts in the region.

Q&A was broken into two sections – first, read from cards filled out by attendees; then, the “live mike” time.

The very first question was the issue of the night: The Arbor Heights timeline. McEvoy cited “cash flow” as a major analysis – since the levy only provides a certain amount of money each year that it’s in effect.

Second, what’s the plan for Fairmount Park, when it reopens – will it be K-5 STEM’s permanent home?

Brockman’s answer was no more detailed than when we asked him about K-5 STEM at the work session; they don’t know yet.

Then – what about the immediate challenges of overcrowding at Schmitz Park? Morello said the district is working with its principal regarding “adding core facilities,” like restrooms.

McEvoy added that the issue of how to handle problems in the years before BEX projects kick in will be taken up at the FAC-MAC committee meeting next week, and beyond.

After that, Boesche took on the question of why it wasn’t so easy to say “well, let’s just build it all now” – the district would have gotten more money faster with a bond measure, but he said it would have cost voters more, to cover the interest, among other challenges.

The open-mike segment carried the most plaintive pleas about Arbor Heights – which could be summed up in one of the first speakers, an AH teacher, saying, “This school is falling apart – please help us.”

Another speaker suggested a guided meditation which included envisioning a week of 55-degree air in the classroom, and glimpses of rodent waste.

The word “deplorable” came up more than once. So did the mention of rats. Someone else mentioned ants. District managers were asked if health inspectors had been to the school; McEvoy said yes.

Then there was another summary line: “The worst facility in the district is at the back of the line.”

The open-mike comments also yielded the concerns about conditions at K-5 STEM at Boren. The families all came to the new school from other schools on a leap of faith, one parent said, but feel promises aren’t being kept. She mentioned a lack of supplies – no notebooks, no scissors, staples; she even went to a store and bought boxes of staples to bring back. “This is not the way a school should be functioning.”

Others pointed out that two science labs aren’t up and running yet, and reiterated the lack of supplies. And the school’s playground hasn’t been set up, either – the district is still waiting for portables to be moved off the designated area south of the main school building.

Several other schools were brought up during the live-mike Q/A, including Schmitz Park’s overcrowding.

STILL TIME TO COMMENT: The district is asking for comments by September 30th – this Sunday – at

TIMETABLE: The next board work session, at which a revised version of the levy is expected to be presented, will be on October 10th. (Those are open to the public, by the way – no public comment is taken, but you are welcome to sit in and listen/watch.) A week after that, on October 17th, the all-but-final proposal will be presented to the School Board, with a final vote on November 7th, and the election in February. (Also, the third and final version of the BEX IV presentation/Q&A is set for 6:30-8 p.m., Thursday at McClure Middle School, 1915 1st Ave. W.)

ADDED TUESDAY NIGHT: Arbor Heights put together a slide deck showing conditions at the building. It’s been shared with us tonight to add to this story; we likely will write a separate followup about it, but for now, if you’re just reading this – you can see it here, as a PDF.

82 Replies to "Video: Who gets the levy money and when? BEX IV levy meeting in West Seattle"

  • Connie Watts September 24, 2012 (11:52 pm)

    Was Arbor Heights principal Christy Collins at the meeting?

  • Bonnie September 25, 2012 (7:02 am)

    I didn’t see Christy Collins there. She may have been, but I didn’t see her.

  • AHparent September 25, 2012 (7:10 am)

    For once, Ms. Collins was not in attendance but her dedication and devotion to our school is not doubted one bit. I was at the meeting and noticed her absence but do not have any resentment AT ALL. Her tireless effort is apparent to anyone who is even mildly involved with the school. What did “irk” me a little was my surprise that there weren’t more AH parents there.
    If the school district puts more urgency into addressing capacity than they do ensuring safe and healthy learning environments for ALL students, then there’s something terribly wrong. The facts don’t lie. AH’s building is THE WORST IN THE DISTRICT and needs to be at THE TOP OF THE BEX IV LIST!!! Our children Do not deserve to be passed over!,

  • Delridge Mom September 25, 2012 (7:37 am)

    Is there still a plan for a new SLU school as part of this levy? I am hearing it is still in the plan. This is completely unacceptable to me when there are so many other pressing needs. Also, the district needs to encourage growth of the stem school, by moving it to Fairmount Park and adding a small geozone ala Pathfinder to give neighborhood kids priority. I am not a stem parent, but I really believe there is a wonderful opportunity with stem to help relieve pressure on other schools in the area. I know there are parents who will not send their kids over to Delridge (I live near the Boren building so don’t jump all over me, it is fact), but those same parents will be ok with Fairmount Park. Finally, it is absolutely ridiculous that kids in the south end of west seattle have to deal with buildings that are in such deplorable condition. The timeline for this needs to be moved up. It is unfair to those kids and families who deserve better from the district.

    • WSB September 25, 2012 (7:42 am)

      D-Mom: Yes, though now they call it an “interim downtown school.”

  • Another AH Mom September 25, 2012 (7:56 am)

    What got me was that video they played for us. The video was showing all the awesome schools and implied that ‘look at these schools! We care so much about our children’ but I guess they care only about certain children. They allow our children to go to a school that is unsafe. The kids can’t drink the water, there is mold, rats, no heat, hot water flooding the kindergarten rooms while the children are in the room, rat feces, ants, etc. If they do not move AH up I do not believe that the school district really cares about our children. We need to look into filing a lawsuit. Now.

  • AHparent September 25, 2012 (8:23 am)

    Could not agree more Another!

  • NT September 25, 2012 (8:26 am)

    I *hate* the whole way the district goes about this process … it seems so arbitrary because they don’t provide much information. I have a child at Schmitz Park and we stand with Arbor Heights and call for the timeline for their new building to be moved up – waaaayyy up.

    The information that I think is lacking is this: what would be the minimum amount of time it would take for AH to get their new school? Would their current site allow for building the new school while they stay in the current ‘building’? If not, would the interim site be Boren? Would they be able to move into Boren while STEM is there or would they have to wait until STEM is placed? Does the current AH site need a ton of work to prep for the new school, how would that affect the timing? I feel like the district has this sort information and they could really douse some of the flames here if they could provide information. Instead, they just shift things around on the timeline with next to no explanation of the reasoning.

    I feel strongly that this process only succeeds in pitting school communities against one another and it’s terrible for West Seattle. ALL our kids deserve to have a building that doesn’t pose a health hazard, enough class space so there aren’t 250 kids (including kindergarteners) in portables, far from core facilities, and equipment and supplies so they can learn.

    It is inexcusable that there is any money being set aside for this ‘downtown’ school. The district lost the high ground on future planning when they shut down all those neighborhood schools; now there are so many fires to put out, they cannot be allowed to throw water on something that doesn’t qualify as a major problem.

  • Charlie Mas September 25, 2012 (8:32 am)

    The District staff provided a consistent message to every community last night: Too bad.

    The event opened with an incredibly tactless move, a video showing the beautiful new schools like South Shore and people saying “The condition of this building sends a clear message to our children about how the community values their education.” So what does the condition of Arbor Heights tell those students about how the community values their education? Really, really tactless.

    The Arbor Heights community wants greater urgency for their renovation, but the District says that the capacity needs are more urgent so those are the first projects they have to do. Students with no classrooms come before students with crumbling ones. Their response to Arbor Heights: “Too bad.”

    They had no response to the K-5 STEM community who wanted the District to keep promises and give them some resolution. The District neglected to provide the school with supplies – like paper and staples – and the District failed to keep the promise of science labs. They told those families what they tell every community: “Too bad. You screwed up; you trusted us.” The District not only won’t tell STEM families that the program would land at Fairmount, they wouldn’t tell them where else it might land (E. C. Hughes? Roxhill? Schmitz Park?). The District wouldn’t tell them when a decision would be made, how the decision would be made, or how the community could participate. There is no transparency at all. Want supplies, or labs, or transparency? Too bad.

    The response was essentially the same to families who have siblings split into separate schools due to boundary changes: too bad.

    Think a second school will overburden the Thornton Creek property and neighborhood? Too bad.

    The District made a lot of mistakes in the past? Too bad.

    A classroom that’s freezing in Winter, baking in the summer, infested with rats and ants, infected with mold, flooded, lacks potable water, rife with asbestos? Too bad.

    Indian Heritage School kicked around like a football when it isn’t completely forgotten? Too bad.

    NOVA jerked around? Too bad.

    Lafayette overcrowded with no plan for relief? Too bad.

    The one consistent message from Seattle Public Schools to every community in West Seattle: We just don’t care about you, your children, or your concerns.

    Of course they are getting right to work on that downtown school that Jeff Bezos, Paul Allen, and Tim Burgess want – even if there are no children to attend it and plenty of available space all around it.

    Of course they jumped South Shore to the front of the queue for a new building to please Stuart Sloan. Venture philanthropists don’t have to wait for a renovation. Nevermind how that decision created a chain of events that left West Seattle schools in a twisted knot for years to come.

    The District just doesn’t respond to the communities they are supposed to serve.

  • Heidi A September 25, 2012 (8:51 am)

    I am one of the K-5 STEM parents that spoke last night, but I want to emphasize that we stand with Arbor Heights.

    Here are a couple of thoughts to press for a better AH timeline:

    – A community member from Thornton Creek said they do not need a new school, yet their new school is schedule to be completed by 2016. Why can’t they flip the Thornton Creek and AH timelines if the issue is when the money comes in?

    – District officials emphasized the highest growth is in the North and West Seattle. The North has received the majority of past levy funding and is scheduled to get a big chunk with this levy. If they are going to talk about equitable access, they need to make West Seattle a bigger priority and equalized funds in both areas.

    – There was no mention of projected growth in “downtown/SLU”. I work downtown and see no babies or children living here. West Seattle but their own admission has one of the highest project growths. $5M tfor an area without substantial projected growth is unacceptable when AH has both capacity and health/safety issues.

    – The sooner they place K-5 STEM in a permanent location, the sooner AH could move to Boren and at least have a healthy environment. Boren is actually quite a nice facility, I actually wouldn’t mind staying there but know that is not going to happen.

    As to the supply situation and broken promises at K-5 STEM, Bob Boesche and Carmella Dellino both promised to do what it takes to expedite a correction. I believe they were sincere in their willingness to help. Carmella has an outstanding record of supporting WS schools and said she would personnaly drive supplies to the school if needed.

    Squeaky wheel in Seattle, that’s what it takes.

  • Dano September 25, 2012 (8:53 am)

    Charlie, you said everything VERY well…. You have observed well, processed well, and communicated well….

  • AHparent September 25, 2012 (9:13 am)

    Yep. Thank you Charlie!!

  • BMC September 25, 2012 (9:15 am)

    How crowded is Lafayette? How many kids in the kindergartens? My twins to attend there next year.

  • anotherparent September 25, 2012 (9:51 am)

    BMC, Lafayette is the largest elementary school in WS.

  • What a mess September 25, 2012 (9:57 am)

    West Seattle PTA’s should get together and rework that propaganda video the district showed at the meeting. Edit in footage of the reality of AH’s deplorable condition, Schmitz Park portables, STEM empty labs, the juggling of families split between schools, and SPS parents’ and teachers’ public comments. That would be an eye opening juxtaposition.

  • Charlie Mas September 25, 2012 (10:57 am)

    Arbor Heights families asked me what they can do.

    Seattle Public Schools does not respond to the community they serve. They only respond to three things: money, litigation, and bad press.

    The Arbor Heights community doesn’t have money, so forget that route. You don’t have enough to bribe the District to change the BEX list like South Lake Union billionaires. You don’t even have enough money to bring litigation.

    You can try to catch them in a regulatory move by calling the Health Department and having them out there all the time. You can also try to get Labor and Industries out there to inspect working conditions. The SEA should be poked into some activity over working conditions as well. Good luck with that.

    Then there is bad press…

    The first thing they can do is refuse to allow their children to take the MSP in their current building. They should all opt out of the MSP – the entire school – and not start taking the state test again until the renovation is complete. Don’t start taking it again when they promise renovation (their promises are worthless) or when the start renovation. Don’t start taking it again until they complete the renovation.

    It will not hurt your children, your teachers, or your school to opt out of the MSP. It isn’t used as a formative assessment for your kids to guide their instruction. It isn’t used to assess your teacher’s performance. The school will suffer no sanctions for a low pass rate because it is not a Title I school. The test does the community no good. Opt out of it. Let it stand as a big zero for the District, pulling down their numbers, wounding their pride.

    Second, use whatever regulatory power they bring to bear. Call Labor and Industries to report the unsafe working conditions. Get the teachers’ union to submit complaints. Call the fire marshall. Whatever authority is available, bring it.

    Third, stage a bunch of press events to call attention to the deplorable condition of the building. Invite reporters to events when you raise money to remediate dangerous situations. Have a walk-a-thon to raise money for space heaters. Change the name of the school mascot from the Junior Seahawks to something like the Shambling Wrecks. Invite reporters to accompany inspectors from L & I when they come to review the conditions.

  • wondering... September 25, 2012 (11:11 am)

    “What a mess”, I love it! What happens if this process frustrates so many people, serves to create more distrust, and then people simply vote NO to the levy? What if people follow through on their threats to vote no on the levy if the downtown school remains in the plan? What then?

    For our family, having the levy pass means the likely possibility of being redrawn into another new school and community, (we’ve already switched once.) As teacher and parent, I always vote yes on education for the greater good, but by evading questions and providing only condescending nods of agreement when families try to voice concerns or ask for clarification doesn’t convince me that anyone at the district level truly has the communities best interest in mind. I want to believe that the community meetings are a time when the district listens and works to make positive change… but I’m beginning to feel naive and foolish holding on to that belief.

  • AH Mom September 25, 2012 (11:17 am)

    AH Parent – how many of us were there vs how many did you expect? I know several letters were emailed or handed out in our kids packets listing several email address to express our concern for the school rebuild to the powers that be. I was not able to attend due to prior engagements so I’ll be emailing.

    I also wonder – just in general – how many of our issues other schools have? Isn’t Gatewood older, what health issues if any are there? I am just trying to get an overall feel of all the buildings, not discounting our schools issues. Which are legitimate! I am just wondering if the school board is saying “yeah, mice poop – all schools have that”, as an excuse to put off a rebuild.

  • AH parent September 25, 2012 (11:41 am)

    There were approx. 40 AH people there (I don’t estimate well, perhaps someone did a head count). After all the effort getting the word out, I’m surprised there weren’t more of the 400-some families there. I’m very grateful to all the staff that was there!!!!

  • vs September 25, 2012 (11:45 am)

    Hey AH Mom,
    I just recently counted the number of schools I’ve had children in over the last decade: 9–2 alternatives, 2 middles (1 subsequently closed), 4 neighborhood el, 1 high (and investigated several more in person)–and I toured AH several times, because I was considering sending my daughter to the Spectrum program there. I can without a doubt vouch for the fact that the conditions compare terribly with the other schools I’m familiar with (and several are of the older/less spiffy variety). Safety/environmental concerns are the only reason my child did not end up there–despite your great new principal, very responsive teachers, and lovely community. You absolutely deserve better.

  • Bonnie September 25, 2012 (12:03 pm)

    vs, I don’t blame you! Please write a letter to and tell them why you wouldn’t send your children to Arbor Heights.

  • Bonnie September 25, 2012 (12:04 pm)

    AH parent, I was there last night and I thought 40 was pretty good. We don’t have 400 families in Arbor Heights so I don’t know how we could get that number. Schmitz Park only had about 4 – 6 people there.

    • WSB September 25, 2012 (12:12 pm)

      As someone who attends public meetings several nights a week in peak season (like right now), let me say that ANY double-digit turnout for a public meeting is a good turnout. Certainly the more the better, but I have been to too many single-digit-turnout meetings lately – hooray to everyone who showed up. Please also note (as I continue trying to finish this story while other things keep happening elsewhere) Marty McLaren’s community conversation meeting at 1;15 pm today at Delridge Library – a good place for followup. – TR

  • Evergreen September 25, 2012 (12:30 pm)

    So can anyone tell me how kids housed in poorly built school buildings with rodent poop are not at risk for hantavirus? Maybe there is little risk from the urban rodent population, but this is something I would want to know from a scientist rather than the school district. Arbor Heights parents definitely need to report this to the health department and then take it to the media if there is indeed a risk of infectious disease. Call a UW ID specialist for their assessment of risk, arm yourselves with info. I’m a STEM parent, but will definitely stand by any community that has children at risk due to a third world building.

  • AH Mom September 25, 2012 (12:49 pm)

    The district needs to address all the spectrum/advanced kids – clearly there’s a need for another school building that services these kids that’s not falling to shambles. Given a choice of okay building and overcrowding vs enough room and falling a part — really? these are not acceptable choices. Think of how good BOTH programs could be if both schools were clean, safe and people wanted to attend – and not overcrowded! I love the parents, staff and principle at AH but I am tried of getting “that look” from people when you tell them where your children go.

  • Amanda September 25, 2012 (1:19 pm)

    I am SO happy the City Council decided to build a new stadium!! I mean, hell! Who needs SCHOOLS, when you have SPORTS? WOOO HOOOO!!!

    Sick to death of this nonsense. File a lawsuit AH, file it now.

  • WSParent2 September 25, 2012 (1:25 pm)

    Beware everyone, the district does a good job of trying to pit schools and communities against one another. I am an AH parent and I was at the meeting last night and my stomach lurched when an AH parent questioned Schmitz Park getting a new school before ours. Having been at Arbor Heights during two proposed closings, I witnessed an attempt to pit AH and against Roxhill and then again against Cooper to find Pathfinder a home.
    I am also confused about one item that was brought up last night about STEM being an immediate answer to the overcrowding situation for schools in West Seattle. I know that the SW schools have suffered a drops in enrollment due to the school opening. The drop in enrollment to AH may result in staff reduction. Lafayette and Schmitz Park are still over capacity. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong. The focus should be on rebuilding/expanding existing schools before starting new ones. That said I feel bad for the STEM community, because they too are now getting a raw deal with lack of necessary supplies and unfinished classrooms.
    Move AH rebuild up on the timeline! Please pardon my spelling errors.

  • WSParent2 September 25, 2012 (1:35 pm)

    By the way, what happened to Roxhill? The school needs a new home and with its’ current community. They have already lost a wonderful and successful transition program in an attempt to eleviate capacity issues.

  • Evergreen September 25, 2012 (1:42 pm)

    Arbor Heights Parents! I just called the Health Dept to discuss the condition of your building, and they stated that they have never heard any complaints about rodents or poor water quality! Apparently it is the job of SPS to notify the health dept in order to initiate an investigation, but of course they have never done this.

    So PLEASE call the department of environmental health (part of public health) for King county. The phone number is on their website. They were going to take a formal complaint from me, but I don’t have a child there & have never been in your building. Any parent can lodge a complaint & the health dept will do an inspection. They are responsible for monitoring school building health. Could your PTA file a complaint? There is also an online form you can fill out, but I would start with a phone call. Rodent urine and feces carry many different kinds do diseases, and kids with ASTHMA probably should not even be in that building.

  • Cheryl September 25, 2012 (1:47 pm)

    What I don’t understand is why they keep holding all these meetings when they don’t actually HAVE the money yet… and we’re all assuming (a BIG assumption) that the voters will even approve this when it goes to the ballot in February. I am an AH parent, formerly a Roxhill parent, and I know how bad our schools are… and it makes me sick frankly… but I also know better than to count my chickens before they hatch. We can holler and stamp our feet all we want, but until this thing is a done deal and the money is IN the coffers, we are grasping at the ethers. Oh, and nope. I do NOT trust the District to have our kids best interest at heart, especially those of us with kids in the more run-down buildings.
    The only way it seems you can get what you want/need for your school is to go out there and get it yourself. Until we start acting like, and running our schools like, private institutions, our kids will continue to attend classes in decrepit buildings. Clearly. I’m not holding out for SPS to take care of us. And I’m definitely not holding out for Seattle voters to dish out more money. The District needs to make changes now, not keep hoping (begging) for more money to make right what they should have made right with the money they already have.
    So disheartening.

  • WSParent2 September 25, 2012 (1:55 pm)

    AH Mom, RE: Gatewood. Have you ever been to the school and inside of it? The grounds and the building are beautiful.

    The building was remodeled sometime around 1991. This info comes from a 10/14/1991 article.
    “Gatewood Elementary School, now an imposing three-level brick building at 4320 S.W. Myrtle St., has been extensively renovated at a cost of $5.1 million, and the memories will come flowing back at a dedication Wednesday. Gatewood, which has 315 students, is one of 15 public schools in the city to be remodeled or replaced in a $140 million capital-improvement program in the past four years.”

  • Cheryl September 25, 2012 (1:57 pm)

    Thank yous to @CharlieMas most of all for your comments. I couldn’t agree with you more.

  • Heidi A September 25, 2012 (2:11 pm)

    Regarding why K-5 STEM was an “immediate answer to the overcrowding situation for schools in West Seattle”, I can speak for Gatewood. We liked Gatewood but it was overcrowded and one of the reasons we left. It’s not now as the school that lost the most kids to K-5 STEM is Gatewood.
    Also, I wouldn’t take the draw from SW schools as any indication of the future draw. Lafayette and SP are higher performing schools that families are generally happy with. WHile many parents in those neighborhoods were VERY interested in STEM, at the time of open enrollment no decisions had been made about curriculum such as Singapore math. Why would anyone at SP take the chance of giving up Singapore math? Once more decisions were made and Mr. Parsley was officially hired, more SP families applied and couldn’t get in. Likewise, why would families generally content with the high performance of Lafayette take a chance at open enrollment time when not even the Principal had been hired at that time?
    As we prove that we are a high performing school with Singapore math and top notch teachers, the “risk” that families in the north were concerned about goes away.
    That said, a good option is to open Genesee (as they plan) and keep Schmitz Park open as a neighborhood school with a capacity that doesn’t count portables.

  • Ugh September 25, 2012 (2:15 pm)

    I attended last night’s meeting and was truly bothered by the lack of real answers to most of the questions. It wasn’t as much of a Q&A session but more of a Question and Rhetoric in my opinion. I was shocked at how almost every single question was NOT answered. I am also very bothered by the attempt to pit one school against another. I think everyone agrees that Arbor Heights should be number one, that is a non-issue. However, there are still other, pending issues that also need to be addressed, not ignored. I’m not comfortable with this levy at all – I have zero confidence in how the money will be spent but I also know that voting no isn’t in the kids’ best interest. I’m pretty torn and upset over the whole thing.

  • Supply? September 25, 2012 (2:32 pm)

    I had to provide school supplies for my children including notebooks and scissors. I just assumed all SPS families were asked to do so. I’m confused as to why STEM parents were expecting all supplies to be provided by the district.

  • AH Mom September 25, 2012 (2:38 pm)

    @WSParent2 – After the combined idea of having AH and RH on the same campus when kaput (sounded like BOTH sides were against) I haven’t heard anything since.

    I know there was a rumor that the district wanted an elementary school on the old Denny campus (?) to have a flow of education starting at elementary thru high school. Not sure what happened to that idea.

  • happy September 25, 2012 (2:48 pm)

    “It will not hurt your children, your teachers, or your school to opt out of the MSP.”


    Thank you! I appreciate your input. You’re spot-on! But I’ve been told, in private, by district staff, that there IS something that the district can do if a parent opts out of the testing: the district can pull the “specialty” label (ie, APP or Spectrum) from your kid’s file, and you have no recourse other than to have the child take the tests the following year, and hope that those are the tests that the district is using that year to “offer” APP or Spectrum education for your student.

    Yeah, that sucks: kids score high, make the district look good on paper (not teachers who earned it, noooo) and then get screwed if they don’t take the tests. My kids are AH kids, and if it weren’t for the wonderful teachers, we’d be outta there in a minute.

  • Anne September 25, 2012 (3:51 pm)

    Evergreen-I was thinking the same thing. Take a video of the conditions cited-have it assesed. Arm yourselves with the visual proof-put it out to the media.

  • Evergreen September 25, 2012 (4:57 pm)

    Supply, STEM parents did the same thing. Every family gave $20 for supplies. The issue is not with student supplies, but rather teacher workroom supplies. The teacher workroom has nothing, including paper and staples (does it have a copier?)…this is on top of no playground equipment (parents donated balls and chalk for recess on the asphalt jail yard), no gym supplies for PE, no lights or signs to reinforce our crosswalk & encourage drivers to slow down in the school zone, urinals that are too high for young boys to use, and promised science labs that are currently not useable. Our curriculum materials just arrived last week. I could go on. Luckily we have a great community of people…despite all of this, I do feel thankful for what we do have and believe that this will be a fully functioning school in the Spring or by next year. Arbor Heights should be the district priority.

  • shihtzu September 25, 2012 (5:07 pm)

    I suspect there are actual city occupancy/fire code laws that come into play with an overcrowded school. Unfortunately, sucky, dirty, cold conditions don’t pose such a immediate threat of being closed down by the fire dept., etc.

    Therefore, I think the comment that suggested calling the health dept. and getting some solid, documented evidence is a really good idea.

  • Another AH Mom September 25, 2012 (5:49 pm)

    There is an easy solution to the overcrowding problem at SP. STOP ALLOWING MORE KIDS INTO THE SCHOOL. Sorry, but there are other schools and they can be utilized.

  • Heidi A September 25, 2012 (6:08 pm)

    @Supply? – This is not a trivial issue and we are not expecting special treatment. My family was at Gatewood for the last two years and I suggested to the Principal that we have a flat fee for student supplies rather than the difficult lists. It has worked well at Gatwood, but Gatewood’s not starting from scratch. So, we paid a flat fee, much lake Gatewood families do. The problem is with district fufillment of orders for those supplies and basic teaching materials that are supposed to be provided by the district. Did your supply list include the things TEACHERS need to run a classroom like paper for the copy machine, teacher clipboards,teacher folders, or staples for teachers to assemble homework? I thought not; the reality is that in an established school it’s a given that those things are there in the supply room but they are not there at STEM despite our orders sent in long ago. Good news is that distric staff have been very helpful today and are working to address this promptly – it shouldn’t be a hard problem to fix.

  • Heidi A September 25, 2012 (6:22 pm)

    And just to add some information for background – all schools receive district supplies through a two part process. First the order has to be approved; the backlog, I was told, is about 30-45 days. Then the order has to be fufilled through the fufillment center; the backlog, I was told, is about 90 days. That may be fine for schools that have supplies and have put in orders in anticipation of future needs, but a school that has received next to nothing can’t sit around for four months waiting when we were promised a fully functioning school upon opening.
    Again, I think it will be taken care of and we can move on from this bump; just wanted to clarify in case any one else thought we were asking for something outside the norm.

  • Marcia Ingerslev September 25, 2012 (7:21 pm)

    I am a proud teacher at Arbor Heights. I appreciate all of the support people have given us. I wanted to make certain that everyone understands that we have two custodians who work really hard to keep our school clean. They do a great job in a very difficult situation. The building is not dirty, just falling apart. We will be at the School Board meeting next week so if you are coming and you support us, wear yellow. Let’s keep the sunlight shining on this issue.

  • WS parent September 25, 2012 (8:06 pm)

    Marcia: Great idea! All West Seattlites attending the board meeting: please wear yellow to show that you support Arbor Heights and that West Seattle is unified, not divided against one another. Together, perhaps we can come up with solutions that work to improve conditions for all the families in West Seattle.

  • AH Parent 1000 September 25, 2012 (8:33 pm)

    I can’t stand it when the district pits one school against another! Arbor Heights is dealing with having basic health and safety needs met for their children and staff. The district repeatedly tells us that safety for our children and staff is their number one concern. It is stated in their video and is listed on last nights handout, in the number one position. They need to put their money where their mouth is! It makes it hard for me to have empathy for families in other facilities that are struggling with needing more desks and children having to wait in long lines to wash hands before lunch. If that is truly your concern you can come to our school. We have plenty of desks and faucets for hand washing. Just remember not to drink the water, wear a good coat so you’ll stay warm in your classroom and I highly recommend hand warmers in each pocket. They were a life saver for my son!

  • Darci September 25, 2012 (8:49 pm)

    My son graduated from Arbor Heights last spring and my daughter is scheduled to start there in the fall of 2013. The district needs to get their priorities straight. Health and safety need to be everyone’s number one concern! Families pull their children from AH because of our schools physical condition, which contributes to the capacity issue at other schools. The district is currently choosing to treat a symptom before a cause. When you build AH a new school it will elevate some of the pressure on other facilities. I would like to invite all SP families to come tour AH and then honestly ask if you would send your child their? I ask you to instruct the district to make AH a priority. We could be housed at Boren at the start of next fall, so construction could begin summer of 2013.

  • An AH mom September 25, 2012 (9:51 pm)

    It would be great if that AH slide could be in the actual article WSB. Thanks for your consideration.

    • WSB September 25, 2012 (10:26 pm)

      I had added the link in the story too. I’m going to look for a screen grab later but right now am out in the field again and unable to process images.

  • WS K Mom September 25, 2012 (9:52 pm)

    I am bewildered why the levy would not consider the E.C. Hughes building for AH or another over-capacity West Seattle school.

    The building 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. You can see the rental contract here:

    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.

  • WSParent2 September 25, 2012 (11:02 pm)

    We families at AH better hope the BEX Levy goes through and AH gets a new school way before 2019, because enrollment is going to drop so much more after all of the talk about how bad the facility is. We have lost so many families this school year already. It is sad. Might as well just close down and head to the schools with decent buildings, new white boards, beautiful computer labs with Macs, etc… We should grab our Macs on the way out. Christy Collins had to fight so hard to get those last spring after the district decided that they may need to hold on the funds (promised to us) a little longer and leave us with outdated pcs that were in such bad shape they continually shut down and distrupted so much of the testing time. We can’t get into the northside schools with their long waitlists, so maybe continue the AH migration to STEM if there is room. After all, I for one whould rather be fighting for office supplies and a science lab. Sorry for the negativity, but I am feeling very tired and resentful of this whole situation. A move out of West Seattle and possibly the city as well is looking more appealing by the day. Yuck. Check out the “Save Seattle Schools” blog for some interesting updates.

  • WS concerned parent September 26, 2012 (12:11 am)

    my kids do not go to AH, and I agree with most on here that ALL WS parents need to stand together to show support for the school in the worst condition getting the first attention. We moved here from a smaller school district and we toured some of the schools before buying here, and I’m really surprised at how old/outdated the schools look inside, that there are still chalkboards instead of whiteboards in some schools, and old computers and very few portable laptop computer labs for individual classrooms. From talking to teachers it sounds like many of them buy more items for own classrooms compared to our old district. And SPS schools are public schools that are privately funded (auctions). Outside of the metro area, public schools usually do not have auctions to raise extra funds. Maybe there would be one school fundraiser for the year that might raise money, but not as much money as the auctions raise…

  • WSMom3 September 26, 2012 (7:15 am)

    I am an AH parent and I considered leaving AH for Stem for a few reasons. 1) the building and 2) the way the district treats AH. They just don’t care and favor the north end over the south. But I love the AH community and decided to stick it out another year. Something better be done about that building ASAP.

  • waitlisted September 26, 2012 (9:53 am)

    Our child is in spectrum at AH. I admit, my first choice was to have him leave and go to Lafayette due to the building. Based on the levy vote and how the district decides AH fate will determine if I go back to the wait list again next year to see if we get in. You don’t have to be spectrum to have this issue. Any of the AH parents who want to leave due to the building probably won’t get to. Again – take a clue SPS! You have a program that you can’t find sufficient space for all the students who qualify and how many didn’t sign up at AH because of the building? My child’s education comes first. I won’t pull him from a program he needs just to prove a point and not go to school in a bad building, but thankfully his feeder schools are brand new buildings (Denny & CS HS) but what about all the other kids that follow at AH?

  • Sue Wilson September 26, 2012 (11:48 am)

    I too am a proud AH teacher. I counted 61 people from AH at the BEX meeting. Our school is not dirty…it’s just old and falling apart. I have chalkboards in my room, plexiglass instead of real windows in 6 panes (they just installed glass in 12 of them in the past few months). I won’t drink the water anywhere in the building. The only hot water in the whole school is in the kitchen and 1 of the staff restrooms. I have carpet on my floor that is at least 40 years old, but it’s better than the peeling and cracked tiles in other rooms and the hall. My classroom temperature varies between 55 and 85. I doubt my room has been painted in the past 30-40 years. BUT I have great kids and great parents! There is a real neighborhood feel here, parents hanging out after school with their kids, many walkers and several kids on bikes. My fear is that we will be moved to the Boren site, and left there til 2019. Seven years will destroy that neighborhood feeling. My first-graders will be in 8th grade by then. We will have a whole school generation (K-5th grades) that never went to school in their neighborhood, and that doesn’t seem right.

  • Evergreen September 26, 2012 (12:27 pm)

    Two teachers have now stated that the school is not dirty, so now I am confused about how health is impacted. For clarification, is there a rodent problem? If so, how widespread? Also, is there a clear reason why no one will drink the water? Finally, is the asbestos sealed away from kids? The health department should be notified if any of these issues place the kids’ health at risk. Otherwise, it may be hard to make a case for AH becoming the priority over the NE capacity issue (since as another parent mentioned, overcrowding also violates regulations that force to make it a priority). Lots of schools in Seattle are old and crumbling, but identified and reportable health violations would argue for immediate repairs.

  • Darci September 26, 2012 (1:58 pm)

    It is not that people won’t drink the water, it is that you are instructed NOT to drink the water. There are signs posted above the faucets instructing you not to drink the water. There are multiple old pipes on the ceilings that are/have leaked rusty water down the walls. It appears the districts main fix is to paint over them. There are missing asbestos tiles in the cafeteria. I took photos of these issues no more than an hour ago. Anyone who would like to see the state of the building is welcome to come any time and see for themselves. Obviously we are no longer trying to hide our dirty little secrets.

  • Bonnie September 26, 2012 (2:25 pm)

    Evergreen, I think they are simply stating that the school is kept as nice as it can be. It is cleaned by the janitors and there is no garbage on the ground. Pretty sure that is what they are stating. Some things people can’t see, like heat that doesn’t work and water that is undrinkable and lead in the old paint and asbestos, etc. What do you think it would be like in 7 years if it’s this bad now?

  • What a mess September 26, 2012 (2:31 pm)

    I took “not dirty,” as the janitors and staff are doing the best they can in the day to day cleaning up as all the schools do. Wiping up, mopping, etc. Interestingly, I just realized that my house in AH was built in the same year as AH Elementary! So as much as I keep a tidy house, there is no amount of organizing and scrubbing that could have saved us from the big stuff: new water heater, updated electrical, replacing the main water pipes to the street, roof, leaking sink pipes that rotted out the cabinets, linoleum peeling up in the bathroom. I still can’t run my dishwasher while the microwave is on without shorting out the electric for the fridge, but I digress. Anyway! all that good stuff. I like reading all the support for WS schools. I hope we can get past this neglect so the kids and teachers move back to bigger and better things. And the health risks are especially worrisome. Sad really.

  • vs September 26, 2012 (3:08 pm)

    It seems like this issue puts the AH staff/community in a very difficult position–every school wants families to come and to stay and build a stable community. When there’s so much hard work that goes in to creating a good school, it must be frustrating to have negative buzz about the parts that are beyond your control. At the same time, acute issues need to be treated as acute as they really are, and it might be hard to have it both ways for a while. I’m sure that the school-level staff does everything they can to maintain as healthy an environment as they can. At the same time, some of those measures–like keeping windows open during the day–must be in response to essentially untenable facility challenges. Within the last 2 years, I have absolutely, first-hand experienced symptom-inducing air quality problems in that building, which I have to assume is related to mold. The problems there are real. On one level, it’s about the kids, staff, and families that are there already, and providing a decent learning and working environment. On another level, it is also about the district’s commitment to the whole of southern West Seattle, as AH is the only Spectrum program for the Denny draw area (Lafayette has essentially become an option in theory only)– the building issues impact the ability of this program to gain momentum and provide a thriving Advanced Learning option to this part of the city. Not everyone thinks that’s important. I do. It speaks to how the district provides (or doesn’t) for high achievers in this socioeconomically diverse area of the city–they should be ashamed. I really hope that the larger WS community can rally around AH, write (I did!), show up to the meetings, and make it clear that this community *needs* a quality building in the near-term. I, for one, will not vote for a levy that does not move the AH timeline up.

  • evergreen September 26, 2012 (3:10 pm)

    Repeating this, but I called the health dept yesterday (office environmental health) and the person I spoke with stated that she was not aware of ANY issues with the drinking water at AH. The dept of health does periodic inspections of SPS schools, but if there is a public health issue, the district is supposed to call them to request an inspection. Obviously this hasn’t happened. The person I spoke with stated that any parent can call to file a complaint. File & they will inspect, and the district has to act if there are unsafe conditions. At least, I hope so. Act now while the levy is under discussion.

  • Francesca September 26, 2012 (3:19 pm)

    Evergreen – my daughter is now in 2nd grade at AH. I pack a water bottle for her to take to school and I shouldn’t have to do that. I witnessed someone from the district testing the water in the drinking fountains during the spring of her kindergarten year. There are signs in the bathrooms and classrooms not to drink the water. I have no idea why they even bother even testing the water in the hallway.

    How is that acceptable in the year 2012?

  • What a mess September 26, 2012 (4:33 pm)

    Where is new Superintendent Banda is all this? He did his first media appearance at AH and was at STEM for the first day. When will he weigh in on West Seattle schools?

  • West Seattle persons September 26, 2012 (4:44 pm)

    I think most kids both in and out of the city of Seattle bring their own water and bottles from home these days. For that matter, I’ve seen signs warning not to drink the water at Schmitz Park too. I’d hate to see exaggeration distract from very real needs.

  • I'm a west seattle person too September 26, 2012 (5:09 pm)

    Uh…West Seattle persons, are you saying we are lying? Because it sure sounds like it.

  • WSParent2 September 26, 2012 (5:25 pm)

    West Seattle Persons. You are right kids at many schools do bring their own water to school these days, because most schools allow the kids to have water at their desks. Just like snacks are served.
    Having water polluted with lead is unsafe in any school.
    Nobody is exaggerating about any of the conditions at Arbor Heights Elementary School. I think the water issue is just another insult to the whole situation.
    With all the vagueness coming from the district about the rebuild timeline and no comformation that STEM will be at Fairmount or a school for that matter, I am starting to reconsider my support for passing the levy.

  • darci September 26, 2012 (5:33 pm)

    The school is in such a poor state we don’t need to exaggerate. The door is always open. Come see for yourself.

  • West Seattle persons September 26, 2012 (5:45 pm)

    I don’t think anyone is lying at all, but bringing your own water to school and not being able to drink the water is awful, but Is probably common in old buildings.

    I just fear bringing up this kind of thing won’t do much. The district will just say, yeah old buildings are hard to maintain…

    I like someone’s idea of getting the health dept to look into the matter.

  • Francesca September 26, 2012 (6:02 pm)

    West Seattle persons- Schmitz Park has a playground full of portables that can’t be hidden. It’s obvious where the need is. The problems with the Arbor Heights building can’t be seen from the outside. Incidentally, grades 1-3 and all support classrooms (including before/after school care) are located in portables that are well past their intended lifespan. It has been rated the absolute worst in the entire district.

    Both schools have numbers behind them to warrant new facilities. Let’s just make sure the district keeps focused on all of West Seattle.

  • WSMom3 September 26, 2012 (7:07 pm)

    Maybe they should just take all of the Schmitz Park portables and combine them all together like they did at Arbor Heights and call it good. How does that sound? And maybe some day people will even forget that they took a whole bunch of portables and lined them up in a big line and built hallways between them and call it a school. Sound even better?

  • WS K Mom September 26, 2012 (7:14 pm)

    Again, why is the E.C. Hughes building NOT on the levy? SPS buidlings should be used for SPS kids – not kids whose parents can afford to pay private school. How is renting the E.C. Hughes building to Westside for $3,750.00 per month helping SPS kids? That’s definitely NOT market rate.
    Give the building to AH and let Westside fundraise to buy their own building.

  • WSParent2 September 26, 2012 (10:31 pm)

    RE: E.C. Hughes, I think the problem with the school is the size. I am not sure of what the capacity limit is, but I think it is 350 tops and I know it was decided that it was too small to house Roxhill and I think the same reason for not moving STEM there.
    However, it could accomodate Arbor Heights since our enrollment went from 364 to 330 at the start of school due to STEM attrition.
    LOL Fran, it is amazing what can be done with portables! To Wondering – I could not agree more with you. If my neighborhood school is not moved up on the levy by at least three years (consider it closed otherwise), I will not vote for the levy and this will be first, since I have never voted against a school levy. Although, I know my two household votes won’t have any impact. I also don’t think that I can sit through another BEX meeting listening to Peggy McEvoy.

  • Bonnie September 27, 2012 (7:20 am)

    The biggest question I have is why is the South Lake Union school included in BEX and why does it have priority over other schools?

  • parent September 27, 2012 (8:02 am)

    one POSITIVE in kids leaving AH for whatever reason is our student-teacher ratio will be lower…which means better learning, better test scores for those who keep track, meanwhile, all the parents who think other WS are “better” for some odd reason will enjoy sending their kids to cramped portables who have to wait in line to eat, go to the bathroom etc. That doesn’t sound like a ‘go to’ school for me! It’s laughable what some of these parents will justify. Because you’re school is deemed ‘better’ you’ll allow your child to sit in a hallway due to overcrowding, but they “are getting a good math program”. Silly.

  • evergreen September 27, 2012 (12:37 pm)

    Schmitz Park is a neighborhood school, and the waitlist doesn’t move. Those kids were assigned.

  • An AH mom September 27, 2012 (1:19 pm)

    I don’t think most of those who do have children attending AH realize that the entire back half of the school (where over half the classrooms are) is actually portables walled in and joined by a massive, dark hallway.

  • Francesca September 27, 2012 (1:32 pm)

    Evergreen – I know a family that lives in Pigeon Point and it should be noted they just moved here about a year ago from Eastern WA. They did have a different address before they were able to find a home that better suited their needs. Yet somehow they got their 5th grader into Schmitz Park this year. It doesn’t seem fair to enroll a student who doesn’t live within a neighborhood school boundary at an already overcrowded school. That family doesn’t have the same amount of time invested into the school as other SP parents.

    Again, WS needs to bring attention to the area to get our problems solved.

  • AH Parent 2 September 28, 2012 (10:15 am)

    @evergreen. Arbor Heights has been in contact over the years AND recently with state agencies regarding health and safety concerns at our school. The district also has their own “risk management” dept. who is suppose to work with the state. At least that’s the way the chain of commands are suppose to work, yet I’m sure SPS Risk Management are more in a CYA mode. The WA State Dept. of Health in fact has a School Environmental Health Manager who is very aware of AH’s history. L&I claims have also been filed over the years by AH; often times SPS would rather pay the fine than properly fix the problem.
    Here are some links with lots more history and background on AH’s situation:

  • evergreen September 28, 2012 (6:40 pm)

    Then they are just another ineffective bureaucracy, unfortunately. At this point take it to more media sources? It’s unbelievable what your community has had to go through. I know that our PTA has voiced your building as a priority in our own dealings with the district, and that our co-Presidents are brainstorming ways all WS PTAs can join together in fighting for equity and better prioritization from the district.

    (Those links are from 2005-2006. Is the DOH aware of your current drinking water issue? Were they responsible for the current signs or did SPS put them there? If SPS is paying fines without fixing the problems, has anyone considered legal action?)

  • Another AH Mom September 28, 2012 (10:40 pm)

    And the school district has known about these problems for years and still won’t address the problem for 7 more years. This should have been taken care of years ago! Where was our previous principal in this? Shame on her!

  • evergreen October 1, 2012 (6:38 am)

    To AH PTSA (from one of our STEM parents):
    “I managed to talk our 11pm producer into putting a bit about Arbor Heights in
    the 11pm news tonight (KIRO).

    We were doing a story on Thornton Creek and how the community does not want a
    school built there. I thought it would be good to add a bit about Arbor Heights
    and how they desperately need one.

    The BEX levy is very topical right now, so Arbor Heights PTA should contact as
    many media outlets as they can, and get their story out there.

    Please pass this email along to them as I don’t have contact info.”

Sorry, comment time is over.