Video: 2nd-to-last public-comment round before School Board’s levy vote

(Vicki Schmitz Block speaks to board on behalf of Schmitz Family – see 4:24 pm below)
ORIGINAL REPORT, 4:04 PM: We’re at Seattle Public Schools headquarters in SODO as the School Board starts an hourlong public-comment session on the two levies it plans to send to voters next February – including the BEX (“building excellence”) levy to raise money for construction/renovation/improvement projects. Right now, it includes plans to renovate/expand and reopen Fairmount Park Elementary in 2014; to build a new Schmitz Park Elementary on the old Genesee Hill campus, opening in 2015; and to build a new Arbor Heights Elementary to open in 2018. Most West Seattle discussion has centered on trying to get the timeline for AH moved up, as the school is in bad shape; in the past week, West Seattle’s pioneer Schmitz family, which donated the current SP Elementary site to the district, has voiced opposition to the possibility that building might be closed when the new GH school opens, though they do support a new school at GH.

We’re recording the session in its entirety but also will note West Seattle-related speakers as they come up. Twelve people are signed up – the session was scheduled for a minimum of 20. The final public-comment period will be at the November 7th board meeting, but that will be the same night as the board’s scheduled final vote. Board members are listening today but the district says they will not be commenting. More to come.

4:14 PM UPDATE: Five speakers so far, and none about West Seattle. Everyone who’s speaking signed up right before the meeting – unlike regular board meetings, there was no two-days-in-advance signup procedure.

4:21 PM: Longtime district watchdog Chris Jackins is the first to mention West Seattle BEX IV projects, saying he believes AH should be renovated immediately rather than replaced, and that he is against closing SP:

He is followed by someone talking about the proposed downtown school. Spokesperson for the Schmitz family, Vicki Schmitz Block, is scheduled to speak next.

4:24 PM: She thanks board members for replying to the letter sent several days ago and says it was a surprise to the family to hear there was a possibility SP might be closed, just as she guesses the board may be surprised to hear that some members of the Schmitz family are “still alive and living in West Seattle.” She says the family wants to keep it open in some form. She also notes that her father-in-law Dietrich Schmitz served on the board for 32 years, “a record that I don’t think has been broken.”

4:37 PM: The entire list of 14 speakers has been run through; no one else from West Seattle. They’re throwing the floor open, since the meeting technically has 23 more minutes.

4:50 PM: Six more impromptu speakers came forward, all talking about issues elsewhere in the district – including Rainier Beach High School students who said their school needs TLC even though it’s not addressed in this levy at all. At quarter till 5, the meeting recessed just in case anyone else came forward to speak – technically the floor’s open till 5. (Final note – nobody else turned up, and they moved on to an unrelated work session.)

WHAT’S NEXT: The board is scheduled to vote on BEX IV’s project list at its next regular meeting, November 7th. We may or may not see another revision between now and then. E-mail comments are still being taken at West Seattle’s school-board rep Marty McLaren – among those present for the comments today – has her next community-conversation meeting before then: 9:45 am October 31st at Concord International School in South Park.

15 Replies to "Video: 2nd-to-last public-comment round before School Board's levy vote"

  • Bonnie October 24, 2012 (4:25 pm)

    If they renovated AH what would they do? Would they remove all the old portables and renovate that somehow? I just don’t know how the portables can stay for another 50 years.

  • SomeGuy October 24, 2012 (5:23 pm)

    Isn’t there a strong likelihood that by the time the new Genessee Hill school would be done in 2015, there will be enough elementary age kids to warrant both the new school AND keeping Schmitz Park open? Seems like a lot of 1-2 year olds running around these days… Does the BEX Levy verbiage specifically say Schmitz Park WILL be closed?

    • WSB October 24, 2012 (5:42 pm)

      SG – the wording hasn’t been finalized and no, SP’s fate has not been spelled out yet.

  • A October 24, 2012 (6:51 pm)

    They never really say anything. They don’t commit and them always change their minds. This school district is HORRIBLE!

  • was October 24, 2012 (8:38 pm)

    Its too bad they had this scheduled at 4pm on a weeknight. very hard to make that time with jobs etc…

  • Mike October 24, 2012 (10:06 pm)

    If enrollment is up, how is closing a school helping? You’d think maybe… just maybe, you’d open another one and shift the overload that’s currently in the portables at Schmitz to the new school to equal out the number of students in actual school buildings. Maybe the school board needs to take part in Schmitz award winning math program so they can do basic math.

  • WSMama3 October 25, 2012 (8:30 am)

    I agree was. Not like they can pick a time that works for everyone – but really?! 4-5pm after kids get picked up, during karate, soccer, swimming, right before dinner at the “witching hour”?! On top of finding a sitter or leaving work early for many parents.
    Since I was not sure if in an hour there would be 1000 or 10 people I didn’t risk dragging 3 kids down to maybe, maybe get the chance. Seems like I am not the only parent who made that call.
    This was a total “we listen to the community – SEE?!” but we don’t make it easy, convenient, or accessible for the majority.

  • Public School Advocate October 25, 2012 (11:36 am)

    The following is from the Schmitz Park website. How are the already down this path when this project has not been finalized? Where is the money coming from to retain this architectural firm?

    Building Design Team for Genesee Hill
    Genesee Hill Design Team – Applications sought through October 29th.
    The architectural firm of BLRB has been retained to design the new school at the Genesee Hill site. Mr.Kischner feels strongly that this building will belong to the community and will reflect its core values and aspirations. Towards that end, a Design Team will be convened to study the site, understand current trends in school design, tour recently-built buildings in the area and meet with the community to discuss their ideas. This Design Team will be composed of Schmitz Park parents and staff as well as residents of the Schmitz Park and Genesee Hill neighborhoods.
    Members of the Design Team will be expected to participate in afternoon meetings starting in November and going into January, an all-day school tour on November 14th, and a four-hour Saturday meeting on December 15th. If you are interested in serving on the Design Team, an application will be available by Monday, October 22nd. Please contact Leann Russell ( if you would like to apply (applications will be due October 29th).

    • WSB October 25, 2012 (12:16 pm)

      It was mentioned at one of the many meetings we’ve covered that the design process was launching early for some if not all of the projects.

  • wondering October 25, 2012 (12:34 pm)

    I wonder what firm or who – if any!? – has been retained for the Arbor Heights rebuild?

  • West Seattle Mom October 25, 2012 (2:30 pm)

    wondering, I’m sure there has been no firm retained for the AH rebuild. The district has made it clear that they care more about overcrowding they created than a building that is falling apart (that they also created). So I doubt there is any plan for Arbor Heights because they simply don’t care about the Arbor Heights children.

  • dcn October 25, 2012 (5:54 pm)

    Has anyone thought about calling in the TV news channels to tour Arbor Heights? I just saw something on the news about the poor condition of Tacoma schools. The point was to try to get support for a building levy down there, I think. Maybe the district can be embarrassed into moving up the Arbor Heights rebuild?

  • West Seattleite October 25, 2012 (7:21 pm)

    I guess it is a matter of how far back in history one wants to go. I bet a couple of hundred years ago, this land didn’t belong to anyone named “Schmitz”.

  • West Seattle Mom October 25, 2012 (7:32 pm)

    dcn, I think the news agencies have been called and the Seattle Times picked up the story and so did Q13 but none of the others to my knowledge. I guess you have to ban Halloween in order to get attention.

    • WSB October 25, 2012 (7:44 pm)

      If it’s any consolation, there’s no point pining for TV coverage – TV news viewership is low. I worked in TV till five years ago and it was already mega-low when I left – it has continued to dwindle. The number one newscast in a time period might get a few percent of the available households – and that’s REGIONAL households, most of whom are not in Seattle and therefore don’t care. The story is out there. We can all tell the story (WSB is read by 125,000 people anywhere from once to 100 times each over the course of a month), but whether action results is another thing, and media shaming isn’t really what moves the needle in most cases – TR

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