4:13 PM: As reported here last night, Seattle Public Schools staff is making a presentation to the School Board this afternoon with its draft proposals for a wide variety of potential changes – including boundaries, the way programs including Special Education and Advanced Learning are handled, and, of West Seattle-specific note, a permanent home for K-5 STEM and a plan for the reopening-in-2014 Fairmount Park Elementary. We’re at the meeting and will add some “live” notes as we go. (Note: Melissa Westbrook from the Seattle Schools Community Forum website is writing “live,” too, so check out that site for a districtwide perspective.)
The slide deck being used for this presentation can be seen here. (Note that this is a committee meeting, and no public testimony is being taken – see pages 4 and 5 of the slide deck for the timeline of future discussion, votes, etc.)
4:25 PM: Board member Michael DeBell asks if it’s dangerous to be discussing some of this when the funding for potential changes is not clear. Superintendent José Banda says he doesn’t think so. They’re also talking about “equitable access” – and how it means, instead of the “this school has a great X program/that school has a great Y program” district past, each school has to offer a certain level of programs (the arts, etc.). Now they are embarking on a discussion of “services,” focused on English Language Learners, Special Education, Highly Capable (gifted) programs (starting on page 12 of the slide deck). For Special Education, they are developing “new service models,” as listed on pages 13 and 14. For Highly Capable, they hope to “increase (the) number of elementary and middle-school pathways …” as opposed to the current model, which has focused the top-level program (APP – as commenter clarifies, the only legally mandated one) at just a few schools. Board member Sharon Peaslee has asked point-blank, “Does that mean splitting APP?” and district staff has asked that they be allowed to present their “data” before answering.
4:41 PM: Staff is reminding everyone that the maps in the slide deck are NOT proposed boundaries – the maps being viewed now (for the Highly Capable programs) just are serving the purpose of showing where they project in the future they’ll see concentrations of students using these programs. Peaslee asks the chicken-or-egg question – are there fewer students using the programs in some areas because the services are offered at an inconvenient distance? DeBell acknowledges, “This is going to be a contentious issue, we know that” and suggests that staff emphasize the “instructional strategy.” Board member Harium Martin-Morris wonders if spreading the program(s) to more locations means that “self-contained” classes will still be possible. Discussion also has touched on concerns that expanding APP locations will dilute and downgrade program, and it’s veered off to questions about the type of testing used to see if students qualify, as well as whether parents choose not to even have their kids tested if the program’s not available nearby.
5:03 PM: Now they’re moving to “Programs” – not mandated by law (which the three “Services” are) – starting with the second-level gifted program, Spectrum. The issue of its “mixed quality,” as board member Carr describes it, compared to “high quality” for APP, comes back up. It might be “redefined,” was also discussed.
Next: Option Schools (which currently include Pathfinder K-8 and K-5 STEM in West Seattle) – page 22 of the slide deck. One other local note here – these initial staff recommendations suggest keeping Concord in South Park as an “attendance-area international school” rather than making it a full-fledged option school.
5:27 PM: Board member Betty Patu asks for clarification on that, saying she thought any “international school” was an option school that anyone could apply to; district staff says anyone can apply to any school in the district, but admission depends on whether there’s room.
5:43 PM: Now to the STEM discussion – and the recommendation of Schmitz Park’s current building as K-5 STEM’s permanent home in 2016.
Board member Kay Smith-Blum expresses concern about the capacity of Schmitz Park, minus portables. “Because it’s an option school, we can control enrollment,” says enrollment manager Tracy Libros, who says “we would still need to have portables here …” since the SP building is low capacity without them. “In order to have a 3-up, we would need … 8 portables, but that’s like half as many as SP is going to have next year.” Smith-Blum then wonders if it’s an opportunity for “eco-portables.”
Fairmount Park’s proximity to more than 700 students, more than 440 potentially in its walk zone, is mentioned next by Libros. West Seattle school-board member Marty McLaren then asks what’s next for the FP decision. “There’s a followup meeting at the end of June,” says Libros, to be followed by decisions on “short-term and intermediate capacity management.”
And that’s it for discussion – for now, anyway – on the topic of both campuses, Schmitz Park (whose current program is slated to move into the to-be-built new Genesee Hill school in 2016) and Fairmount Park.
But wait – McLaren brings the issue back, saying it will be important, for example, for a Fairmount Park principal to be hired as soon as possible. And then, for K-5 STEM, she notes, “is there any clarity at what size we would cap (it) – would it be a year by year thing, or ?” Libros says, “That’s a question for others – but certainly, any program could grow if there’s someplace to put the students.” In other words – too soon to say.
What’s next? Along with more meetings, you can watch the new “Growth Boundaries” section on the district website, which Libros promises will have much more material added to it as time goes by.
ADDED 6:43 PM: Talking with McLaren afterward, we asked her opinion on the Schmitz Park location for K-5 STEM. “I’m fine with it,” she replied. She wasn’t sure, though, why there was no mention of plans for EC Hughes – the elementary that could reopen after Westside School (WSB sponsor) moves to its planned new location in a few years – but doesn’t know of any particular proposal for its future, so far.