As mentioned here last week, Seattle Public Schools reps will be at Louisa Boren STEM K-8 tomorrow night for a meeting about the possibility that the district will seek to move the school to another building.
The STEM community has since received more elaboration from associate superintendent Flip Herndon about what’s being considered and why. He says that as the district plans its February 2019 BEX V ballot measure, with possible school renovation/reconstruction projects including Alki and Lafayette Elementaries, they’re assessing what they have for interim sites – and finding the inventory lacking. Boren had long been an interim site, Herndon notes, and is bigger than what’s left around the city. His statement says Alki and Lafayette might be rebuilt at the same time, and that would “require a site to accommodate more than 1,000 elementary students.” Herndon’s message continues:
Current possibilities on interim locations would still be John Marshall (in use until 2021), Original Van Asselt (in use 2018-2020), Roxhill, Schmitz Park, Webster (won’t be open for any use until 2020).
The possibility of having Boren used as an interim site, as it has been in the past, would clearly have an impact on the STEM K-8 School and any move would require that any new space would be able to meet the facility needs of the program, which would include lab spaces and rooms that are able to meet the academic needs of all students. We realize that there are some concerns about needs at any site they include spaces to support CTE programs, science, two PE teachers, athletics, seven special education programs, preschool, technology integration, and middle school programming in general. Furthermore, STEM K-8 will have experienced dramatic change and growth for four consecutive years through 2017-18. Moving to a facility with significant limitations will disrupt efforts to build consistency and stability in a new K-8 program. Timing is a challenge as well. Work has to be done in preparation for any site, interim or not, in the 2017-19 timeframe to be prepared for school needs. We are also looking at the balance of options within clusters of schools. We are trying to make sure every middle school attendance area has additional options for students and families.
We are having the conversations now so we can get the perspective and understanding of impacts before we make any final decisions on how we will be able to accommodate our physical capacity needs for the next 10-20 years. These decisions and conversations are not taken lightly and they are helping to have SPS be able to meet multiple demands from multiple communities. We are looking at making some decisions, at the earliest, in October 2017 and at the latest January 2018.
Meantime, the STEM PTA is making its case about why the school needs to stay at the location designated its permanent site in 2013, rather than make a move considered likely to be to the former Schmitz Park Elementary campus:
• In its current location, STEM is able to serve all of West Seattle. By contrast, the boundaries of Schmitz Park’s northwest location would negatively impact equitable access to the school for students in the community.
• STEM is the only option school in the Denny Middle School service area, and has a geographic zone aligned with West Seattle Elementary. That geozone would change if the school moves to Schmitz Park, which means placement of students from the less diverse, more affluent neighborhoods of West Seattle would take priority over students living in the central and south areas.
• The current capacity of the Schmitz Park building is 216 without portables. The public voted to approve the BEX IV levy, in part, to get children out of portables. Moving a school from an adequate site to one where 60% of students would be in portables disregards the wishes of the taxpayers and the goal of the District to provide permanent classrooms for West Seattle’s growing student population.
• STEM provides a unique project-based curriculum. The high demand for this type of curriculum, as demonstrated by our projected 2017-18 enrollment of 539 (and waitlist of 189), will continue to grow and can only be accommodated at Boren. STEM’s Special Education families depend on the valuable services offered at the school – any disruption to these services is unacceptable.
• Schmitz Park was designed as an elementary school and does not have the physical infrastructure to support middle-school programs and activities.
• A move to Schmitz Park will create logistical hardships for families living in the southern neighborhoods of West Seattle, increase transportation costs for the school district, and increase vehicle traffic in the residential neighborhood surrounding the location.
Thursday night’s meeting is at 6:30 pm at STEM K-8 (5950 Delridge Way SW).