(WSB video of meeting, unedited)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Louisa Boren STEM K-8 will not be moved.
Seattle Public Schools associate superintendent Dr. Flip Herndon said it at the start of tonight’s meeting at the school – a followup to a boisterous June meeting in which the possibility was not ruled out.
And then he said it again. It’s not an interim site – it’s “your building,” he told the families and staffers gathered in the cafeteria.
To be crystal clear, he said, the only scenario in which STEM K-8 might move from Boren would be if that had to be done temporarily because the building was to be remodeled or rebuilt.
That is NOT currently planned – not even proposed. Besides the reassurance, most of the meeting turned into a discussion of planning for the district’s BEX V levy – which, as of a September School Board work session, has ~20 schools citywide on a “menu” for possible remodels/rebuilds, and STEM K-8 isn’t even on that list, which (from the September packet) is as follows:
(You can see the entire – big – packet, in PDF, from that meeting on the district website, here.) The BEX (Building Excellence) levy is in early planning stages;
Taking a STEM K-8 move “off the table” meant ruling out use of Boren as an “interim” site, which it was for some years, and meant decisions would have to be made about future uses of Schmitz Park Elementary (whose school community moved into Genesee Hill Elementary when it opened a year ago) and Roxhill (whose school community is to be moved into EC Hughes in a year – more on that shortly). Whether they or other schools would make it to the final BEX list would depend primarily on priorities based on capacity and condition.
Herndon turned the microphone over to Richard Best, the district’s director of capital projects/planning. Along with analyzing the shown-above list of 20 schools to decide which might be candidates for rebuilds/remodels, the district is going back to analyze its enrollment projections, since they started this year 800 fewer students than expected. They expect cost estimates by December, districtwide “conversations” early next year, more in the spring, and then a final BEX V recommendation next August/September, with a school board vote finalizing the list by November 2018, sending the levy to the ballot in February 2019.
West Seattle/South Park’s School Board director Leslie Harris then stood up, noting that “every school that moves” affects all students. She asked the district staffers to answer questions including whether SPS participated in the city’s HALA (Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda) task force, and whether BEX V would include money for playground structures, which all too often end up funded by the community instead of district (as is happening right now with Roxhill parents trying to get the Hughes play area into shape before their kids move). And she wondered about the timing given the city’s education levy/levies – “why can’t the SPS levy go (to voters) first?” Another question: What about impact fees (which would be charged to developers to help pay for needs created by growth, such as school facilities)?
Herndon’s replies: No, SPS was not on the HALA task force. But he said he meets with city reps monthly. Regarding playgrounds, he said, “we’re trying to look at a way to include” them in BEX V – the district will be assessing play structures’ conditions as well as building conditions in the facility assessment that will be done for BEX V.
As for levy timing, yes, the district is concerned about overall voter levy fatigue, Herndon said, while noting that districts can only run levies in February, April, August, November, and, he said, February is usually “most productive, highest chance of passage.” But if the school board wanted to accelerate that, they could look at August or November of 2018..
About impact fees: “Definitely something we’ve talked to the city about,” but the council would have to implement them. Any money collected would have to be used to deal with new students, and could not be used for renovations or remodeling.
Then it was on to attendees’ questions. Lisa Dawson asked Herndon to clarify the statement he’d started with, that a STEM K-8 move was not on the table, and that the district did not consider it an interim site.
“I do not consider this an interim site – this is the site for Boren STEM K-8, this is your school, this is your building,” Herndon clarified. “We would not recommend that the school moves to another interim location unless it was to rebuild or build something new at this site.”
Amanda Kay from Friends of Roxhill Elementary asked Herndon to clarify another somewhat fuzzy statement he made at meeting’s start – that Roxhill’s move to EC Hughes is still on. Yes, he said. But what if Roxhill were rebuilt – would the school be moved back to that site? He wasn’t entirely clear on that, nor on what was going to be done with the Roxhill building after the school moves. (She invited the district reps to Friends of Roxhill’s November meeting – date/time TBA.)
With a list of 20 schools under consideration for BEX V, how many could move forward? Herndon said that depends on the costs. And since Seattle is a “white-hot” building market, that means “we’re paying a premium for everything we build.” Building a new school could cost up to $100 million.
So what is the solution for interim sites for those schools facing a rebuild? Lots to consider, the district reps say. Roxhill could be one – with portables. There’s Van Asselt, nearer to the South Seattle schools on the “menu,” possibly more attractive because getting non-WS students to WS “in traffic that’s not pretty” would be tough.
Robin Graham said she really wanted to be assured that “the rug won’t be pulled out from under us” again next year. Herndon said again, no, a move is off the table.
Principal Ben Ostrom wondered if the BEX V menu could include some sort of funding for Boren, even if it doesn’t get added for a remodel/rebuild. The only thing on that menu right now that mentions Boren is a $225,000 item about “classroom sound systems” – as shown in the packet:
Every region’s had investments, Herndon noted – West Seattle has two new buildings (Arbor Heights and Genesee Hill) in BEX IV, for example. So in each region they’ll look at “condition issues and capacity issues” – and Boren would be examined regarding wheher it fits.
Leslie Harris clarified at that point that Boren is NOT currently on the study list. True, said Herndon, but there are three “unspecified” buildings. Harris said, but “the cake will already have been baked before (the proposed levy) gets to the board” and if they ask about an un-studied building, they’ll be called micromanagers.
Herndon promised they would not bring the board a fully baked cake. “That’s why we’re coming to you in December” with the preliminary list – with many months after that to make changes.
The next attendee question was about the answers to questions that were supposed to be posted online after the June meeting. Herndon said he has the answers so he doesn’t know why they weren’t posted but promises they can be by week’s end.
Next person to speak pointed out that the early potential price tag for BEX V is big. But STEM hasn’t gotten much recently. Herndon promised he’s taking that feedback. The attendee wondered about the BEX oversight committee’s meetings – every month. No parents on the committee, though, he noted. Could there be? asked Harris. Best said it has a couple vacancies and the board makes those appointments. “Resolution to come!” Harris declared.
And the district reps were asked for more information on the future of the former Denny International Middle School site. Herndon said he would not recommend building an interim site there – it would cost $40 million, and he wouldn’t necessarily support a new school there, but his view is that the district should never sell land, because it’s so hard to come by. So the only plan right now is to not get rid of the site.
WHAT’S NEXT: Along with the BEX V timeline described above, Herndon said that the levy planning would factor into a series of open houses under way around the city that have been promoted as only being about upcoming changes to the Student Assignment Plan and high-school boundaries. The page about the open houses – one of which will be on November 9th at West Seattle High School – doesn’t mention the BEX V process, so we’ll be checking with the district on that.