day : 01/06/2024 10 results

VIDEO: Seattle Public Schools leaders come to West Seattle to try to make the case for closures

(SPS video of Saturday’s meeting)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

By the end of this month, Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Brent Jones will release his proposal for how to close part of a $100 million-plus budget gap by closing/consolidating ~20 elementary schools starting in fall 2025.

This morning, he and other district officials tried to make the case for that forthcoming plan during the third in a series of four community meetings, held in the commons at Chief Sealth International High School.

Though the first of this round of meetings was reported to have been contentious, this one only had one outburst, when an attendee yelled out that Dr. Jones should more aggressively push lawmakers to fix the persistent education-funding shortfall. Also of note, though the meetings were held regionally, there was almost nothing West Seattle-specific this morning, except for the question “Why build a new Alki Elementary when schools (will likely be) closing?”

District chief of staff Bev Redmond opened the meeting by saying the process under way is about “making Seattle Public Schools stronger for years to come.” She handed the microphone over to Dr. Jones, who said the “multi-step process” – which has already unfolded over months before even getting to a list of specific schools is about “getting from instability to stability.” The latter referred primarily to finances, he added, blaming factors from “budgets not fully funded” to inflation to enrollment decline, and saying other districts are experiencing similar problems.

A recap of the budget woes started with a note that “school consolidations” were mentioned as “a potential fiscal stabilization strategy” as early as January 2023. Jones said the balanced budget plan would be presented to the board this month. “We’re at a decision point” – and he contended that keeping all schools open would lead to staff cuts and class-size increases, as well as re-negotiating contracts and cutting or eliminating a variety of programs including athletics and preschool. Closures/consolidations would avoid all that, he said.

Another slide went on to contend that “stability” would lead to “sustainability” for multiple services and programs.

Right now SPS has 48,000 students. 23,000 are K-5 students in 70 schools. The new plan would put them in 50 sites “evenly distributed, about 10 per region” starting in 2025-26. The resulting system would among other things “efficiently utilize building capacity.”

The new model “will have fewer buildings” with “more students but will not be overcrowded,” and “schools not in use will be secured and repurposed until needed again.” Jones promised, “We’re not going to sell off our schools.”

He recapped the summary of feedback from last year’s meetings, which asked attendees what they thought “a well-resourced school” should have. Some current schools might seem well-resourced but “they’re not well-resourced with stable funding” – the resources might be thanks to ‘generous donors,” for example.

He showed a slide breaking down the typical resources for elementaries of various sizes – one with 515 students would have three to five teachers per grade level while 165-student schools might have 1 or 2 teachers per grade level. (The chart still notably shows only 2 days per week with a nurse, even for the largest schools.)

“Too many schools that serve our youngest scholars are under-enrolled,” another slide declared.

Regarding how they’re deciding which schools to propose for closure/consolidation: “We have several scenarios that we’re working on right now,” Jones said, adding that what will be presented to the School Board later this month will be a “preliminary recommendation.” Public review would ensue June-November, including “site hearings.”

Yes, it’ll be disruptive, but teachers and administrators will get through – Dr. Jones told an anecdote he’s reported to have shared at other versions of this meeting, about changing schools multiple times as a child. “I’m inviting you all to come on this journey with us.” He insisted there’s no other option – “if there was (another) way, we would have already put it on the table.”

After his ~20-minute presentation, it was time for a “lightly facilitated” table discussion. People were invited to write questions on cards and said they would be taken to a panel.

The table we observed was facilitated by assistant superintendent Ted Howard, who said he’s the district’s “chief accountability officer.” (Previously, his experience included 16 years as principal of Garfield High School.) Rather than launching into Q/A, though, he launched into a speech to the table. In it, he continued trying to make the case for closures/consolidations. First he noted in speaking to the table that “schools are being asked to do a lot more” and said this is an “exciting” opportunity for community members to respond to the question of “what would you like to see” in schools. He said it’s a “deep” conversation – that schools have never been fully funded. Yes, McCleary helped, but school funding, he said, is hindered by a “cap” on how much levies can raise. He told the table that they can go online to look up the funding provided to their individual schools of interest. If smaller schools aren’t generating enough funding to support what they need to do, supplementary funding has to be taken from larger schools to keep those smaller ones open. He said the idea of restructuring SPS actually dates back to 1990, “when Gary Locke [then governor] said Seattle Public Schools needs to restructure.” Then he went through what the district already has done to try to achieve fiscal stability – again under the constrictions of what the state allows them to do.

“How does closing a school actually save money?” one participant asked. Personnel cuts, Howard said, and “mothballing” the buildings. He said the projection is that they can save half a million to $2 million per building. OK, said another participant, even at $2 million per school, that’s $40 million savings, but the deficit is $105 million, so what else will be done? Miscellaneous savings, Howard said, but the attendee pressed the point. It’s all “a moving target.” Eventually “will we lose some middle schools? Possibly. Will we lose some high schools? Possibly.” Another attendee asked about option (K-8) schools – she knew of one with a 60-student waitlist. Their fate depends on what the “needs and wants” identified by the community are. Another attendee questioned the plan to just “mothball” the closed schools – what about using them to generate income? she asked. They’re not looking at that, yet, Howard said.

Contiuing on that topic, one attendee wondered how the district is going to deal with “the blight” of closed buildings and how it’s going to “protect” the community. Howard said that would be a question for chief operating officer Fred Podesta.

Who makes the final decision? The board. The superintendent’s plan is “just a proposal,” Howard emphasized. Their final vote would be in October. “At the end of this they could say ‘we’re not doing it’,” he added. He also noted that the funding issue is ultimately up to state legislators – and their funding decisions can ultimately affect a lot of societal issues.

Some of what was discussed at our table was repeated when everyone reconvened into an audience as a panel of district officials sat at the front of the room and answered written questions. From left in the photo above are Podesta, Dr. Jones, assistant superintendent of finance Dr. Kurt Buttleman, central region executive director of schools Dr. James Mercer, executive operations director Dr. Marni Campbell.

The first question read included a plea: “Please make a plan to build something better.” Dr. Jones replied, “That’s the intent of this effort. … This is about the students’ experience … that’s a change for us … our new governance policy has the board focused on student outcomes.” He insisted “we’re putting the students’ experience first and foremost in how we make decisions.”

QUESTION: Will we get any transparency in what other options have been considered outside of closing and consolidating schools? Dr. Jones said they’d looked at other things and concluded no other “comprehensive option” but did not describe what else they’d looked at. “We believe in this,” he said. “This is frankly our best thinking.” Dr. Buttleman said an FAQ on the district website had more details on what else could save money “around class sizes and other options.”

QUESTION: Will the district show detailed analysis of how these savings would be ahieved, or is it just through staffing savings? Dr. Buttleman said that when Dr. Jones’s proposal is presented, it’ll have specifics on how much would save per school. He said some info had been added to the website last night. He added that about two-thirds of building savings would be maintenance, utilities, food services, etc.

QUESTION: What will happen with schools that are closing and what are the conditions of the closing schools? Podesta replied that building conditions are (part of how they’re making decisions) – some are in bad condition or they’re small buildings. He said there’ll be a short-term plan and long-term plan – former will keep all the buildings, an interim use will be identified – “we’ll maintain all the buildings, maintain all the grounds, we understand (many are community recreation spots)” – fields are in demand. “We’ll assess each site and see if we need long term to keep in our inventory and (what’s the highest best use) … if we need to bring more schools (back) online in the future” although they feel they’ll still have room for growth after closures because the schools would only be 85% used.

QUESTION: How did option schools factor in? Dr. Campbell said, “They are part of the consideration.” – “Do you see that as a good consideration or a bad consideration?” calls out one guy – “They are on the table,” she reiterated.

QUESTION: What can the school board do with the plan? They can amend the plan or reject the plan, says Dr. Jones.

QUESTION: Will each student get (support staff)? Buttleman said the Weighted Staffing Standards drive that – it would be “coming out of their work as to how the new staffing would look. … Some schools would have a fulltime nurse but not all schools.” Jones added, “This whole plan is predicated on having adequate support for our students.”

QUESTION: What does “inclusive learning” look like? Campbell defined that as appropriate staffing and facilities. She said collaboration between staff is important.

QUESTION: After school closures, will the budget be rebalanced? If not, what’s the next plan? No, it will not be balanced, replied Jones, “but we’ll be in a stronger position.” More cuts are likely. “We’ll probably have about a $40 million gap still, going into 2025-26” and they’d be working with the Legislature.

QUESTION: Why are we building a new school, Alki Elementary, when we are closing schools? Podesta said, “We need to consider building conditions … SPS, if we pursue this proposal, will still be operating 50 elementary schools … we need to have the capacity so that this level of service can be supported in all neighborhoods.”

QUESTION: Are you considering consolidating middle and high schools? Jones replied, “Maybe years down the road, but this is enough for us to do right now.” Campbell added, “We’re right-sizing the elementary level of our district (and that might help the balancing of middle schools).”

QUESTION: Now we know multilingual teaching is an asset. How will SPS continue supporting dual-language programming? Campbell agreed it’s an asset: “We’ll continue to have dual language programming through our district. We’re looking at spaces where it’s not accessible to our heritage speakers, so in our new system, we’re making sure it’s built into the design of our system.” Dr. Jones added that racial equity/analysis is built into everything – “we do this, ongoing.”

QUESTION: What engagement if any has there been with state legislators? Dr. Jones said they meet with a state legislative delegation. “Our legislative delegation has been responsive … but we need you all to speak boldly (to them) about what SPS needs … if (school closures) is not an alarm going off, I don’t know what is.” Talk to them about ensuring that “basic education is funded,” he added. “Our legislators are listening to us,” but “we probably need to push even harder.” At that point someone shouted, “are you willing to do that publicly?” and another person shouted “Tax the rich!” Dr. Jones said he would lobby. That’s not enough, someone called out, saying Jones should call a news conference and make demands. Dr. Jones said, “I don’t know about ‘tax the rich’ and all that” and the attendee retorted, “It’s either tax the rich or tax working-class people.” Buttleman interjected that “engagement is happening” – he is meeting with legislators too.

QUESTION: What if the next levies don’t pass – will there be additional onsolidation? Jones said they’re not taking passage for granted but we are not factoring in a levy failure either: “That would be devastating to us. It’s essential for us.” Levy passage is part of “stability,” he added. “We have to pass our levies just to keep the lights on.”

QUESTION: Elaborate on how equity lens toolkit is being used to shape these decisions. Jones said “that’s happening across the board.” He acknowledges that the district’s been asked to “show your work” and says they’ll try harder to do that. Campbell said smaller schools are already feeling pain (of resource shortages) before any closures, so that needs to be considered. They have to do a demographic impact analysis of any changes. If they discovered a disproportionate impact on students of color or furthest from educational justice, “we have moved off that.”

QUESTION: Transportation plan? That will follow any finalized closure list.

QUESTION: New boundaries? Campbell said that when they have a “possible plan,” they’ll have an “address lookup” online.

At that point, with a few minutes left in the meeting’s planned hour-and-a-half window, Dr. Jones asked attendees if the questions they’d been answering are the ones attendees wanted to have answered. No objections. He invited a few more questions, at which point a child ran up and presented him with one.

QUESTION: What’s a real life example of a well resourced school? Jones said, “I don’t know if we have a single well-resourced school but we want a system of them.”

To the question of how people could help in the decisionmaking process, Podesta said they would appreciate feedback on the previously presented ‘guiding principles” that they’re using to “refine and finalize” a recommendation.

Most of the participating administrators were seen lingering to talk one-on-one with attendees.

WHAT’S NEXT: The last meeting in this series will be online, Tuesday (June 4) at 6 pm, with the link to appear on this page sometime Monday. The date for Dr. Jones’s presentation of recommendations has not been announced beyond repeated promises that it’ll happen sometime this month. The board has one regular meeting scheduled this month, on June 10. … Also of note, if you want to talk with the school board director for West Seattle/South Park about this or any other topic, Gina Topp‘s next community meeting is next Saturday, June 8, 1 pm at High Point Library (3411 SW Raymond).

SUNDAY: Concepts for ‘affordable homeownership’ project in North Admiral

(Photo by Joanne Murray for Admiral Church)

Before we get back to more coverage of what happened on this very busy Saturday, a quick look ahead to one event of note tomorrow (Sunday, June 2) – if you’re interested in the “affordable homeownership” plan that Admiral Church and Homestead Community Land Trust are working on, a community gathering is planned for a look at “concepts.” Previously, the architects working on the project for Admiral Church’s site had said they were considering three-story townhouses as the predominant model for the site, which also will hold a new building for the church and its commuity programs. Find out the latest tomorrow at 2 pm at the church, 4320 SW Hill. The Admiral/Homestead agreement announced last year followed four years of soul-searching by the church on how to ensure its future while maximizing its community contributions.

UPDATE: Car/motorcycle collision at California/Juneau

4:40 PM: Unrelated to the vice presidential visit, a collision has California closed at Juneau. It’s reported to involve a driver and motorcyclist.

(Added: WSB photo)

4:56 PM: Apparently not life-threatening injuries – police just told dispatch the rider has a “possible broken arm.” Northbound California is reopening to traffic. We’ll follow up with SFD.

PHOTOS, VIDEO: Vice President Kamala Harris visits West Seattle for an hour

3 PM: As we first reported Friday, Vice President Kamala Harris is visiting Seattle for two campaign fundraisers today, and one is expected to be in West Seattle, at a house on the west end of Genesee Hill. Officers, valet parkers, and other signs of a big event are in view there:

She left Los Angeles aboard Air Force Two earlier this afternoon and is due to land at Boeing Field around 3:30 pm. We don’t have official route information but if you’ll be on the road over the next few hours – including the high bridge – be mindful of possible traffic holds when the motorcade is in transit. Updates to come.

3:16 PM: The high-bridge camera has been turned off (traffic cameras along motorcade routes usually are) as of about a minute ago, indicating a traffic closure. … Other cameras have been deactivated too, including through The Junction. … Planes like Air Force Two won’t generally show on flight trackers, but the law-enforcement helicopter Guardian One is in the air near Boeing Field.

3:36 PM: Our crew in the fundraiser-site neighborhood says SWAT units, a K-9, and WSDOT incident-team vehicles have all arrived.

3:43 PM: Bridge camera’s back on but the westbound side is still devoid of traffic.

(Screengrab from SDOT camera)

(Added: Photo by Kevin Freitas)

3:56 PM: Motorcade just crossed the West Seattle Bridge. … It’s reopening to regular traffic. Note that Vice President Harris is scheduled to be at another fundraiser elsewhere in the city/region by 6 pm, so look for more traffic closures (including the bridge) on the return route. Her official schedule said her remarks here are planned for 4:35 pm. (Added) Thanks to Mark Verschell for video of the motorcade passing 44th/Alaska in The Junction:

Here’s our photographer’s view as they passed Genesee Hill Elementary:

Motorcycle officers conferred upon arrival:

(WSB photo)

4:36 PM: We’re still in the area and there are signs her departure is imminent – the bridge will be closing again too.

4:44 PM: Eastbound bridge now shut down per SDOT.

4:56 PM: Our crew says she hasn’t left yet.

5:03 PM: She just left, and the motorcade is headed for the bridge. Traffic has been stopped at California/Alaska waiting for them to pass.

5:12 PM: Police have just given the all-clear to fully reopen the West Seattle Bridge.

ADDED: Thanks to Jamie Kinney for video of the vice president waving through the window as her motorcade departed:

More of the sights outside the event – Jamie also caught U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal and Sen. Maria Cantwell arriving:

We spotted one local politician who wasn’t going to the event – she was just hanging out with the gawkers (and her kids), State Rep. Emily Alvarado:

And Ryan Levinsohn sent this view of Zoe and Arwyn waving as the motorcade passed:

Thanks again to everyone who sent photos and video!

Car-on-side crash blocks SW Holden

Thanks for the texted tip and photo. That car-on-side crash is currently blocking SW Holden near 32nd SW. Officers told dispatch that the driver fled the scene and that the vehicle is believed to have been stolen.

PHOTOS: West Seattle High School Car Show

Another free-to-see event happening right now – the third annual car show organized by West Seattle High School students. Below are Noah and Nevaeh from the WSHS Greasy Peeps Car Club, with the auto-shop class teacher Carmin Thomas:

The show was open to community participation – here are just a few of the entries:

This is all happening in the WSHS lot (3000 California SW) until about 3:30 pm. That’s immediately preceding the WSHS all-school reunion, which starts at 4 and is usually accompanied by a display of classic cars too!

ADDED SUNDAY: Thanks to Dave White for these photos!

VIDEO: Daiso opens at Westwood Village

People were lined up waiting to be the first customers for Daiso‘s new Westwood Village store when it opened its doors at 9 this morning. It was an exciting day for the staff, too:

Never been to a Daiso store? Inside, you’ll find generally inexpensive items both practical and fun:

The new store is in the combined space previously occupied by two businesses – Fresh Vitamins (which closed six years ago) and SportClips (which closed last year).

WEST SEATTLE WEEKEND SCENE: Gator Fair at Gatewood Elementary

(WSB photos)

Gatewood Elementary is one of the places to be on this busy Saturday – they’re welcoming everyone to this year’s Gator Fair – lots of fun and games:

Other community groups are participating too – the Morgan Community Association is there to remind everyone about the Morgan Junction Community Festival two weeks from today:

The Gator Fair is on until 2:30 pm, at the Gatewood Elementary playground, 4320 SW Myrtle!

VP visit, school-plan meeting, park music, street festival, playground party, disaster practice, 25 more for your West Seattle Saturday

(Photo by Theresa Arbow-O’Connor)

Here’s what’s up as your weekend begins, mostly from the WSB West Seattle Event Calendar – we begin with traffic alerts:

TRAFFIC ALERT #1 – VP VISIT – As we reported Friday, Vice President Kamala Harris is coming to Seattle for two campaign fundraisers this afternoon/evening, and it appears one is in West Seattle, west end of Genesee Hill, with Harris’s motorcade potentially headed this way shortly after her scheduled 3:30 pm arrival at Boeing Field. As is typical for motorcades, they mean some temporary road closures/traffic holds, so if you’re out and about in the late afternoon/evening, be patient.

TRAFFIC ALERT #2 – WHITE CENTER PRIDE STREET FESTIVAL – 16th SW will be closed to vehicles between Roxbury and SW 100th for the 11 am-11 pm street party. Festival details are on our partner site White Center Now.

Here’s what else is up:

WEST SEATTLE RUNNER’S FREE GROUP RUN: The store is where you and other runners will meet up for the weekly free group run at 8 am. (2743 California SW)

FREE! HEAVILY MEDITATED: Arrive by 8:50 am for community meditation at Move2Center (3618 SW Alaska). Free event every Saturday but please register.

DAISO GRAND OPENING: The new store at Westwood Village celebrates day 1 of its grand opening starting at 9 am today.

HOPE MIDDLE SCHOOL OPEN HOUSE: This fall, Hope Lutheran (WSB sponsor) will open the former Seattle Lutheran HS campus as its new middle school campus, and you’re invited to come visit today during a 10 am-noon open house – details in our calendar listing. (4100 SW Genesee)

SELF-DEFENSE WORKSHOP: For women and non-binary people, 10 am-noon at Combat Arts Academy (5050 Delridge Way SW), by donation as a fundraiser for New Beginnings – sign up here.

DELRIDGE FARMERS’ MARKET, WEEK THREE: 10 am-2 pm, the market’s fourth season offers produce, plants, condiments, prepared food, more. (9421 18th SW)

SSC GARDEN CENTER: Student-grown plants await you at the north end of the South Seattle College (6000 16th SW; WSB sponsor) campus, 10 am-3 pm.

‘WELL-RESOURCED SCHOOLS’ MEETING: 10:30 am-noon at Chief Sealth International High School (2600 SW Thistle), it’s the third meeting in Seattle Public Schools‘ new round of community meetings to try to explain its “well-resourced schools” concept, looking ahead to a possible proposal for elementary-school closures/consolidations.

GATOR FAIR: Gatewood Elementary invites you to its playground (4320 SW Myrtle) for games, performances, an art and science fair, and more, 10:30 am-2:30 pm, free (except for the food trucks).

MORNING MUSIC: 10:30 am-noon at C & P Coffee (5612 California SW; WSB sponsor), Marco de Carvalho and Friends perform. Info about Marco’s music is here.

FREE WRITING GROUP: 10:30 am in West Seattle, registration required – see full details in our calendar listing.

FAMILY READING TIME: Every Saturday at 11 am at Paper Boat Booksellers (6040 California SW).

HIGHLAND PARK SPRAYPARK: Second weekend of the season – open 11 am-8 pm, free, every day, rain or shine. (1100 SW Cloverdale)

COLMAN POOL: Second weekend for the outdoor heated-salt-water pool on the shore at Lincoln Park (8011 Fauntleroy Way SW), noon-7 pm – session times are on the Colman Pool webpage.

WSHS CAR SHOW: Third annual student-organized car show – free to visit, $10 to enter your vehicle – noon to 3;30 pm; details in our calendar listing. (3000 California SW)

TALK WITH SDOT ABOUT HIGHLAND PARK WAY: Noon-5 pm, another chance to talk with SDOT about the Highland Park Way hill driving-lane-removal project – they’ll have a booth/table during the White Center Pride Street Festival, on 16th SW between Roxbury and SW 100th.

LOG HOUSE MUSEUM OPEN: The home of West Seattle history is open for your visit, noon-4 pm. (61st/Stevens)

VIETNAMESE CULTURAL CENTER: The center is open to visitors noon-3 pm, as explained here. (2236 SW Orchard)

VISCON CELLARS: Tasting room open – wine by the glass or bottle – 1-6 pm at Viscon Cellars (5910 California SW; WSB sponsor).

DISASTER PRACTICE WITH THE HUBS: 1-3 pm, you’re invited to join Emergency Communication Hub volunteers outside Hope Lutheran (42nd/Oregon) as they go through a disaster-preparedness exercise – a way for neighbors to be ready to help neighbors in case of catastrophe – details in our calendar listing.

SOUNDS FROM AROUND THE WORLD: Music festival in Roxhill Park (29th/Barton), 1-5 pm, free, promising a “captivating lineup of performances that reflect the rich tapestry of global sound” – see full details in our calendar listing.

NORTHWEST WINE ACADEMY: Open 1-6 pm at the north end of the South Seattle College (6000 16th SW; WSB sponsor) campus.

NEPENTHE’S WALK-IN MASSAGE CLINIC: 3-5 pm, show up at Nepenthe (9447 35th SW) with a specific problem to be addressed by massage, and you’ll get a free (gratuities appreciated) trial of their work.

WSHS ALL-SCHOOL REUNION & AFTERPARTY: Time for memories! 4-7 pm at the school, it’s the annual all-class reunion. Starting shortly afterward, go to Whisky West (6451 California SW) for the afterparty, featuring music by The Nitemates!

(added) DICK’S AT OUNCES: The Dick’s Drive-In burgers-and-shakes truck is at Ounces (3809 Delridge Way SW), 4-7 pm.

ALL-AGES OPEN MIC: 7-10 pm at The Spot West Seattle (2920 SW Avalon Way)

AT THE SKYLARK: It’s a night for West Seattle bandsFull Life Crisis, The Slags, Alki Heathens at The Skylark (3803 Delridge Way SW), doors 7 pm, music 8 pm, $10 at the door.

BEATS: Saturday night DJs at Revelry Room – 9 pm. Tonight, DJ Shonuph spins. (4547 California SW, alley side)

KARAOKE: Saturday nights, you can sing at Talarico’s Pizzeria (4718 California SW), starting at 10 pm.

Planning a happening? If the community’s welcome, your event belongs on our calendar! Please email info to – thank you!

UPDATE: 2 to hospital after crash on Fauntleroy Way by Lincoln Park

(Screengrab from SDOT camera near crash scene)

1:20 AM: Thanks for the tip. Fauntleroy Way is blocked both ways by the north Lincoln Park parking lot, after a crash. We don’t have details yet but police just reported to dispatch that several signs are down because of it.

3:06 AM: Officers have just told dispatch that Fauntleroy is open again. We still don’t know much – apparently two vehicles were involved; we’re inquiring with SFD about injuries, but only one engine was dispatched, usually an indication that injuries, if any, weren’t major.

2:30 PM: SFD spokesperson David Cuerpo tells WSB that two women were taken to the hospital by AMR ambulance, both in stable condition when transported, one 21, one 22.