West Seattle, Washington
Two quick reminders about events that aren’t happening IN West Seattle tonight, but have potential for major effects ON West Seattle – Seattle School Board, 6 pm, district HQ in Sodo, with members of the public speaking about the school-closure proposal as well as an update expected from the superintendent; downtown forum for the proposed King County Jail-adjacent site for a new regional misdemeanor-offender jail (one of six sites now on the list), with Highland Park reps expected to be there to speak in support of a downtown site (the West Seattle site that’s still on the list is in HP, West Marginal/Highland Park Way), 6-9 pm at City Hall downtown (more info on the new jail-site-search website). ADDED 4:15 PM: The Save Arbor Heights blog reminds us that since this is a regularly scheduled school-board meeting (unlike the closure-announcement meeting last week), you can watch it live on cable TV: Channel 26. We will be at the meeting to cover it in person and will post periodic updates, but since it’s being broadcast live, we don’t plan to liveblog it like last week.
They’re not showing all their cards yet, but Arbor Heights Elementary families and other supporters are certainly assembling their hands. That much was clear at last night’s meeting in the school cafeteria, called primarily to discuss the school community’s coalesced campaign to fight Seattle Public Schools‘ proposal to close the program and turn the building into the long-overdue new home of Genesee Hill’s Pathfinder K-8. Above, PTSA secretary Dana Varon exhorts the crowd to make a strong show of support at tonight’s School Board meeting, the first since the closure/change proposals were announced at a special board “work session” one week ago. Read on for what else they’re planning:Read More
We’re in the cafeteria at Arbor Heights Elementary, where a community meeting is about to begin, called by the PTSA to discuss the proposal to close the AH “program” so the building can be given to the Pathfinder K-8 program. The fluorescent green T-shirts you see around the room are newly minted “Save Arbor Heights” T-shirts. PTSA leadership will speak, followed by open mike time; we’ve seen several crews here from citywide media – KOMO TV included (so something should be on their 11 pm news). 7:21 PM UPDATE: PTSA leaders say Arbor Heights parents managed to get six of the speaking slots at tomorrow night’s School Board meeting (the official agenda lists four, and one for Pathfinder); they are offering child care to any AH community members who want to go to the board meeting to show support for the school. 7:48 PM UPDATE: As listed on the “fact sheet” we reported on yesterday, they are suggesting West Seattle, Cooper, and Roxhill Elementaries are better options for closure than AH. PTSA president Suzette Riley also mentioned proposing Denny as a new Pathfinder home, once its students move to the new Denny on the Sealth campus, as a longshot proposal. 8:32 PM UPDATE: The meeting has just ended and they’re signing people up for committees to help with various tasks in what could be a two-month road ahead, although they are hoping to present compelling-enough evidence to get the “close Arbor Heights program” tossed out sooner. (Full report on tonight’s meeting is in the works.)
As we’ll see at a meeting less than one hour away, the proposal to basically vaporize what is now known as Arbor Heights Elementary – except for its building – is wrenching for that close-knit school community. But the school community that district management wants to move into that building, Pathfinder K-8, isn’t exactly throwing a party. The years-old Pathfinder building dilemma (shown above, the portables they repainted this summer) has thrust them into myriad difficult situations. Knowing that, and knowing how hard they too have worked on their school community, we asked: “What’s your position about the new proposal?” starting even as unofficial word leaked out before Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson‘s formal presentation a week ago tonight. They thought a while before crafting this statement, and we wanted to bring it to you in its entirety, sent to us by Pathfinder PTSA leadership:
The question has been repeatedly asked: “What does Pathfinder K-8 think of the preliminary recommendation to move its program into the Arbor Heights Elementary building?”
This is a tough question to answer. The Pathfinder K-8 community is extremely grateful that in these challenging times the District supports keeping our program open and intact. This is clearly the most important thing to us. That stated, the community is more than disheartened, once again, to be put in the position where advocating for our program directly puts other schools and programs at risk.
Pathfinder K-8 is a vital part of public education in West Seattle. It is the only Alternative School and only K-8 in the region. It provides an important and necessary option for the many non-traditional learners in our community as well as a unique, quality education for families and kids seeking a more exploratory and holistic public education experience.
For the last 4 years we have surveyed prospective parents during enrollment tours to discover their thoughts about what we offer. Overwhelmingly, the majority of survey respondents rate our programs, curriculum, and teachers highly and rate our building very low. Our facility poses a large obstacle for families to overcome when choosing Pathfinder K-8 for their children. In a building with a sound structure that is appropriate for our program, our ability to better serve all of West Seattle increases dramatically.
As a bit of history, Pathfinder K-8 has now been on the receiving end of 5 preliminary recommendations, in the last four years, to move our program to a different building. This comes after a district-mandated change from a K-5 to a K-8 school in 1999, with little additional funding to provide for an upgrade in facilities. Our upper grades, 6th through 8th, have been in portables ever since. Despite this challenging situation, the staff and community persevered and today we have strong and cherished upper grades.
There is a detailed timeline and background information on Pathfinder’s facilities issues available on our website (here’s that link). Please take a look at it so you can understand the situation in detail. Suffice it to say that Pathfinder K-8 has a history of receiving preliminary recommendations that are reasonable for its program and address its facility issue, but come with the heavy burden of causing pain to other parts of our shared community. It has always been an extremely difficult, painful and energy-draining situation to be placed in. It is also true in the last 4 years that reasonable preliminary recommendations have turned into less desirable final recommendations that our community could not support.
Last spring and summer, questioning that a suitable building for our program would be found, built or otherwise manifested and, not willing to wait for another BEX levy, the Pathfinder K-8 community rolled up its sleeves to do what it could for its kids and community. Volunteers spent over 1,000 hours in 5 months, weekends and summer break with brushes and ladders, painting its 6 double portables. Thousands of dollars of paint and supplies were donated by the community. The staff hand-painted a new sign for the portables and the eighth grade students began the work of reclaiming planting beds.
So, what is Pathfinder K-8’s response to the recommendation that our program move into the Arbor Heights building? We struggle with what it should be. We ask the community to understand how difficult it is to answer this. In light of our past experience, how can we ensure the safety and integrity of our program, defend the need for high quality schools for all children in West Seattle, and still meet the goals and constraints set forth by the Seattle School District?
While there are certainly many possibilities, the ones that meet everyone’s needs are not as easy to find. The School Board has indicated that they are interested in hearing ideas and creative approaches, as are we. It is unfortunate that, due to the current state of our School District, none of the likely scenarios are easy or painless for any of the schools involved. Still, we are committed to enduring this process and working through the appropriate channels to find resolution.
The link detailing Pathfinder’s history also is new (here it is again); we had inquired about that as well, wondering how long they had been in this “temporary” building. A week from tonight, 6:45 pm December 9th, the Pathfinder community plans to meet and talk about the relocation proposal; a week after that, 6:30 pm December 16th, the district will have its legally mandated public hearing at the Pathfinder building (Genesee Hill). But before all that, the School Board meets downtown tomorrow night for the first time since the special meeting last week, 6 pm, district HQ in Sodo.
BEER: Prost West Seattle says this is opening day. 3 pm.
BOOKS: West Seattle High School students raise money through a Barnes and Noble book fair at Westwood Village. (Voucher 423228)
And that’s not all! See the WSB Events Calendar for more.
(added Monday night: one of the “Save Arbor Heights” campaign signs that are being printed)
The Arbor Heights Elementary PTSA has just finished a “fact sheet” about its school, which (to recap) is proposed for closure by Seattle Public Schools staff — not the building itself, but the school that’s currently housed in it. AHPTSA describes it as “being evicted”; SPS staff proposes dispersing AH students to other “West Seattle South cluster” schools, and moving the Pathfinder K-8 alternative program into the AH building (after closing the deteriorating Genesee Hill building where it’s long been housed). One of the points that AH reiterates on the fact sheet: In a time when SPS leaders have said they want to move back toward “neighborhood schools” (after years of “school choice” tending to scatter people) — buildings where a high percentage of the students are from nearby neighborhoods — AH already is succeeding on that front, with 50% of its students from the immediate area (described by SPS as the “reference area”). If that doesn’t sound like much to you, consider the stats for other West Seattle elementary schools (according to the “demographic summaries” available on the SPS website – you can choose any school from the “school reports” pulldown on this page):
21% for Alki Elementary
29% for Cooper Elementary
32% for Gatewood Elementary
47% for Highland Park Elementary
42% for Lafayette Elementary
26% for Roxhill Elementary
31% for Sanislo Elementary
51% for Schmitz Park Elementary (the only one higher than AH)
36% for West Seattle Elementary
(Thanks to Michelle for pointing out this info also is available in map form)
Here again is the new Arbor Heights fact sheet; next steps for the “Save Arbor Heights” campaign, a community meeting in the school cafeteria at 7 tomorrow night (as reported here last night). Side note: Tomorrow is also a big night for dozens of West Seattle parents affected by the proposal to move the citywide APP (top-level gifted) program out of Lowell Elementary in the north end and split it between two schools (West Seattle APP students would move to Hawthorne) – their advisory committee is having a meeting at Lowell with a briefing from district staff.
After a long weekend of strategy planning, PTSA leaders at Arbor Heights Elementary have announced a special meeting for 7 pm Tuesday at the school. That’ll be exactly a week after Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson proposed ending the AH Elementary “program” so that its building can become the new home of Pathfinder K-8, long headquartered in the badly deteriorated Genesee Hill Elementary building. PTSA leaders are hoping for a big turnout Tuesday night from the entire community, not just those with direct ties to the school — one of the major arguments of the “Save Arbor Heights” campaign is that it is truly a community school, with more than half its students coming from the immediate neighborhood, a much-higher percentage than many other area schools. (Another note for everyone in West Seattle affected by the new school closure/change proposal – tomorrow morning is when the district starts taking signups for speaking slots at the Wednesday night School Board meeting – the closure/change proposal isn’t officially on the agenda outside of the “superintendent’s report,” but the public comment period is open for any subject. Starting at 8 am tomorrow, people interested in speaking that night need to either e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (206) 252-0040.)
Returning home from the downtown parade, we spotted the Walking on Logs sculptures decked in Arbor Heights Elementary School T-shirts, with signs like the one you see above (a bit soggy in the rain). Handmade signs are nearby (with identical ones across the northeastbound Fauntleroy Way end of The Bridge):
As evidenced by those displays – and other less-public actions — many members of the AH Elementary community are working frenetically through this “holiday” weekend, days after hearing Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson propose to end their school’s existence so the building could be given to the Pathfinder K-8 program (which has been stuck for years in the subpar ex-Genesee Hill Elementary building). The Arbor Heights troops are researching facts, crafting a battle strategy, planning a community meeting (date/time TBA), and preparing for the public-comment period at next Wednesday’s School Board meeting. They also are updating the Save Arbor Heights blog that was created even before the official announcement (as we reported Wednesday afternoon), with entries including this customized timeline of key dates/events between now and the final School Board vote in late January. From what we’ve monitored so far, it is clear they are taking to heart the advice offered by West Seattle board rep Steve Sundquist at his standing-room-only coffee hour on Wednesday – don’t bring the board raw emotion, bring research, ideas, alternative proposals – with the focus less on “don’t do that” than on “do this, instead of that.” Meantime, the holidays wait for no one, and the Arbor Heights Elementary community also is preparing for its long-planned holiday bazaar Thursday night, 4-8 pm — now juxtaposed with one of the school district’s “community workshops” (6:30 pm that night at district HQ in Sodo) on the citywide closure plan.
We just checked with Seattle Public Schools to see if the official dates were set for the public hearings at the school buildings proposed for closure – and this list is hot off the pixels. (We’d reported earlier that West Seattle School Board rep Steve Sundquist said this morning that he thought the West Seattle hearing would be December 16th, and he was right.) From the official announcement:
In order to strengthen academic programs across Seattle Public Schools and protect its long-term financial health, the School District is now considering building closures. Public hearings will be held at buildings proposed for closure from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on the days and locations below.
Monday, Dec. 15, 2008
▪ T.T. Minor – 1700 E. Union St.
▪ Pinehurst – 11530 12th Ave. N.E.
▪ Van Asselt – 7201 Beacon Ave. S.
Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008
▪ Genesee Hill – 5012 S.W. Genesee St.
▪ Mann – 2410 E. Cherry St.
▪ Old Hay – 411 Boston St.
Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008
▪ Lowell – 1058 E. Mercer St.
Public testimony will be limited to 3 minutes per speaker, and should focus on the school building about which the hearing is being held. To sign up to give testimony, please call (206) 252-0042 or e-mail email@example.com.
For more information, visit www.seattleschools.org, and select “Capacity Management.” Comments may be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or mailed to School Board,
P.O. Box 34165, MS 11-010, Seattle, WA, 98124-1165.
Direct link to the “Capacity Management” page is here. We also have just created a coverage category for all reports we publish related to this round of school changes – you can click “West Seattle school closure” in the WSB CATEGORIES list on the right sidebar, or just bookmark this (you can subscribe to this category or any other one in RSS, if you read WSB that way – choose the RSS link next to the category name in that sidebar list).
We are at Coffee to a Tea with dozens of parents who have come to talk with School Board rep Steve Sundquist, many here to hear why Arbor Heights Elementary is being basically dismantled so Pathfinder K-8 can move there (coverage of the announcement and followup here and here). More later. 10 AM UPDATE: Sundquist offers this advice to concerned parents: Bring the board ideas and research, not emotion. First chance – sign up Monday to speak at next Wednesday’s board meeting. Sundquist says he has not made up his mind on the first recommendations and added that he doesn’t feel “bound” by them either – he is open to hearing alternative proposals. WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON P.S. We will write more about the meeting later (including the key points Arbor Heights parents made about why their school is a success and shouldn’t be dismantled – West Seattle parents of Lowell APP students had a significant presence too), but one other important piece of info to share now – Sundquist says he thinks the one public hearing that will be held in West Seattle, as required by state law when a building is proposed for closure, will probably be Tuesday 12/16 at Genesee Hill (Pathfinder), and he expects it will follow the format of up to 40 speakers, up to 3 minutes each. “Why no hearing at Arbor Heights?” asked an AH parent; “this is what’s required by law,” Sundquist explained, to which the parent wondered aloud if the district couldn’t go above and beyond what’s “required.” Meantime, we are checking with the district to see if they have a timetable for when the official announcement of the hearing will come (and we of course will publish the dates for all the hearings as they’re set, knowing local APP parents will want to attend the Lowell hearing).
Following up on our live updates from last night’s 4-hour-plus School Board session where school closures and changes were officially proposed, here are the toplines/bottom lines on West Seattle effects, and what happens next:
-Ex-Genesee Hill Elementary building (map; photo right) proposed for closure
–Pathfinder K-8 proposed to move out of Genesee Hill, into Arbor Heights Elementary building (map; photo above)
-Arbor Heights Elementary would cease to exist as a “program”
-Arbor Heights’ current “regular” students would be dispersed among other West Seattle South cluster elementary schools (list)
-Arbor Heights’ current “special-ed” students would stay and become part of the Pathfinder K-8 “program”
-West Seattle students in the Advanced Placement Program (APP) would be assigned to Hawthorne Elementary (map), tabbed as one of two new homes for APP elementary students, who till now have all been housed together at Lowell (that building is to close) – this affects more than 50 West Seattle students (thanks to Molly for forwarding district documents that show how many West Seattle students from each “reference area” attend schools outside their “area,” including Lowell – here’s the WS north version, here’s the WS south version)
All the presentations from the Tuesday night meeting are linked from this page (look under the Nov. 25 meeting header); for supplementary info, here’s Genesee Hill building history and Arbor Heights building history; Arbor Heights has set up a Save Arbor Heights site; before last night’s meeting, we published some background on the last round of school closure proposals, meetings, protests., etc.
HOW TO COMMENT ON THE PROPOSALS: Various options all detailed here (including an e-mail announcement list you can sign up for)
TODAY: West Seattle’s School Board rep Steve Sundquist invites one and all to his monthly coffee chat at Coffee to a Tea with Sugar this morning, 9 am, in The Junction (map).
NEXT WEEK: First School Board meeting post-announcements, 6 pm Wednesday @ district HQ
AFTER THAT: The timeline remains the same as the one the district outlined previously:
□ December 4 – Community Meeting, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., John Stanford Center, 2445 3rd Avenue South
□ December 6 – Community Meeting, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., Filipino Community Center, 5740 Martin Luther King Way
□ December 15, 16, 18 –Public hearings at buildings proposed for closure
□ Tuesday, January 6 –Final recommendation announced by Superintendent
□ Wednesday, January 7 –Board meeting: Capacity management motion introduced
□ Wednesday, January 21 –Board meeting
□ Thursday, January 22 –Final public hearing
□ Thursday, January 29 –Special board meeting (final vote)
Note that the 12/15-12/18 hearings will be at the BUILDINGS proposed for closure – so Genesee Hill will get one, though Arbor Heights, as a PROGRAM proposed for closure, apparently will not. The dates for those hearings are not yet set – we will publish that information as soon as it’s available.
(keep refreshing to see latest updates, as we report “live” from school district HQ – toplines are now available on this district document … also, as of 10:15 pm, an overview is now posted on the district website – see it here)
10:30 PM NOTE: If you want to read the full rationale for the “close Arbor Heights program, close Genesee Hill building, move Pathfinder K-8 to Arbor Heights building” proposal, it starts on page 40 of this document. Interesting side note on that document – Alki Elementary is the only building in the West Seattle area in worse condition than Genesee Hill, but the district says it would be tough to consider closing that program/building for a variety of reasons including the fact its boiler supplies heat to the adjacent Alki Community Center, so even if the program was closed, the building couldn’t be taken out of commission.
10:19 PM: After 4 1/3 hours, the meeting is over. Checking for additional links to share before we pack up and head back to HQ and assemble for later a more concise “where things stand, what next” post. *There are a ton of additional links now – go to this page and scroll down to the list under the November 25th, Preliminary Recommendation Presented, heading. This one in particular, Preliminary Recommendation Report and Appendices, likely has the full details on the decisionmaking behind suggesting moving Pathfinder to Arbor Heights – we’ll read it to check. Reminder that Steve Sundquist has his monthly “coffee hour” tomorrow morning, 9 am, Coffee to a Tea in The Junction – we’ll be there and we’re sure a lot of Arbor Heights, Pathfinder, and West Seattle APP elementary students’ parents will be there as well.
10:05 PM: Summarizing the recommendations now (see the link above for the list). Next step, School Board meeting Wednesday 12/3 (public testimony that night no doubt will be dominated by the closure proposals). Crowd starting to clear out. Some more board remarks even though Q/A was taken throughout the presentation. Hard copy of the recommendations (same doc as linked above) being handed out – though it’s clear that the board members have a BIG sheaf of additional info. Will advise as soon as the date for West Seattle-specific hearing is set. DeBell is saying, it’s tough to have an all-city-draw program that’s not centrally located, and adds, nobody’s being done any favors by keeping half-full buildings. “This is not fun,” Dr. Goodloe-Johnson summarizes, “(but) the hard choices will only get harder. We know people don’t want schools to close, we don’t either, but the fact is, we don’t have a choice.” She says some of the notes and the questions asked tonight will lead to data shared at the next board meeting. Board president Cheryl Chow points out that several board members went through the last school-closure round: “Our job now is to look at the data, ask more questions, listen to our constituents and their ideas, and share those with the staff, look at the data again … I would like to encourage all of us to remember, it’s human nature to want to solve everything ‘right now’ but I caution us, too, the most important job we have as elected officials now is to listen openmindedly but not promise things because we need to have this process be vetted fully … The final decision isn’t until January 29th, and as hard as it is for the seven of us to sit here and just listen and take notes, I think it’s very important, because there’s lots of people that want us to hear their viewpoint, and we need to honor that.” (10:17 pm, in addition to the list on the FAQ document posted earlier, here is an “overview” document that appears to have some more details)
9:51 PM: Finally getting to West Seattle. Enrollment projected steady for next five years, says superintendent. Close Genesee Hill, one of the worst buildings in the district. Arbor Heights building much better, 70.74. Arbor Heights smaller than Genesee Hill but no portables, unlike GH, still big enough to house 391 Pathfinder students. Enough room in nearby schools to house all AH students. They would be reassigned to other elementaries in WS South cluster. Board questions now. West Seattle school board rep Sundquist: Please explain how did you get to the point of putting Pathfinder in either AH or Cooper. They’re reading from documentation. Really intricate reasoning for why they could not consider any building but Cooper or Arbor Heights for Pathfinder relocation (we were videotaping that part). Apparently had a lot to do with the fact there are a lot of West Seattle North cluster kids at Cooper but no place for them to go in the north cluster schools. Pathfinder to Arbor Heights – AH has planning capacity of 428, it’s big enough, plus there is excess capacity at other WS South (368 open seats) schools, plus 68 open seats at WS elementary, more than enough for AH students to be reassigned. 277 AH students live in WS South cluster, more than 400 open seats in other schools of that cluster, so there’s room for them, the superintendent says. Sundquist: Despite great temptation in the face of all this to not want to take the pain of closures, I still believe our financial condition is sufficiently dire that taking closures is better than the alternative of guaranteeing pain through more staff cuts and budget cuts so I am for the fact we need to do some more closures and I do believe WS has some excess capacity. I’m A-OK. But I debate in my mind whether AH or Cooper is the better of the two alternatives for us to think about as the receiving school for Pathfinder program. He continues, looking ahead to more of a neighborhood orientation in forthcoming Student Assignment Plan, I am more concerned about the ability of Cooper to be a successful neighborhood school. The enrollment in that reference area has declined and looks to decline further, so I worry about its viability under a plan we are going to be writing a couple months hence. Arbor Heights is very clearly a neighborhood school (BIG CROWD IN CORNER APPLAUDS). Sundquist says he’s concerned about putting so much weight on concern that the north WS cluster kids would be assigned out of cluster, in deciding that Cooper should not be PF home. Now, board member Maier echoes that Cooper reference area does not have so many students, in comparison with Arbor Heights reference area, so he is worried about it being a successful neighborhood school. He wonders if this can be held off a year to see what happens. (10:04 pm) Maier also notes Pathfinder students tend to be from WS north. Nobody else has questions about the West Seattle proposals.
9:42 PM: Southeast discussion continues. Meantime, as we get closer to the West Seattle discussion and why Arbor Heights Elementary’s “program” was chosen to close, with Pathfinder K-8 proposed to move there (from the ex-Genesee Hill Elementary building the district’s been trying to get it out of for years), here’s the district history of Arbor Heights, which first opened almost 60 years ago. Ironically, the Genesee Hill building opened right about the same time – 1949 (here’s its history doc) – but was closed in 1989, and has served as a temporary site (or, for Pathfinder, sort of temporary) ever since.
9:15 PM: Southeast cluster: Excess seats in elementary and K-8. Close Van Asselt building (poor condition), relocate its K-5 program to African American Academy building (good condition but the school itself was not doing well), repurpose that building as K-5, reassign AAA students to schools in the clusters where they live, co-locate Summit to Rainier Beach HS. (9:29 pm, board questioning continues – one focus includes, won’t there be issues with two high-school programs sharing a building, the 9-12 section of Summit K-12 in its proposed new home co-located with RBHS; further questioning on high-school capacity issues draws a district staffer who says the HS population has generally migrated north and the “Southeast Initiative” is meant to try to encourage students to attend schools closer to home, and maybe move some people out of overcrowded North End schools. DeBell says he’d like to see a school-by-school analysis because he wonders why no high schools are proposed for closure, but that’s where the biggest potential savings are, and the district is in a “desperate” financial situation. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson notes that “demographics tell us, in 2012 the high-school population will go up” and they don’t want to be without wiggle room for placement of future students. Superintendent says they may yet have to look again at the high-school capacity issue but they “think they have another year.”)
9:10 PM: Board president Cheryl Chow says she’s starting to feel uncomfortable and troubled (as the APP-splitting discussion continues) because there are gifted kids “throughout the Seattle School District” – “equity has not been around the district – we are beginning to address it.” So, Bass asks, are we trying to get geographic equity now with these APP moves, or are we trying to reduce costs? (If you don’t know much about APP, read the district explanation here.) Dr. Goodloe-Johnson reiterates, the Lowell building needs to be closed.
8:47 PM: They’re still discussing the concerns related to splitting up APP elementary (which has been self-contained, with all APP elementary students from around the city, at Lowell for a long time). Board member Mary Bass points out that the clusters with overcapacity problems are just southeast and southwest (West Seattle), and it would be important to figure out why, in addition to just shuffling kids around the city to those empty seats. The APP-splitting recommendation so far is getting as many questions as the “move Summit K-12 to Rainier Beach” recommendation from earlier. Board member Peter Maier wonders how this all plays into the new student assignment plan; district staff says they’re “liking what they’re seeing” because all this seems to play into what they’ve been working on. (8:59 pm) District staff says Thurgood Marshall and Hawthorne will have a “schoolhouse model” because they both have special-ed students as well as general-ed students, and now the added APP students will mean a more diverse student population. Board member DeBell says Hawthorne will be overfilled by 60 students with the move, so how will APP grow there, “without displacing the neighborhood students?” and notes that T-Marshall also will be slightly “overfilled” by moving half the APP kids there. Vaughan says 200 kids identified for APP are not using the program – they’re being “accommodated” at Spectrum and ALOs, “it’s not essential that every highly gifted student has to go into a radically accelerated program.” He says it’s more important to attract kids to Spectrum (the second-level gifted program), which is located in more schools around the city. DeBell points out there’s a waitlist for many of the Spectrum schools (crowd applauds). DeBell asks, was a north end site considered for APP? District staff says “we looked at that” but couldn’t find a building where they could move half the APP kids into, because there wasn’t one with that much room on that side of town.
*Editor’s note: Liveblogging up to this point is now on a separate page – if you are just coming into this and aren’t refreshing the post itself, click ahead to catch up on what we chronicled earlier – just trying to clear room on the home page*Read More
Looking ahead to the official announcement of the school-closure (and probably, consolidation, moving, etc.) plan at 6 pm tonight (district HQ in Sodo), some background: It’s been two years since the previous closure process hit its low point, an ugly ruckus during a board meeting in October 2006. Before that, the most controversial West Seattle aspect of the fall 2006 proposal was a plan for Pathfinder K-8 to move out of the ex-Genesee Hill Elementary and “merge” into the Cooper Elementary building in Pigeon Point; Roxhill Elementary was also proposed for closure; earlier in the process, there had been an even-more controversial proposal to move Pathfinder to Boren (where Chief Sealth is temporarily headquartered now). When all was said and done some weeks later, Pathfinder and Cooper kept their status quos — even though all agree the Genesee Hill building is in sorry shape — and ultimately, the Fairmount Park Elementary building was closed, with that school’s “program” merging into the underenrolled then-High Point Elementary, since renamed West Seattle Elementary. We’re heading out shortly to district HQ and will start up the “live” post once we’re settled in there. Another place to watch in addition to WSB is the always-excellent Seattle Public Schools Community blog (which started up during the 2006 closures process, at saveseattleschools.blogspot.com).
According to various online discussions we are monitoring, Arbor Heights Elementary is on the closure list that the school district will unveil at 6 pm tonight. There is already a Save Arbor Heights blog. More to come. WSB will report live from the meeting tonight (public is welcome; it’s at district HQ in Sodo) – both with frequent updates here on the home page, and also via Twitter (twitter.com/westseattleblog). Arbor Heights, by the way, was one of the first schools NATIONWIDE to have a website – dating back to 1994. As per the comments below this note (including one that says it will be proposed that Pathfinder’s program move to Arbor Heights’ building) – the presentation the district will make tonight will be a complicated list of “program” closures as well as “building” closures and moves, so the full picture of who’s supposed to go where won’t emerge till the announcements are done. Also, in advance of this, the district announced this afternoon that the “open enrollment” period for next year is being pushed back to March 2-31, 2009 (more than a month later than the original plan; here’s the full news release).
Next Tuesday, Seattle Public Schools leaders are scheduled to present their proposal for the next round of school closures. We’re watching this closely because South and West Seattle have the most likelihood of finding schools on this list, since the north end has been dealing with overcrowding, but these areas have not. We don’t know yet if a media briefing is planned earlier that day, but we do know the recommendations will be formally presented to the School Board at a 6 pm workshop at District HQ, and whichever buildings are scheduled for closure will get on-site public hearings during the week of 12/15. Before that, the district has just announced two “workshops” 12/4 and 12/6 to discuss the recommendations before those hearings – read on for full details:Read More
We reported Friday night on the plan for this Wednesday’s Seattle School Board meeting to include a vote on the proposal for changing the public-notice requirements when school closures are to be proposed; the district says it needs the changes because it must move quickly on the next round of closure proposals (the list is due out 11/25). Among other things, they’re cutting community newspapers out of the formal (paid) advance-notice-publication process and just including them on the “outreach” list (we can’t help but notice even the “revised” policy seems outdated because it has no mention of online-only local-news operations like WSB, and in fact doesn’t mention ANY websites aside from the SPS site; at least we are on the SPS media list so we get and publish these notices anyway). If you have anything to say about the changes, you should read the entire policy and send your thoughts to the board, or show up on Wednesday night. Meantime, the posted agenda for that same meeting (6 pm Wednesday, district HQ in Sodo) also includes a vote on the $1.8 million deal to sell the Fauntleroy schoolhouse to the Fauntleroy Community Service Agency (first reported here a month ago).
Seattle Public Schools has gone public tonight with its timeline for a new round of school closures; the proposed list of buildings to be closed will be released two days before Thanksgiving:
• November 12: School Board meeting, vote on motion to amend policy on notice for public hearings
• November 25: Superintendent’s preliminary recommendation
• December 3: School Board meeting – discussion of recommendation
• December 15, 16, 18: Public hearings at affected buildings
• December 17: School Board meeting
• January 6: Superintendent’s final recommendation
• January 7: Recommendation introduced at School Board meeting
• January 21: School Board meeting
• January 22: Final public hearing
• January 29: Board vote on recommendation
No specific schools anywhere in the city have been listed as likely candidates for closure so far, but West Seattleites are watching particularly warily for reasons including the fact the north end is struggling with overcrowding, and the fact a district manager has mentioned at meetings regarding the Denny Middle School site’s future that an elementary school might be built on that site in the future, as a replacement for “three closures.” Meantime, the news release in which this timeline is laid out also invites public comment on “capacity management,” which includes forthcoming closure proposals — e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Also: For more context, including some interpretation from citywide PTSA leaders, check out this post on the always-excellent saveseattleschools.blogspot.com site.
Not much change expected in the number of West Seattle students kindergarten through fifth-grade age over the next few years, according to that slide from a presentation the Seattle School Board is seeing at a work session this afternoon. The work session is about “capacity management”; the biggest problem the district is trying to solve right now is overcrowding in the north end, but then board members are expected to take a vote tonight to direct district management to start looking at closures in other areas, to save money (as reported here last week). District spokesperson Patti Spencer reiterated to WSB today that there is NO list of targeted schools at this point; district Building Excellence program manager Don Gillmore had said at a meeting about the future of the Denny Middle School site, however, that there is talk of building an elementary school at that site — after Denny moves to its future new building on the Chief Sealth campus — while closing three unspecified others (WSB report here). If you want to see the entire presentation about district capacity, as shown to board members today, click here.
EARLY DISMISSAL DAY FOR SEATTLE PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Most schools are out two hours early; a few have made different plans, such as Chief Sealth High School, which has no classes today but does have parent/teacher conferences 1-8 pm.
SCHOOL BOARD TALKS ABOUT POSSIBLE SCHOOL CLOSURES: Seattle Public Schools‘ board members have a work session on “capacity management” 3-7 pm, followed by a voting session 8-10 pm. As part of that discussion, they are expected to take at least the first step toward another round of school closures, and since some schools in the north end are jampacked, it’s speculated that some West Seattle schools could wind up facing the ax. The work session is 3-7 pm, the “legislative session” 8-10 pm; agenda’s here, and the meetings are all at District HQ in Sodo.
PUBLIC SAFETY DOLLARS: Tonight at the “log cabin” building in White Center’s Steve Cox Memorial Park, King County Sheriff Sue Rahr, Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, and other leaders will convene a town-hall meeting to talk about how the county budget deficit is likely to affect public safety. (We covered Sheriff Rahr’s early warnings about this at a SeaTac meeting last June.) Remember that cuts will affect city residents as well as unincorporated-area residents, because the county provides services for all in areas such as prosecution, public defense, courts, jails. The meeting’s at 7 pm; here’s a map to Steve Cox Park.
The prospect of more Seattle Public Schools closures in West Seattle has been hinted at during the now-under-way process of discussing the future of the Denny Middle School site — the district has said a “future elementary school” may be built there, but not as an additional school, instead as a replacement for three as-yet-unspecified schools to be closed. Now (hat tip to saveseattleschools.blogspot.com) the district has put up webpages about closure discussions (superintendent’s message here, FAQ here). More details could emerge by next Wednesday, when school-board members have a work session and special meeting regarding “capacity management,” which would include school closures. Here’s an excerpt from what’s now on the SPS website:
SPS has operated for many years with substantially more capacity than needed for the number of students enrolled; and we have more school buildings than other districts with comparable student populations. Many of these buildings are costly to maintain due to their age and amount of deferred maintenance.
The most recent Seattle Public Schools building closure in West Seattle was Fairmount Park Elementary, shut down at the end of the school year in 2007. If age is to be a factor in school-closure proposals, it’s worth noting the age of West Seattle school buildings that have not gone through recent renovations: Part of Gatewood Elementary dates back almost a century and has city landmark designation; Lafayette Elementary‘s buildings date back to 1941-1953; Arbor Heights Elementary‘s buildings were built between 1948 and 1958; Alki Elementary’s buildings are from 1954 and 1967; Roxhill Elementary opened in 1958; Schmitz Park Elementary opened in 1962; Sanislo Elementary opened in 1970. Next Wednesday’s School Board meeting is in two sessions, a 3-7 pm “workshop,” and 8 pm “special legislative session,” both at district HQ in Sodo.