West Seattle, Washington
With Seattle Public Schools scheduled to start Wednesday, we have three notes tonight:
CONTRACT TALKS: We hope to hear more Tuesday about the district’s contract talks with Operating Engineers Local 302, the union for several categories of staff including culinary services, custodians, grounds, security, and alarm monitoring. SPS acknowledged Friday that the contract had expired Thursday but insisted, “It is not unusual to go past the contract end date for these negotiations.” The South Seattle Emerald reported that union reps speaking at last week’s school-board meeting said talks had been under way since spring but the district just made its first money proposal a week earlier. Meantime, the question many are asking is whether teachers would refuse to cross the picket line if this union goes out on strike. There’s been no public statement on that, though it’s been requested that teachers not step in to do the work IUOE members would do. (Tuesday morning semi-update: We asked SPS for the latest. They sent us a statement that is word-for-word what they published on the SPS website Friday. So, no update yet.
NOT-READY PORTABLES: After we reported a week and a half ago that West Seattle High School‘s new portables were in place in the parking lot, a commenter said staff had been told they won’t be ready to occupy for the start of the year.
We asked SPS if that was true, and if so, why. Spokesperson Tina Christiansen replied, “According to the senior project manager, it’s an issue with the availability of electrical contractors.”
WEST SEATTLE ELEMENTARY CEREMONY: Last month we showed you the renovations and expansion at West Seattle Elementary School, where classes are resuming after two years at the former Schmitz Park Elementary.
WSES will celebrate the project before school on Wednesday morning, combined with their red-carpet rally to welcome the students, starting around 7:15 am
As we’ve been noting since mid-August, some students are already back in class. Most of those who aren’t yet are about to be. Here’s who starts tomorrow (Tuesday, September 5th):
Tilden School (WSB sponsor)
Watch out for more people walking and biking, and more traffic in general in school zones.
Both of West Seattle’s public high schools have started their football seasons with victories. We covered West Seattle HS‘s home win on Friday; then on Saturday, Chief Sealth IHS opened their season on the road at Bellingham. That game ended with a 32-27 victory for the Seahawks. Next week, head coach Daron Camacho‘s team is on the road again, 5 pm Friday (September 8th) vs. Lakeside at Memorial Stadium downtown.
Waving their flag and bursting through a banner, the West Seattle High School Wildcats roared onto the Nino Cantu SW Athletic Complex field tonight for the first time this football season. Two-plus hours later, they left the field victorious over Columbia River High School (Vancouver, WA), but only after some literally last-minute drama.
But first – new head coach Anthony Stordahl‘s team got off to a strong start, taking the ball on an interception just half a minute in. They needed a while to break through the Rapids’ defense but with 4:28 to go in the first quarter, #1, senior Leland Gayles III, got the first TD.
The Wildcats got another one in the final minute of the first quarter, with #45, junior Cole Edwards, recovering a Columbia River fumble in the end zone.
The Wildcats capitalized on another of their opponents’ mistakes in the first :15 of the second quarter, when #7, junior Alex Jorge, followed an interception with a run most of the way down the field. That eventually set up a field goal by #34, sophomore kicker Scott Bremen, that boosted the WSHS lead to 17-0 with 10:27 to go in the first half.
The Rapids finally got on the scoreboard with a touchdown at 7:16 left in the half, and that was the end of scoring before halftime, when everyone left the field with WSHS up 17-7.
In the second half, more big runs – including two by #2, junior Sam Turner – paved the way for a touchdown pass at 7:26 caught by #5, senior Gibson Aguilar.
With the point-after kick, WSHS was up to a 24-7 lead. A few minutes later, a spot of trouble – a short-lived physical altercation at midfield, broken up quickly by coaches and refs, saw (corrected) two players, one from each team, ejected. The next significant action in the game didn’t come until the final minute, when Columbia River scored two touchdowns, resulting in a final score of 24-19. Close call, but reason for WSHS fans to join the expanded Cheer Team in celebrating.
NEXT WEEK: WSHS has an early home game, 4:30 pm, next Friday (September 8th) at NCSWAC, against Franklin.
Every school year, we tell you about ways you can help local students, from tutoring to attending events to donating money. Here’s the announcement for one of the first fundraisers of 2023-2024, from Friends of Roxhill Elementary:
Kick off the new school year by giving to the Roxhill Field Trip and Classroom Fund!
Did you know schools and families cover the cost of field trips? This creates a disparity between field trip experiences across schools in our district.
With your generous donations, Friends of Roxhill provides each teacher at our school with money for field trips and to equip their classroom with much-needed supplies, like educational games, toys, and books. Last year, each teacher received ~$15 per student. We’d like to increase the amount to ~$20 per student this year!
Not all families in our school have the means to give. If you do, please consider donating on behalf of your student and a classmate. 100% of funds will go to teachers to benefit our RoxStars.
Roxhill Elementary is a small but mighty Title I school with about 250 students, located in the south end of West Seattle. Friends of Roxhill Elementary supports the education and enrichment of our multicultural public school in Seattle. Over 70% of our students are from BIPOC communities (Black, Indigenous, Person of Color). Our nonprofit focuses on building equity for students through fundraising, community building, and other important projects for our kids’ school success.
You can go here to help. (And if you have news of a school fundraiser/event/cool potential news story, email firstname.lastname@example.org or text 206-293-6302!)
Some fall high-school sports start up even before the first classes of the year. High-school football season is about to begin. Tomorrow night (Friday, September 1st), West Seattle High School plays a home game at Nino Cantu Southwest Athletic Complex (2801 SW Thistle), 6 pm, vs. Columbia River (from Vancouver, Washington). Chief Sealth International High School was scheduled for a season-opener on the road at Foster High School in Tukwila, but the Metro League schedule page says the game’s been canceled and that CSIHS instead is playing at Bellingham, 1 pm Saturday (September 2nd). You’ll also see/hear football at West Seattle Stadium, where O’Dea – which plays its home games there – will play Union at 7 pm Friday.
Most local students who aren’t back in class already will return next week. If you’ve just moved here – or are rethinking your K-5 student’s plan for next year – independent Tilden School (WSB sponsor) wants you to know they still have a few spaces at each grade level. As noted here last month, Tilden has a new head of school, Dr. Jorge Olaf Nelson, and is looking ahead to the new school year with excitement. They’d be happy to give you a tour, even amid all the preps for the start of school – here’s how to contact Tilden School via email or phone. The campus is on the north edge of The Junction, at 4105 California SW.
After three weeks, Seattle Public Schools has made its decision about how to respond to the city Hearing Examiner ruling granting neighbors’ appeal of a zoning exception that would allow the new Alki Elementary to be built without off-street parking: It’s going to court. That’s one of the options if you lose a case before the Hearing Examiner – going to King County Superior Court with a “petition seeking review of a land-use decision.” That’s what SPS filed today, according to documents we obtained tonight. The petition contends in part:
… The Examiner concluded that the SDCI [Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections] Decision lacked sufficient supporting information on this issue alone. The Examiner’s conclusion regarding the vehicle parking departure is incorrect. … Petitioner is aggrieved and adversely affected by the Decision because the Decision prejudices Petitioner’s ability to use its Property and is intended to interfere with the Petitioner’s legal use and enjoyment of the Property and the ability to develop the Project … the Examiner engaged in unlawful procedure, erroneously interpreted the law, made a decision that is not supported by substantial evidence, and committed clear error where it concluded that the Appellants met their burden to demonstrate that it is not necessary to eliminate all parking to meet the school’s educational needs. … The Decision’s determination that the parking analysis did not accurately reflect parking conditions was not supported by substantial evidence in the record. … The Examiner chose to give greater weight to anecdotal statements that parking conditions in December 2021 must not reflect normal parking conditions instead of expert analysis that concluded, in both the report and in testimony, that the parking conditions in December 2021 were likely higher than normal conditions given that many people chose to stay home (and park on the street) rather than leave due to both the COVID-19 pandemic and the West Seattle Bridge closure.
This is not likely to end quickly. The initial schedule set for the case requires a hearing by October 20th, but the case itself might not be fully heard until next January. The district has a permit for demolition, excavation, and grading of the school site, and has completed most of the demolition, but can’t get a permit to build the new school until this issue is settled. Building the school without a zoning exception for parking would require 48 spaces, and presenting a revised plan providing them was one of the other options the district had for responding to the Hearing Examiner’s ruling.
Tomorrow night was supposed to be Seattle Public Schools‘ grand finale to its series of community meetings meant to collect ideas to define “well-resourced schools.” That’s what the district says it needs to move toward – and that might mean closing/consolidating schools. So far, it’s had a series of in-person meetings around the district, including this one we covered on August 10th. Late today, the district announced the citywide online meeting scheduled for tomorrow will instead be held at 5:30 pm September 26th. The announcement says in part, “Moving this online engagement to Tuesday, Sept. 26, after the school year has begun will allow for wider community participation. It will also help us prepare an exceptional experience for a larger number of people.” If you RSVP here, they promise to send the meeting link during the week of September 11th. Meantime, they’re still promising an online survey in “early September.” This is all supposed to result in a plan to be presented by superintendent Dr. Brent Jones in November.
As of tonight, the old Alki Elementary is almost completely demolished, but a matter that must be settled before the new one is built is still in question. More than two weeks have now passed since a city hearing examiner ruled in favor of neighbors challenging the city decision to allow a zoning exception so the replacement school – with a higher capacity – can be built without parking. We’ve been asking both the city Department of Construction and Inspections and Seattle Public Schools what they plan to do to respond to the ruling. We finally got an answer today from SDCI; spokesperson Wendy Shark tells WSB, “SDCI has communicated to the district to revise the project proposal to include the required parking or provide additional information to supplement a revised decision. A revised decision would be appealable to the Hearing Examiner. Timing of these actions is dependent on the district.” The required parking, per city code, is 48 spaces. The district has one other option – they could appeal the hearing examiner’s decision in King County Superior Court; so far court records show no indication they’re doing that. What they do plan to do, we don’t know yet, as we asked again as soon as we heard from SDCI this morning, but we hadn’t received a district response by day’s end. The building permit can’t be finalized until the issue is settled. The new school is supposed to be ready in two years.
Thanks to Clay for the tip. In time for the new school year’s start in two weeks, the long-planned portables are in place in the West Seattle High School parking lot. We first wrote about the plan back in January, when the city sought feedback on the zoning exceptions needed for approval, primarily involving parking, as the portables were projected to cover 30 spaces. According to the slide deck originally presented with the plan, the school already has fewer spaces than zoning requires – 191 compared to 238. and this is a further reduction from that. The presentation also cited a survey from two mornings in May 2022 showing that the lot is not fully used during an average school day. Another exception (“departure”) was sought for providing less covered bicycle parking than required. According to district enrollment reports, WSHS had more than 1,300 students enrolled at the end of last school year, 200 more than fall 2019.
By two weeks from today – Wedmesday, September 6th – most local students will have returned to school. One West Seattle school has already begun the 2023-2024 school year – Summit Atlas, the charter middle/high school. For students at Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien, the nearest parochial high school, today was Day 1. The rest of the planned first days that we found via online calendars start next week – here’s the list:
August 30 – Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic School
August 30 – Vashon Island School District
September 5 – Tilden School (WSB sponsor)
September 5 – Hope Lutheran School
September 5 – Holy Rosary Catholic School
September 5 – Holy Family Bilingual Catholic School
September 5 – The Bridge School
September 6 – Seattle Public Schools (1st-12th grades)
September 6 – Highline Public Schools (1st-12th grades)
September 6 – Westside School (WSB sponsor)
September 6 – Explorer West Middle School (WSB sponsor)
September 6 – West Seattle Montessori
September 11 – Seattle Public Schools (kindergarten/preschool)
September 26 – South Seattle College (WSB sponsor)
(Anyone to add? Let us know – email@example.com – thank you!)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Two weeks from tomorrow, West Seattle Elementary School students and staff will have classes at their 6760 34th SW home campus for the first time in more than two years.
While WSES spent those two years in temporary quarters at the former Schmitz Park Elementary, their school underwent big changes – an addition and renovations. We requested a tour so we could show you those changes before the school year. Shown below are our tour guides last Friday afternoon:
From left are assistant principal Ritchie Garcia, Miller Hayashi Architects principal Laura Maman and project manager Pearlene Cheah, and Seattle Public Schools‘ project manager David L. Jackson. We photographed them beneath what might be the most distinctive feature of the expansion-and-renovation project – shown atop this story – a new entrance canopy that is visible from the streets west and east of the school and from the neighborhood to its north.
We started our tour at the front entrance, which is now a secure space with separate doors for the office and the hallway.
The start of school doesn’t mean the end of summer. For three days next month, the Chief Sealth IHS Cheer Team is leading a summer after-school mini-camp for kids K-8 as a fundraiser. The mini-camp is happening 4-8 pm September 13-15 at CSIHS (2600 SW Thistle). On the final day, students will show their new skills during a Sealth game at Nino Cantu Southwest Athletic Complex across the street. The deadline for signups has just been extended to next Monday (August 28th); this flyer has more info. When you’re ready to register your student(s), use this form!
Thanks to Misa for the photos. If you want to take one last look at Alki Elementary School before it’s all gone, time is running out – demolition continued today, and this is what’s left.
While demolition is ongoing, permits for building its replacement aren’t finalized yet.
We expect to learn this week how Seattle Public Schools and the city Department of Construction and Inspections will proceed in dealing with the hearing examiner’s decision granting neighbors’ appeal of one requested zoning exception, the proposal to build the school without offstreet parking (without a zoning exception, 48 spaces would be required). Meantime, Alki Elementary classes will be temporarily moved starting this fall to the former Schmitz Park Elementary.
It’s been a year and a half since Chase Bank closed its White Center location in that distinctive round building at 1616 SW 100th. At the time, we reported on partner site White Center Now that Chase planned to put the half-acre site up for sale. This week, a reader asked us about fencing that has gone up around the site, and whether that indicated the building’s future had been determined. Our subsequent research revealed that the site has been purchased by the owner of West Seattle’s Evergreen Learning Center. ELC’s current location at 6007 California SW has long had a redevelopment plan – mixed use with ~50 apartments – so the preschool/child-care center needed a new home. Contacted by email, ELC owner Cassie Ragsdale confirmed that the former bank building is ELC’s future home: “I just recently closed on this location to move Evergreen Learning Center to, since the location that we are currently in will be redeveloped. We are in the permitting stage but are hoping to begin construction this fall. We’re excited to be bringing our school to the White Center community!” This also continues a mini-trend of preschool/child-care renovating and reusing former institutional buildings, such as WorldKids School (WSB sponsor) renovating Fauntleroy’s former Christian Science church as an expansion location.
One week has passed since a city hearing examiner told Seattle Public Schools that it has to “revisit” the plan to rebuild Alki Elementary with no off-street parking. But we don’t know yet how that “revisiting” will be done. The district has said only that it’s “reviewing” the decision, which was in favor of an appeal filed by nearby residents, following the city’s decision to grant nine zoning exceptions for the project (the appeals of six of the other eight were rejected). So we checked with the city’s permitting authority, the Department of Construction and Inspections. SDCI spokesperson Wendy Shark tells us that “they are having their first meeting to determine next steps” by the end of this week, so they should know next week how they’ll be proceeding. Meantime, we just went by the site, and at least from 59th, it appears idle after a second burst of demolition earlier this week.
Some students in West Seattle head back to class as soon as tomorrow. For Seattle Public Schools, summer break has three weeks to go – but a lot of preparation is happening, including organizations like the Chief Sealth International High School PTSA, which asked us to share this open invitation:
The Chief Sealth PTSA is gearing up for an amazing 2023-24 school year and is looking for some folks to join us. Our primary focus as PTSA is to build community and raise funds to support the programs and activities that provide enrichment and basic needs to students and staff.
We currently have a number of positions open on the Board including Co-Treasurer, Secretary, Volunteer Coordinator, and Legislative/Advocacy Chair. These positions help make crucial funding decisions and take on projects that directly benefit the school. You don’t need to be a parent to join or take a leadership role on the PTSA – we invite all members of the school and local community who want to make a difference to sign up.
“We’ve got some exciting plans in the works for next year, including planning our first fund-raising auction in four years this December,” says incoming Chief Sealth PTSA co-President Shannon McDonald. “Becoming a PTSA board member is a great way for folks to get involved and help strengthen our school, family, and community partnerships here in West Seattle.”
If you’re a community-minded person looking to help actively support a local school and its students or have any questions, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join the PTSA here. We promise it will be fun, interesting, and deeply rewarding!
Thanks for the tip. Demolition has resumed at Alki Elementary, four days after a city hearing examiner’s ruling granting an appeal of the zoning exception needed to build the new school without off-street parking. A week and a half ago, Charter Construction crews had demolished the old portable on the north side of the school and installed an office trailer; Seattle Public Schools had told us at the time that the permits were being granted in phases, so some grading and shoring work also would be done on the site regardless of the appeal process. So far, the district’s comment on the appeal decision has been only that they were “reviewing” it. Alki classes are currently planned to be held in the former Schmitz Park Elementary for the next two years while the new expanded, levy-funded building is constructed.
Around this time every summer, we start checking online calendars to compile a list of school-year start dates, since it’s a matter of interest beyond school communities – neighbors, businesses, drivers, etc. So far we’ve found that for at least one school, this is the last weekend of summer – the first day at school for Summit Atlas, the charter middle/high school at 35th/Roxbury in Arbor Heights, is this Wednesday, August 16th. (Yes, they do get out earlier – June 7th is the last scheduled day of the 2023-2024 school year.)
Side note: According to the Washington Charter School Commission website, Summit Atlas is up for authorization renewal this year; public comment will be accepted through early October. The school opened in 2017. Renewal materials say the school has almost 500 students enrolled.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
“If you’re organizing and you have your shirts all ready to go to protect your school, it’s a little bit premature.”
Seattle Public Schools superintendent Dr. Brent Jones was trying to be humorous when he said that last night, reiterating to a crowd at Madison Middle School that he has no list – yet – of schools to be closed/consolidated to help pull SPS off the edge of a $100+ million budget abyss.
But his remark couldn’t help but carry echoes of the often-bitterly fought school-closure process of the late ’00s, when indeed, some school communities came to meetings in custom T-shirts and with signs. That potential phase of this process is at least a few months away. First, the district is having a series of community meetings, held regionally but identical in format. Last night’s “southwest region” meeting, as previewed at the Tuesday “central region” meeting, was meant to collect general thoughts, “to share ideas, re-imagine our school system … (so SPS can) get stronger, be more equitable, be better … evaluate how to create and pay for a school system that puts every student on the path to success,” as district chief of staff Bev Redmond outlined in her opening remarks.
In addition to the goal of defining “well-resourced schools” – which ostensibly would be the result of consolidations/closures – Redmond noted the district is also starting levy planning. Regarding the timeline, she reiterated no school consolidations/closures for this school year – but there’ll be a survey toward the start of the school year, and then the input will go to Dr. Jones for a plan to be announced in November.
Here’s our video of what Redmond, Jones, and associate superintendent Dr. Rocky Torres said to open the meeting, before it moved to small-group discussions:
4 PM: The ruling is just in on the appeal of seven of the nine zoning exceptions (“departures”) sought by Seattle Public Schools for the rebuild of Alki Elementary. City assistant hearing examiner Susan Drummond, who heard the case July 25th (WSB coverage here), denied the appeals of six of the exceptions – but granted the appeal on arguably the most fervently argued point, the plan to rebuild and expand the school with no off-street parking. From the 11-page decision:
The Appellants met their burden to demonstrate that the impacts the neighborhood would bear from no on-site parking has not been sufficiently considered in relation to the site’s unique and constrained conditions. Appellants also met their burden to demonstrate that it is not necessary to eliminate all parking to meet educational needs. The approach exacerbates the difficult parking and circulation issues already present in the immediate area even without the expansion. The parking analysis was completed during an extraordinary time-period that does not reflect current or expected conditions. This issue should be revisited, with further thought given to how to improve the balance between school needs against the parking and circulation challenges the area faces.
As the appellants – four nearby residents – pointed out (and is also noted in the decision), Alki’s parking crunch is so intense, the area has a city-imposed “parking overlay” in which one and a half spaces must be provided for every residential unit built.
So what happens now? The decision concludes, “The decision is returned to the Department for proceedings consistent with the Examiner’s decision.” That would be the Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI), whose original decision to grant the nine requested zoning exceptions is what was appealed (two of the nine – the new school’s height and a driveway configuration issue – were no longer at issue at the time of the hearing). We’ll be following up with SDCI and other parties.
6:07 PM: We asked the appellants via email for their thoughts. This is from Shauna Causey:
We were up against lawyers hired by Seattle Public Schools and it felt like an impossible situation but in the end, I’m glad the hearing examiner listened to the community.
I started an online petition before the hearing and 492 people responded in just 48 hours asking they reconsider the plan to remove ALL on-site parking. Some of the comments from the petition were shared during the hearing. From elderly who live near the school who have already had a tough time with ambulances reaching them, families with special needs who use ADA parking, to bus drivers, teachers, and parents at Alki Elementary who are frustrated, to seal sitters who help on the beach who felt like they could no longer volunteer if the accessibility and parking situation gets any worse. The community response and personal stories and comments were truly overwhelming.
Right now, most teachers have parking on-site. The new plan would come close to doubling staff (from current staff numbers) with zero parking — all just one block from the beach. It’s hard to believe this plan was even approved in the first place.
9:22 PM: Here’s context on how much parking would be required without a zoning exception – another section of today’s ruling, which refers to some of the evidence and testimony presented:
The code requires 48 parking spaces. With the removal of all on-site parking, the School is proposing no parking. Current on-site parking allows for over 20 parking spaces and the lot is “always completely full” with the parking space “well used.” As the striping is old, there is not an exact parking space number. This parking is coupled with a space to the north (but owned by the City) which can accommodate about 27 vehicles and is used for school events.
A paved surface with room to park about 20 vehicles is located on the south side of the school buildings and is accessed from a driveway at the south edge of the site on 59th Avenue SW. Much of the parking lot striping has faded, but historical aerial images indicate the area has been used for parking 20 or more vehicles. This area is also used for trash and recycling container storage and pick up.
The hard-surface area north of the building is City of Seattle Property … but is also used for school-event parking. Historical aerials indicate the surface can accommodate about 27 parked vehicles.
Public school parking requirements are based on new assembly space (commons and gymnasium) rather than daily school day demand, so do not necessarily account for day-to-day needs. For Alki, the calculation is based on the 3,800 square feet of dining commons and excludes the 6,000 gym square foot gym as total gym space is not being increased.14 If included, 123 spaces would be required. For private schools without assembly space, one space per each staff member would be required (75 spaces).
We’ll be contacting SDCI and SPS tomorrow to find out about what will happen next as a result of today’s ruling.
ADDED FRIDAY AFTERNOON: SPS says only, “The district is reviewing the ruling.” (We’ll check again next week.)
If you’re planning to go to Seattle Public Schools‘ meeting at Madison Middle School tomorrow night (Thursday, August 10th), you might want to take a look at that video. It’s the district’s recording of its first meeting in the series, last night at Garfield High School. These are the meetings that are supposed to help the district define “well-resourced schools” so it can decide which schools to close/consolidate (which, administrators reiterated last night, will NOT happen THIS school year – but might start in the school year that begins in fall 2024) as it grapples with a nine-digit budget shortfall.
The district’s video does not capture the full scope of the meeting because – after opening remarks by chief of staff Bev Redmond and superintendent Dr. Brent Jones, then ground rules from assistant superintendent Dr. Rocky Torres – most of the rest of the meeting consisted of discussions at individual tables, each with a district facilitator and several participants. There was nothing geographically specific about the remarks or questions – so though last night was supposed to be the “central” region meeting, as administrators acknowledged, it was intended to be identical to what’ll happen in the “southwest” region meeting tomorrow, and beyond. The district’s camera crew(s) did not record any of the table discussions, cutting between wide shots once the discussions were under way. We plan to record some of them tomorrow night (the district’s original media advisory said cameras would be prohibited, but we challenged that and they backed off).
Last night, all tables were directed by Dr. Torres to discuss the same questions, and none was sensitive or personal; the questions were along the lines of “What are your favorite things about your child’s school building?”, “How can we make resources/services at each school stronger?”, and “What kind of programs do you and your student value the most and why?” They promised other means of feedback/engagement beyond these meetings, and said everything would be funneled into a plan that Dr. Jones is tasked with presenting in November.
THURSDAY MEETING: It’s in the commons at Madison (3429 45th SW), starting at 6 pm, and the district says it too will be streamed via YouTube.