Community Post

Confirmed:!3{2}Two Neighborhood Schools May Close

The Stranger’s reporting was correct:  Two neighborhood schools are on the chopping block.  TT Minor Elementary and the Nova Alternative School in the old Mann building at 24th & Cherry are on the school district’s preliminary list of facilities that will be closed before the 2009-2010 school year. The issue for both schools is a combination of low enrollment and old buildings that rank low on the district’s list of criteria.

The district has been in a multi-year process of eliminating schools due to low enrollment and budget pressures. The most recent neighborhood school to close was MLK elementary in Madison Valley. 

If these closures go through, it will leave two elementary schools in the neighborhood: Leschi and Bailey Gatzert. This would leave the northern half of the neighborhood without any elementary school within a reasonable walking distance.  In addition, it would move the kids at Nova into Meany Middle School, which seems like an odd decision considering that the Nova kids are all high school age. (updated: Middle-schoolers at Meany will be dispersed to other schools, high-school age kids from the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center will join them in the Meany building)

There’s no clear path to what happens with school buildings after they’re closed.  Some have been sold to private developers and others have been turned over to the community.  The folks in Madison Valley are currently trying to convert the MLK school building into a neighborhood resource.  The Mann building at 24th & Cherry is a fantastic old building but would require a lot of work to repurpose it into something else. We’ll have to be vigilant and make sure it never faces the possibility of a wrecking ball.

It’s important to say that none of this is a done deal. There’s a history of schools being taken off of the closure list when parents put up a big enough fight. The school district’s schedule has several upcoming steps where the list could be changed, with many public meetings in between. Those of you with kids in these two schools or an interest in keeping more education options in the neighborhood should be prepared to attend a lot of meetings and put up a vocal fight.  That’s the only way these things ever get turned around.

We’ll keep track of when additional steps come up and let you all know.

 

0 thoughts on “Confirmed:!3{2}Two Neighborhood Schools May Close

  1. There is a public process for surplusing closed public schools. It is convened by the Dept. of Neighborhoods.

    Kind of sickening that the central and southend are taking the most hits on school closings.

  2. That they are meeting in the south end and not meeting at or near any of these buildings they propose closing. What is that all about?

    I am REALLY upset almost to the point of incoherence….

    There is a group in Seattle organizing to demand neighborhood elementary schools that kids can walk to, and are planning to run people against every school board member that does not act to support that notion.

  3. This is the topic today on The Conversation on KUOW (NPR) Seattle.

    Is your school on the chopping block? Why shouldn’t it be closed? Call The Conversation feedback line right now at 206 221 3663 or email us at conversation@kuow.org. Or you can listen and call in during the show at 1 pm.

  4. instead of shuttering the schools that have low enrollment, how about actually making the schools be attractive to parents and boost enrollment.

    every parent i know, even ones without just enough income to do it, send their kids to private school. We’re creating the haves/have nots and we don’t even see it.

    With 63% graduating HS in 4 years, blow it up and try again.

  5. It seems to me the school closures would be easier to swallow if there were a long term, convincing plan to increase enrollment in the central district cluster. Maybe there is, but it is never mentioned in these stories, and the main message the district is sending is that they are accepting defeat and thinking only of the short term. While temporary closures (leasing instead of selling, for example) would not be ideal, there must be some way to tackle the root problem while keeping the very real budget issues front and center.

  6. “If these closures go through, it will leave two elementary schools in the neighborhood: Leschi and Bailey Gatzert.”

    FYI: Madrona and Thurgood Marshall are also in the neighborhood. Scott, how can you not know this??? CDN pffff.

    6 current public elementary schools. (that’s not counting stevens or montlake where some try to send their kids)
    2 current public middle schools
    1 current public high school

    +several private schools (elementary through high school) in the area.

    “This would leave the northern half of the neighborhood without any elementary school within a reasonable walking distance. In addition, it would move the kids at Nova into Meany Middle School, which seems like an odd decision considering that the Nova kids are all high school age.”

    Scott, this is just bad reporting. You’re blowing conclusions based on inaccurate information. Besides what is a reasonable walking distance and for whom? Regarding Nova, I am most certain that “if” Nova moved to Meany the students would get to keep their current academic standing. Maybe you could follow the conversations that have been going on (for years) with SOS and other groups and get up to speed if you’re gonna be “reporting” this stuff. The Rainier Valley Post @blogspot has some info and links. Geeesh. Get up to speed and stop wasting your day listening to the police scanner!

  7. I didn’t have the information last night about the other changes at Meany. I’ve made a correction above.

    But as for Madrona, I don’t consider that a part of the CD. Some people may, which is fine, but I don’t. In hindsight, I probably should have included Thurgood Marshall, but it is about as far south as you can be and still have any claim to being a CD school. Neither of those change the fact that families in the north and northwestern parts of the neighborhood are left without a reasonably close neighborhood school.

  8. TT Minor families in the Western-Central part of the District will definitely have no school within a possible walk distance with very clumsy reference area lines. Thurgood Marshall is further away from TT Minor than Stevens. Leschi is closer only to a few of the families as is Bailey Gatzert.

    Madrona is considered an alternative K-8, all district draw. Washington would be the only comprehensive Middle School remaining. Some real study of the viability of this plan with good demographic information would be helpful. School condition is relative and the needs of students and families should be the first consideration.

    They could close the Center School, eat the rent and save on running a school. They willy-nilly increase capacity with new buildings and additions which is more expensive than maintaining buildings that are all by the way earth-quake proof and actually are of high-quality construction. TT Minor is of higher quality construction than many new buildings.

    While I agree that under enrolled schools do not serve
    any child well, I believe that communities are entitled to all
    information to make the case for their school. Neighborhood
    demographics are not presented for any school in the management
    documents. Maps presented for other schools are not presented here
    regarding TT Minor. I called the school board office to find out
    where I can access the demographic information for schools and
    neighborhoods and have not yet been directed to anyone who can help.

    This is the information presented so far.
    http://www.seattleschools.org/area/capacity/preliminary_repo

  9. A lot of kids in the city don’t live within walking distance of their neighborhood elementary school. I know of kids who live in the Central District who attend north end schools because they were assigned to them, not because they wanted to go to a school an hour away from their homes. T.T. Minor is a no brainer, the school has less than 200 kids, and it’s a mess in general. The principal is HORRIBLE. I personally think it’s good the district is closing schools, but let’s face it, the central office is a MESS! The next big issue is the new student assignment system the district is implementing next year. I don’t think the district has the ability to move schools, close schools or combine programs. It’s a cluster fuck at best.

  10. …what the big deal about having kids walk to school is? In full disclosure, i do not have children of school age (or any at all for that matter) but I know of VERY few people in my life who had the opportunity to walk to school, myself included. I lived 30 minutes from my elementary school, 25 minutes from middle school and a full 45 minutes from the H.S. where I grew up, all public schools. While admittedly this was the suburbs of Philadelphia, even people I knew who grew up in more urban areas were rarely close enough to their respective schools to walk. I understand why this is desirable, but with all of the money issues and other problems this city is having at the moment, I would think this should be pretty far down on the priority list, and if the city can fund more after-school programs, another cops salary, or whatever in lieu of keeping failing under-enrolled schools open, well…

  11. The number of people who walk to school has plummeted over the last 50 years. In my generation (elementary in the 80s) we were still over 50% walking to school…it’s down to approximately 20% nationwide and getting worse, as exurbs place schools further and further apart, and school districts try to save money by building larger and larger schools.

    I’d argue that the City, County and State budgets are far from zero-sum games. Sure it’s true that by closing a school the Seattle School District has that money to spend on something else, but doing so has absolutely zero impact on whether or not the City of Seattle funds another cop or the County a deputy, or the State finds more money for transportation or education. Furthermore, walkability is absolutely a key indicator of both civic health and overall urban vitality. The harder you make it for folks to be near schools, the more likely you are to have people with kids move elsewhere. We’re already moving toward SF in terms of number of kids in the City limits, and long-term that’s not a very healthy place to be. Communities need people of all ages, not just 20 and 30-somethings.

    Full disclosure: I’m a 30-something myself, with a school-age kid and another on the way.

  12. I think you have a good point John, that’s an ideal situation, and if this were 3 years ago when money was pouring into the city, I’d agree with you whole-heartedly. You’re also correct in that it’s not a zero-sum game, school closing does not necessarily equate to funds spent elsewhere. Additionally, bringing youth to a community is an important catalyst for growth and development at all ages.

    Still, given the choice of possible cuts in programs and expenses in the city, and in particular in public education, I would contend that walk-ability as a factor in school closures should be, at best, a secondary concern. School effectiveness, enrollment, and overall value to the community are far more overriding factors. I’ve seen a lot of comments above concerning walkability, but only one that addresses the real effectiveness and impact of the schools in their primary mission, EDUCATION. Given that the city will have to make cuts, wouldn’t it be preferable to make cuts based on effectiveness in that primary mission, and not on convenience to the attendees?

    (This is not to suggest that these schools aren’t effective, they very well may be, it’s more to point out that the education value is not what’s being discussed here…)

  13. Lots of kids who live within “walking” distance of their neighborhood school are still driven by their parents. It doesn’t matter all that much except when you consider the community aspect and kids having play dates with their neighborhood friends. There will always be kids who have to travel to school via bus or car. One sad commentary with TT Minor closing is the scanner won’t have as much excitement. I hope Scott and CDguy scan Gatzert since that’s where the Self Contained BD classes are headed.

  14. John and Kbromer and all,
    Yes, most people chose program over nearness. Closing a school is permanent. But, as already pointed out neighborhoods with schools and good schools are usually the most desirable for all, especially families. They are consistent with a neighborhood identity. Sometime in the 1990s TT Minor for a time partnered with a nonprofit to run a school to serve children in poverty and was taken out of the assignment plan and families tended to choose schools such as Stevens, Kimbal, Hamilton and many others. A few years ago the New School was formed and TT Minor was placed again in the neighborhood assignment plan.

    District leaders are moving many programs around and if they wanted to they could decide to place a program and leader there that would make it very desirable. If there is an adequate population currently dispersing to other public and private schools, then a good case should be made to improve the program there for the neighborhood. It is also centrally located and a prime location for any number of popular all-district draws. Since the 1990s and even early 2000 a lot of new housing and people have move here and the demographics have changed dramatically. The District must act thoughtfully and cautiously for our good.

    Many neighborhoods fight for their schools. Those interested in the good of the community have to insist that due diligence is done here and that families have great choices of schools. Remember under some assignment plans those closer to a school get first choice of the school. This is the folly that established to Center School, as there was no near High School to which the residents could predictably be assigned. Rather than make a guaranteed assignment to one of the desirable schools the Seattle Schools are paying for a lease there when there is excess High School space. TT Minor’s program does not have to be under enrolled. We don’ have to lose the school unless we decide to prioritize another school/s for support. Schools need neighborhood support. Students and families thrive with the building of traditions. Yes, some schools have to be closed, but there are too many students in the under enrolled programs to simply disperse them to other popular schools which usually already have waiting lists. Sites will have to be consolidated where hopefully very desirable programs will be created.

    Listening to the families at TT Minor and other schools and collecting facts regarding the current neighborhood are necessary steps to begin a conversation.

  15. By law if elementary students do not have a school within a mile of their home the District must provide transportation. It is 2 miles for Middle and High School. The District is always trying to cut transportation costs, a portion of which the state returns. It is not a $ to $ savings.

  16. And what is really funny tome is that article from the Times said the CD had the greatest rate of increases of children in the city. Of course, I am totally suspicious of numbers people use as they are a mix of 2000 Census numebr, and guesstimates based on home sales and application of generic average growth rates, etc., but still..

  17. Ok, were all sad that they are closing the Nova school ): but its an economic reality that the cost of the building cannot be supported by its current use. This is an excellent opportunity to revitalize the Cherry Street core by quickly selling this property to a developer and making it into a retail center like the Wallingford Center. The real opportunity here is make this happen quickly without years and years of public comments. If this building is allowed to sit vacant it will be covered in grafiti and will attract drug dealers and criminals. I propose that we quickly mobilize to promote this idea to the city and school board.

  18. I recommend for reading The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America by Jonathan Kozol. Kozol studies schools in highly segregated areas such as the Bronx, Manhattan, Los Angeles, Cleveland and Lexington. He also comments to a relatively large extent on our very own Thurgood Marshall (and no other school in Seattle). In reference to an activity where the students clap their hands and chant “confidence” he comments:

    “I remember looking in the faces of the boys who stood the closest to me . . . and wondering what impact this was having on them inwardly. When you’re among a group of children, you inevitably want to hope that rituals like these might really do some good, that they may make a difference that will last beyond the hour of exhilaration and hand-clapping. Still these exercises are place-markers. They tell us we are in a world where hope must be constructed therapeutically because so much of it has been destroyed by the conditions of internment in which we have placed these children. It is harder to convince young people they “can learn” when they are cordoned off by a society that isn’t sure they really can. That is, I am afraid, one of the most destructive and long-lasting messages a nation possibly could give its children.” (page 37)

    For insight into demographics of our local schools you can go to http://www.seattleschools.org and click on “schools.” Select the school that you are interested in from the list, then go to “annual report” on the top right of the page.

    For instance the demographics for 2007 for Thrugood Marshall show that only 20% (58 students) come from the school’s reference area. Only 1.8% (6 students) selected it as their first choice school. Only half the students return to the school each year. By contrast, 13% (30 students) choose T.T. Minor as their first choice, 22% (51 students) live in the reference area (could theoretically walk to school) and 68% return for another year. And at Stevens 90% chose it as their first choice, 45% are in the reference area and 86% return for another year.

    I am hopeful that any change in the program, such as repurposing with Lowell students, will bring positive change to Thrugood Marshall.

  19. It’s worth some time looking at the demographics and test results for The New School. This has been a successful program and I would love to see this approach implemented at Baily/Gatzert and Thurgood Marshall. It focuses on early intervention. The test scores are excellent and the community feeling around the school (when I visited last year) was wonderful.

  20. Thank you. The basic map is available under schools on the district web site. I was referring to the cluster maps depicted for the other affected schools, showing where the current students of the school live.

  21. A lot of great information about what is going on right now. What about WHAT IS GOING TO BE…. 15% increase in kids 0-5 in the neighborhood? that’s a significant potential enrollment, and I imagine that will continue to grow.
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/pacificnw/2008383111_p
    The need for schools, particularily elementary schools, will be greater here than anywhere.

  22. MEANY MIDDLE SCHOOL IS CLOSING (OR BEING DISCONTINUTED)

    My daughter attends this school. She is doing very well and and is being served by a public school in a way that I feel is very sufficient. If she is forced to change schools it would be difficult (Meany is within walking distance) but we would manage. We are concerned parents!! She will be O.K.!!! What I am worried about and highly committed to is serving those who are underserved. Middle school (Junior High) is a tough time for kids. We are VERY WELL AWARE of what is GOING ON with AT-RISK-YOUTH currently!!!! (GANGS=DEAD KIDS!!!!!) Meany serves these KIDS!!! They Need structure, they need positive reinforcement!!! This is what Meany provides. It is small & focused. (under enrolled). It has low test scores. (at-risk-youth, bogus tests) DO NOT DISPERSE THESE KIDS!!!! They need the Attention and Focus this school provides. And to make it clear!!!!!!! this is not a school for poor, violent, deviants. My daughter tested into the APP Program. My daughter tested into the Spectrum Program. We chose to keep her in an average, inclusive, public institution. She is THRIVING!!!!! SUPPORT PUBLIC EDUCATION. FUCK PRIVATE SCHOOLS. SUPPORT MEANY MIDDLE SCHOOL!!!!! DO NOT DISPERSE THESE KIDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. FYI – I did some number crunching based on the WASL scores available from the OPSI web page. I averaged the score for each years test scores (3rd, 4th and 5th grade). Then adverage the three resulting numbers. Based on these numbers, out of 65 elementary schools, T.T. Minor ranked 58th at 45% achieving the standards, Gatzert ranked 59th at 44% achieving the standards, and T Marshall ranked 60th at 43% achieving the standards. Interesting how the three clustered together.

    Mid-central cluster schools: Madrona (Elementary Only) at 38th with 64% and Leschi at 53rd with 49%.

    North-central cluster schools: McGilvra/9th/87%, Montlake/13th/84% and Stevens/30th/72%.

    Our next school options to the south were John Muir/33rd/69%, Beacon Hill/35th/68%, Kimball/34th/69%, (Interesting how these three cluster together) and Hawthorn/64th/37%.

    Incidentally, bottom five through this method of rank by WASL scores were: Dearborn, Emerson, AS#1, Hawthorne and West Seattle (Highpoint). Only four schools (entire city) scored above 90% – Lowell, Hay, View Ridge and Wedgewood.

  24. I’ve been trying to get the same information and haven’t been able to do so. I know that only 20% of the kids that go to Thurgood Marshall come from this reference area (about 55 kids). I’d like to know where the rest are coming from and why they aren’t attending their refernce school. I understand that only 1.6% chose Thurgood Marshall, so obviously those parents did not get the school they really wanted. What’s going on here? I tried both the Standord Center and calling the school directly. No luck.

  25. I’m biting my tongue, not launching in to the incredible short-sightedness of the district’s latest proposed closures and moves. That said, I’d like to point out that closing the TT Minor and Mann (Nova) buildings will leave Union and Cherry with enormous holes. While the district has scheduled a few meetings to hear from students, families and staff, they and the city need to hear from our community as a whole. We can not afford to lose these schools and we REALLY can’t allow these properties to sit vacant.

    My hope is that the CD will support its schools. With or with out children, residents have a stake in this process.

  26. I guess I don’t understand how you get to “it doesn’t matter all that much”. “Except when you consider the community aspect”? Is there anything that’s fundamentally more important than that? Of course you need a school and a program where kids get a good education and are well-served – that’s the baseline. Part of the problem, as has been said by many, is that TT Minor hasn’t been taken care of, either as an institution physically or programatically, by the District. So by their standards it’s easy to cut. Nova, I’m sure, falls under the same category.

    Nowhere did I say “every kid walks to school” or even “should walk to school”. Of course there are all-district draws and people who live too far from their school – no question. But the research is clear on why walking to school matters – and it matters for academic reasons, too. Check out Safe Routes to Schools programs, or talk to Jen Cole at Feet First, who’s well-versed on the subject. Heck, talk to the folks at Gatzert about their experiences with Safe Routes a few years back. You need to look at the whole child.

  27. The stats don’t lie. My dog walking routine has led me to a revelation. Every morning (in the CD, Madrona, Leschi) at appox. 8:30am you can see the middle class / affluent kids waiting for the bus with their parents at a designated corner. The buses take these kids (mostly white) out of their neighborhood to schools the parents prefer. Other students are driven to private school.

    The streets are then fairly silent, the education shuffle rests, you don’t see but a few kids actually walking to school, then around 8:50 the shuffle resumes, buses come rolling in to the neighborhood schools filled with mostly African American kids. This is our society? Segregated education in liberal Seattle.

    Now for the obvious revelation, race plays a major role here…kind-hearted diverse loving parents with their Obama yard signs, often are more comfortable with diversity only if their kid is in the majority. Why? I have no idea. Reminds me of the private school brochures I’ve seen where they brag about their diversity (all 10 black kids in the school have prominant shots in the brochure). It makes everyone feel good.

    Lets keep our schools in the CD here….its a huge loss to the community, to all of us, if they close. When my son goes to school, I want him to walk there and be a part of his community, he will if there is a school to walk to…

  28. KUOW’s Weekday is featuring the school closure debate during its morning talk show tomorrow, Tuesday, Dec. 16 from 9-10 a.m. Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and Board member Michael DeBell will be among our panelists. We encourage all listeners to call in at (800) 289-KUOW or e-mail weekday@kuow.org to help get a healthy, balanced discussion going.