Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Principal Pushing For One More Elementary School Portable and DPD Asking For More Information To Support Request

portable delivered then removed on north playground at
Laurelhurst Elementary School last summer

Last month, following the March Design Departure Committee Meeting , DPD (Department of Planning and Development), sent Seattle Public Schools (SPS) a "Correction Notice," which the Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) said routinely happens if DPD needs more information or what they have been provided does not fit their criteria, in order to make their final decision in granting at least one portable, though the request does not state what size.

DPD Director, Diane Sigimura told the Blog Staff:
In the course of project review, it is customary for planners, and other project reviewers, to identify areas where more information is necessary to successfully complete the project review.  At that point, the reviewer prepares a Correction Notice and sends it to the applicant.  The correction notices are posted in the public electronic file available via the City website
Several members of the Design Departure Committee Meeting recently wrote DPD a letter expressing their frustration in not being informed of this most recent development, as well as their concern with the lack of future Committee involvement when SPS provides the additional information.

One Committee member commented: 
As to what information is flowing to the committee right now, that answer is non. It is apparently up to us to search websites for updates, which seems odd.  I believe that the committee members should be given notice of any and all changes to this process.
Recently, several Committee members sent this letter to Holly Goddard, DPD Land-Use Planner:
As concerned parents and members of the Departure Committee considering the placement of a new portable(s) at Laurelhurst Elementary School, we were interested to see the recent Corrective Notice issued to Mike Jenkins of Seattle Public Schools dated May 26.  
It raised the question of what our continued role is as Departure Committee members.  We are interested in all new information regarding this issue, particularly in light of SPS’s repeated claims during the March 17 meeting that they had no further information they wished to share in support of their request to place additional portables at our school. 

Since you are considering new information from SPS, we hope that the Committee might be able to present some new information as well.  Since the March 17 public meeting we have learned that:
·       LASER had agreed to share one of its portables again next year for instructional space
·       SPS has pulled permits to divide the school library, creating a new classroom
·       These two “new” classrooms would obviate the need for additional portables at our school. 

We believe that this information is extremely relevant to SPS’s stated “need” to place additional portables at Laurelhurst.  Further, this information indicates that a less impactful alternative exists to simply plopping down more portables in violation of current lot coverage rules and to the detriment of the health and well-being of our community.   
Laurelhurst already has the smallest playground with the highest lot coverage percentage of any NE Seattle elementary school.  SPS has not provided any justification for making our already tight situation worse by adding more portables.   

If you could please help us understand how we can appropriately share this new information with you so that you can fully considered it in your decision making process, we would appreciate it.   
Further, we would like to understand what ongoing role, if any, we have in the departure process.  At the very least, as chosen community representatives, we want to share any and all new information being considered with the Laurelhurst Community.   
It seems reasonable that the Committee receive notice of new documents filed in this proceeding, rather than happening upon them by chance while searching for updates.  

Kaylene Anderson,  Karen Thiers, Mark Thompson. Carin Towne, Mia Wise
Holly's response:
Any information you would like me to consider in my review can be sent to me as a comment by going to  the DPD home page and on the right hand side, find the heading "Tell Us" then click on "Comment on a Project."  Public comments are received during the review process for consideration and will be filed in the public electronic file.
I do not believe the School Departure Advisory Committee meets again, but you can check with Steve Sheppard.  
To keep up to date on information regarding the project #3019627 go to the same DPD home page and type in the project number and go to the documents tab.
Laurelhurst Elementary School Principal, Dr. Talbot, who didn't attend the Departure Committee meeting, said in the School newsletter:
We got the great news this week that we have been granted the extra teacher I have been requesting from the district.  Unfortunately, it does push us up against the question of space for the new classroom.  We have 17 classrooms available next year, counting the use of Portable 4 (loaned to us by LASER) and a remodel of Portable 1 to remove the office space and add that to the classroom.  I’ve been talking with facilities about making internal changes to the building to be able to create a classroom space.  Though the deadline for adding projects was May 1, I am hopeful that facilities will have the capacity to add this to their very full list of summer projects.   
The question of a portable is still unanswered, as the city is still deciding whether we would be allowed to add another portable classroom to the school.  Neither changing the building, nor adding a portable seems like a good solution.  One would mean moving the library, reducing the size of kindergarten classrooms and library space, and a LOT of moving of classrooms this summer. It would also mean major structural changes to a building that more than anything needs a complete remodel (I am fighting to ensure we are included in the next BEX remodel levy that the district proposes to the voters).  Adding a portable would mean a reduction in the size of our cherished playground space.
There are no easy answers. When people ask me what I want the outcome of this difficult dilemma to be, I reluctantly have to admit that in spite of a strong consensus from the community in opposition to adding portables, I would like to have one additional portable classroom if the summer construction project isn’t possible. My support for a portable is based on finding an answer that will get us started next year with the 18 homerooms our students need, while minimizing negative impacts to students. 

Christi Nagle, who heads up a concerned group of parents called Parents for Playgrounds and Proper Planning said: 

The entire community at school and the neighborhood should have been informed about the latest questionnaire that DPD has sent to SPS. DPD told no one in the community that they were sending the notice to SPS.  

Does the Committee get a chance to "audit" and review the SPS answers? These and other questions need to be answered to the whole community who attended public meeting, served on committee, wrote in written comments, and whose kids attend the school.  

DPD and DON have been completely silent about the whole departure process since the March 17 meeting and barely provided information to the community. It seems as if it is up to us to call, email, and question DON and DPD about what is going on, otherwise we will simply be left out.
It seems really strange that the Correction/Request for Further Information part of the process was never mentioned to the Departure Committee and community during the briefing of the Departure process.  
Who knows if the Committee understanding this potentially decision-altering part of the process would have changed their discussion/ questions / recommendation on March 17.    Maybe yes, maybe no.  We will never know. 
But once again a barrage of comments from the community will help the City take this seriously. I encourage everyone to comment again as soon as possible, just as so many did at the meeting and via email in March. Time to do it again.

No comments: