Friday, June 26, 2015

Seattle Public Schools Submits Additional Information To Support Need For Portable At Laurelhurst Elementary School


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

DPD (Department of Planning and Development)  has yet to announce its decision on whether they will grant Principal Talbot's request of one more portable at Laurelhurst Elementary School, though some say the decision may come as early as next week.

In the meantime, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) has posted answers to numerous questions requested in the DPD "Correction Notice, providing quite a lot more background information for the portable need, which many say should have been presented at the Design Departure Committee Meeting on March 17.  DPD sent the Correction Notice to SPS, as they were unable to make a decision based on the limited information.

As published in the Blog, Principal Talbot already went ahead and hired an additional teacher, making for 18 total teachers, without having enough space for all classrooms saying in the last 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.
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. 

Several members of the Design Departure Committee Meeting recently wrote DPD a letter expressing their frustration in not being informed of the Correction Notice and extensive request for information, as well as their concern with the lack of Committee involvement when SPS provides the additional information saying:
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. 
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. 
Christi Nagle, who heads up a concerned group of parents called Parents for Playgrounds and Proper Planning said: 
I think people who attended the March 17 Public meeting would be interested in SPS corrections answers because these are things that SPS should have addressed at that meeting.  Also, close neighbors might disagree with some of the subjective answers about whether or not one additional portable is noticeable, fits in with surroundings and is buffered.  

Neighbors are encouraged to post public comments on the DPD website after reviewing  SPS Correction Notice answers.  Send public comments if you see any discrepancies. 

Here are SPS's answers to DPD questions as submitted in the  documents section of the Corrections Notice on 6/16 for one 28x32 portable that would be located on the North playground next to the current 2nd grade portable near the entrance to the playground as depicted on the Site Plan Location:

What is the LASER program?  
SPS RESPONSE: LASER is a before and after school childcare provider.
2. How long has the program been operating at Laurelhurst School?
SPS RESPONSE: The LASER childcare program began service at Laurelhurst Elementary School in 1984. 

3. Whom does it serve?
SPS RESPONSE: Childcare is offered to school age children ages kindergarten thru 6th grade for a fee. 

4. What is the agreement between Seattle Public Schools (SPS) and Laurelhurst Elementary School?
SPS RESPONSE: Seattle Public Schools provides the policy and procedures framework, necessary funding and oversees the operation of Laurelhurst Elementary School, a public K-5 elementary school. 

5. What hours does the program operate?
SPS RESPONSE: The LASER childcare program operates from 7:00 am to 9:10 am in the mornings and 3:20 pm to 6:15pm in the afternoon. It operates additional hours when Laurelhurst Elementary School teaching staff have professional development days.  In addition, it operates some holidays, offers a summer day camp program, parent night out program and vendor taught enrichment classes.  It has a symbiotic, complimentary relationship with Laurelhurst Elementary School. 

6. Where is the program located?

SPS RESPONSE: The LASER childcare program is located at Laurelhurst Elementary School in portable structures owned and operated by LASER. Additionally, SPS leases auditorium space to LASER after school care in a partnership agreement.  Last year, when SPS learned that an additional portable would exceed the allowable lot coverage percentage LASER graciously leased one of the LASER owned portables, to SPS to be utilized on an interim basis, for a Laurelhurst Elementary School classroom. 

7. Is the program going to stay at Laurelhurst Elementary School?

SPS RESPONSE: Yes, it is the intent of SPS to have the Laser childcare program remain at Laurelhurst Elementary School in accordance with the provisions of our lease agreement. 

8. Are there other places for the program to operate on the Laurelhurst property?

SPS RESPONSE: Not at this time. 

Address the Code criteria in SMC section 23.79.008 C 1:  
Relationship to Surrounding Areas: 
1. How would one additional classroom portable relate to the character and scale of the surrounding area? Show this graphically and describe in a narrative.

SPS RESPONSE: Percentage of site taken by one single portable is not significant.  Given the school has four existing portable structure, the net effect of adding one additional portable structure, on scale and character, is not appreciable. See Attachment #1. 

2. Are there significant setbacks, major arterials, topographic breaks, and similar features which provide a transition in scale to the residential fabric of the area and/or to the park? SPS RESPONSE: The proposed portable is a single story structure with painted wood siding, residential style windows, wood overhang and gable roof. Aesthetically, the proposed portable is more residential than commercial in character. Tree-line streets reduce the visual impact of the proposed portable from the nearby adjacent streets and residences. Viewed along the adjacent street, the existing three portables reduce the relative impact of adding one portable.  

3. How does the proposal locate and design the structure to reduce the appearance of bulk at this site?
SPS RESPONSE: The design of the proposed portable being a single, one story structure with low sloped roof, separated from other structures, results in low “bulk’ or massing relative to a more commercial, taller or larger design. 

4. What are the impacts on traffic, noise, circulation and parking in the area if this portable classroom is allowed?

SPS RESPONSE: SPS is currently utilizing an existing portable owned by the LASER childcare program. The LASER childcare program is currently utilizing the existing Multi-Purpose Room within Laurelhurst Elementary School.  Granting the departure request will not have an impact on existing traffic as the students exist and currently attend Laurelhurst Elementary School.  The additional portable classroom is being proposed to allow the LASER child care program the reuse of their portable, vacating the Multi-Purpose Room. The additional portable also allows SPS to vacate the LASER childcare program portable and occupy a structure owned by SPS. Therefore, the impacts on traffic, noise street circulation and parking would be minimal. Reference SMC 23.54.015 A. and Table C, required parking for public schools and 23.54.015 J., existing parking deficits.  

5. Identify the impacts on housing and open space of adding one portable.

SPS RESPONSE:  The Laurelhurst neighborhood has a high percentage of open space including the adjacent 13.2 acre Laurelhurst Park. The park and school property were developed concurrently in the 1920s and both can be considered with respect to open space and impacts on nearby housing.  Houses across from the school block are all within a maximum of two blocks of the 13acre open space of Laurelhurst Park in addition to the 1.6 acres of open space on the Laurelhurst School block. The increase in lot coverage over the exiting is less than 2% (45,361/46,257sf).  Therefore, impact on open space is not large relative, to the existing site.  
From the west side of the site along the two-story portion of the building, the new portable, located along the east side of the site, will have very little impact on space and visibility from the street and houses along the west side. 
The City of Seattle zoning code would allow 45% coverage if the entire building were one story, 35% if any part is two story.  The 31% of the coverage that is two story is set back from the building perimeter on three sides where it therefore has minimal impact on bulk and open space. 

Answer the following in your response.  
1. What does the proposed portable classroom look like?

SPS RESPONSE: See Attachment 1 manufacturer’s drawings and photographs of similar units including ramps and landings.  

2. What is the height, width, length and full footprint with ramp or steps?

SPS RESPONSE: See Attachment 2 drawings showing the height, width and length, and elevation drawing showing ramp and landing.   3. Show elevations of the proposed portable classroom.
SPS RESPONSE: See Attachment 1 manufacturer’s drawings. 

4. Where does SPS hope to locate the portable on the Laurelhurst School site?

SPS RESPONSE: See Attachment 3 for proposed location of the one additional portable at Laurelhurst Elementary School site. 

5. How much space will be turned over to the portable? Is it play space or landscaping? SPS RESPONSE: The proposed portable will be placed over existing impervious paving currently used for play space. No landscaped or pervious area will be modified by this placement. 

6. Graphically show alternative locations for the portable classroom.
SPS RESPONSE:  See Attachment 4, 5 pages, showing existing site plan, proposed site plan with preferred location, and three alternative locations considered. 

7. List the pros and cons for each location.

SPS RESPONSE: SPS considered four locations on-site for the placement of the proposed portable. The proposed location will minimize the impact to the playground and clusters the proposed portable with the existing portable structures on-site facilitating supervision by staff.  

Need for the departure: Please fully articulate the request for one portable classroom building which was mentioned during the School Departure Advisory Committee meeting deliberations. What is the need for the portable? 
1. Describe the number and uses of the portable classrooms currently on site.

SPS RESPONSE:  Four portables currently exist at Laurelhurst Elementary School, two of the structures are currently owned by LASER and two by SPS.  SPS has entered into a lease agreement with LASER and last summer modified the lease agreement to allow SPS to utilize on an interim basis a LASER owned portable for a Laurelhurst Elementary School classroom.  

 2. What would the new portable classroom be used for?  

SPS RESPONSE: The new portable classroom would be utilized by SPS as a classroom. 

3. How would the programming at Laurelhurst School be improved by adding a new portable?

SPS RESPONSE: SPS would occupy and utilize space it owns to fulfill its educational mission and LASER childcare would utilize space it owns to fulfill its mission. 

4. What population of children would be served by a new portable?

SPS RESPONSE: The new portable would serve K-5 grade students, most likely the classroom currently occupying the LASER child care portable would be relocated to the new portable and utilize it as their homeroom. 

5. How long would the portable classroom be needed?

SPS RESPONSE: For the foreseeable future as enrollment projections indicate a stable or slightly growing student population and SPS is uncertain as to the impact enactment of the McLeary Supreme Court decision will have on K-3 class size. Most likely the portable will be needed until the school is renovated in a future BEX program.  

6. What is the impact to the Laurelhurst School programming if one portable is not allowed? SPS RESPONSE: The LASER childcare program has agreed to lease their portable to SPS on a temporary annual basis, they have expressed the desire that this lease not extend in perpetuity and desire to reuse their portable at a future date.  Should SPS and LASER fail to renew the lease SPS would vacate the portable and there would not be a space for the current classroom within Laurelhurst Elementary School. 

7. Does the need for the portable address school population needs other than LASER-centered needs? Other programs or school related activities?

SPS RESPONSE: The need for a new portable addresses Laurelhurst Elementary School student population needs. 

8. Other information that would be helpful?

SPS RESPONSE: Laurelhurst Elementary School currently houses three multi-grade classrooms.  SPS educational program desires that elementary schools house not more than two multi-grade classrooms. Adding a portable at Laurelhurst Elementary School would also provide SPS flexibility to address this problem when enrollment begins to decline.


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