Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Cascadia Split Briefing Paper

The Friday memo from last week contained the most official explanation of what the staff is thinking about the split.

http://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/Friday%20Memos/2016-17/Oct%2014/20161014_FridayMemo_CascadiaSplit_BriefingPaper.pdf

[As an aside: I was really glad to see this published. This represents a significant step forward in terms of transparency  for the central staff]

You can read the whole paper which is interesting but I wanted to dig into a few key parts. First
a look at the enrollment information.
















  • As can be seen in 2012-13 when the planning process occurred the number were not too out of whack for a 650 capacity building and it wasn't until last year that tipping point occurred.
  • Enrollment stayed basically steady this year BUT the largest grade is 3rd. There are small drops in 1st and 2nd as well as 5th.   5th grade doesn't matter much for future projections. The key question is how many more kids will join below 3rd?  Are the 3rd and 4th grades anomalies or will the cohorts behind them end up as large?
  • Note: also uncertainty as to the program location and overcrowding may depress numbers. On the other hand, a split may also affect numbers in either direction depending on how attractive it looks to prospective families.

District Wide Enrollment Data for comparison.  Cohort sizes continue to increase :







Also interesting from this data is the current teacher/student ratios and the class size reduction targets which are supposed to be fully implemented in 2018.  To put this in context Cascadia has always had the highest ratios in the district i.e. the most crowded classrooms. 

1st  - 3 homerooms 21:1     vs. WA state target 17 
2rd - 6 homerooms 21:1     vs. WA state target  17
3rd - 8 homerooms 24:1     vs. WA state target  17
4rd - 7 homerooms 27:1     vs. WA state target  25
5rd - 6 homerooms 28:1     vs. WA state target  25

Capacity (details to be confirmed):

  • Current plans show 27 homerooms in the Cascadia building. So we start with a deficit of 3. 
  • According to the document the maximum portables on the site is only 4 a reduction from the previous number reported (What happened to the other 2?). 

Official Analysis of the site:


None of the stated reasons is completely compelling.

  • The MUP is not binding. The district routinely exceeds them in other buildings and the capacity is changed as portables are added.
  • The gym situation is no worse than the current one at Lincoln and probably a bit better.
  • The long term capacity issue doesn't mandate immediate action. Is this an emergency next year?
  • Fully utilizing buildings like Decatur seems neither here nor there.

However, the two biggest problems remain unanswered:

  • The core space is only for 660. With 4 portables would the school fit all the students for even 1 year?  We won't completely know the true enrollment numbers until this spring.
  • Are there any portables available given the other needs in the district and can the district afford them? Its quite possible there are cost savings to the split.  You balance the extra staff  needed vs. the portable costs and the additional state funds for lower class sizes that the split would earn.
And finally even if the we could wedge all the kids in next year if they won't fit within 1-2 years more should the district be proactive now or delay? The biggest risk of delaying is that the options may be much worse by then. There are alternate proposals for all the buildings being discussed. Its entirely imaginable they could all be claimed.

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