Wednesday, November 16, 2016

11/15 Cascadia PTSA Meeting on the potential Split

The new Cascadia Elementary building layout. Note: as built even with flex spaces there are 29 rooms because of the Kindergarten wing.

Overall last night was very interesting. A lot of the staff took time to be present including Stephen Martin from Advanced Learning, Ashley Davies from Enrollment planning, someone from operations whose name I didn't catch, Jon Hafaker the Executive Director for the region and Rick Burke from the school board. Also, the format with the PTSA asking a series of pre-selected questions covered a lot of ground in an hour which I think was a wise use of time.

What follows are my notes (pardon the lack of organization)

  • The PTSA will follow Cascadia if a split occurs and a new one will have to be formed. Any reserves left will probably be split in a pro-rated fashion based off the school sizes.
  • On that note, the current drive is 100,000 behind target. So if you're able to, please give if you haven't already. 
  • The top choice off the surveys was to geosplit by between 40-60% between the 2 versions.
  • The district's decision remains unchanged and it will recommend the split at the operations meeting. This will come up for a Jan 4th vote.
  • Why rush?  Ashley didn't add any new color to the question but did add this was a typical timeframe (6 mo) for starting a new school up.
  • The staff are using the survey results to partly justify the choice now as well.
  • There was no desire from either community to merge with Thornton Creek and run both buildings as a single unit so that is off the table for now.
  • There was no data on the relative costs of portables vs. running the Decatur building.
  • If the levy cliff occurs the district will be in a 71 million dollar deficit and that limits the budgetary planning here i.e.  don't expect mitigation funds and rather look forward to staff cuts.
  • There was a promise to involve parents in any principal selection which would probably occur right in January. Based on the timelines I assume this would be a fairly rapid process.
  • The feeling from the staff was that the logistical challenges on the Wilson Pacific site with as many as 2000 kids were greater than 900 on the Thornton Creek one.  Different starting times was mentioned as one obvious adjustment.
  • The split will be done by middle school attendance area. All of the Eckstein feeder schools which makes about 240-260 kids would go to Decatur.
  • Dir. Peters has introduced an amendment to alter this and make the new site an option. Although its hard to predict all the implications of such a change.  This would allow a cap on enrollment but also make planning more unknown  and potentially lead to under enrollment or unbalanced enrollment per grade.  
  • The staff considers the Decatur site a permanent rather than temporary solution unlike the portables. Of course, everything is subject to change if enough growth continues to occur.
  • The teachers split would be governed by the collective bargaining agreement. Essentially, the teachers get to volunteer first and then its done by seniority and category.
  • There is no answer on money for the initial gym and library although the staff wants to provide that due to equity. 
  • The physical plant is currently being seismically upgraded and will recieve new paint and carpeting. In addition, the plan is to tear down the annex and develop a new playground there. This like all the other question depends on available money.
  •  Several rumors were mentioned (black mold, condemned building) and  called out as false.

The bottom line is that while there are more details here we're still on the same path. Budgetary and space constraints really limit the choices. The staff wants to do the split. The board sounds like its considering holding off a year. And if we do kick the can down the road there is still some risk that even the Decatur site will be spoken for by that time.

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