Friday, December 9, 2016

Cascadia Staff Letter on the Split

Dear Dr. Nyland and Seattle School Board,
The teachers at Cascadia Elementary are deeply concerned about the upcoming school board vote regarding the future of our school and the possible negative impact on our students. Through a joint school district and PTSA survey we have already expressed the only reasonable option is to geo-split the current school and create two schools. One school located at the Wilson Pacific site, the other site located at the Decatur.
Recently the staff learned about the amendments proposed by Directors Burke and Peters that proposes to keep our school together at the Wilson Pacific site or make Decatur an option site. Our staff is strongly opposed to these ideas.
Our decision is based on:
Negative impact on students receiving Special Education services
Health and Safety issues
Negative impact on student/teacher/parent community
Changes to current curriculum and community programs
Here are the anticipated negative effects of keeping the school together at the new site:
Negative Impact On Students Receiving Services
We have many students with high anxiety who benefit from having close proximity to the counselor and Resource Rooms. We are concerned about these students being so far removed from the main building if their classroom is in a portable.
Collaboration with support staff is more challenging when students and classrooms are spread over a large campus like the Lincoln site. Portables would present even more challenges for students receiving these services. Coordination and scheduling of services for each student at the most impactful times would be significantly more challenging.
We are very concerned about the lack of safe spaces to “take a Meta Moment�? outside of the classroom. At our current site we use the hallway, resource rooms, and nearby partner classrooms. For students in portables, none of these would be a realistic option.
We have many students with sensory issues who are already challenged at our current site due to the size of our school. These challenges will be exacerbated by a larger school population in a smaller and therefore less accommodating space.
Health and Safety Issues
Extensive use of portables at the new site creates many safety issues.
oStudents in portables will need to pass through the recess yard to use the bathroom.
oIndividual students will be largely unsupervised during transitions to the bathroom and other resources.
oClose proximity to Aurora and proposed homeless camp presents worries for students during unsupervised transitions.
oOur playground space will be reduced due to the location of portables which creates a number of safety and supervision challenges.
oTeachers and students will be separated from the main building and communication will be difficult during incidents of a lockdown or shelter in place, which will likely occur more frequently due to our location.
The lunchroom and recess space was not built to accommodate a school of that size
oDue to space concerns, it is likely some classrooms will need to eat lunch in their rooms. Students who get hot lunch will then have to travel back and forth between their classroom and the cafeteria. Students in portables will need supervision during this transition.
oCoordinating adequate lunch and recess times will be extremely challenging and result in suboptimal schedules (e.g. very early or late lunches, limited access to the school yard for recess)
oBehavioral problems at recess would be impacted due to having more students in a smaller space because of portables on the recess yard.
oSupervision around portables at recess is extremely challenging.
Negative Impact On Student/Teacher/Parent/Community
If the school does not split this year, it will need to split the following year; this means current 1st-3rd grade students may have to transfer schools 3 times in elementary school. Six years ago, our program came to the Lincoln site with 420 students. We now have over 750. We know that 400 north end students are qualified to receive HCC services and have chosen not to come to our current site. We anticipate that many families have waited for our transition to the new building before enrolling in our program. It is clear that the predictable and continued growth of the north end HCC program will make it physically impossible to accommodate our student population within 1 year at the new site. This means a future school split and another possible move for some 1st-3rd grade students.
Collaboration between teachers and classrooms will be heavily compromised by the size of the school and the use of portables.
Portables limit students’ opportunities to connect with other students within their grade level.
Physical proximity to team members and other staff members impacts collaboration. This has been a challenge at the Lincoln site, and will prove to be even more so at the new site with the use of portables.
Students and teachers in the portables will be isolated from the other classrooms. This will make casual collaborative experiences extremely challenging and lead to changes in our curriculum and the removal of cross grade level activities.
We will not be able to do all school events. There will be no room to accommodate 750+ students during field day and other whole school events.
There will be increased turnover amongst staff. Teachers and staff have communicated through two surveys and through this letter our concerns with keeping our school together. It is likely we will see a much higher than normal turnover if the decision is made not to split the school. Making a decision that goes against the interests of the students and the teachers who serve these students communicates a lack of understanding regarding the process we have undertook to build the strong learning community our staff currently has. It is reasonable to assume that many staff members will seek out a more stable learning community given the severity of the impacts to our school both this year (if we stay together) and the following year when we inevitably have to split anyway to an unknown location.
Changes To Current Curriculum And Community Programs
No instrumental music for 4th grade students. This will be huge shift for our school. At the new site, there will be no space to host more than one instrumental music teacher. This means we will have to reduce the number of students that can take it. If we stay together, this will likely mean the 4th grade students will no longer have this as an option. Currently, we have approximately 230 students in instrumental music spread across 4th and 5th grade.
No Theater program for 5th grade students. There will not be enough space to accommodate all 5th grade classrooms if we stay together.
No Reading Room. There will be no flexible space to use for this alternative to outdoor recess for students who benefit from a quiet space during their day.
No iLab. Even though this space is designated already, this will be used for additional instructional space if the school stays together. Many grade levels have projects connected to the use of this space. These projects will need to be reduced in scope or eliminated.
No space for intervention teachers. Many students currently benefit from the use of designated spaces for our math and writing specialists. If we stay together, their only option will be to push into the classroom. Our intervention teachers are currently serving over 200 of our students.
Many schools with two PE classes at a time will teach one in the gym, and one in the cafeteria, or one outside if the weather permits and the teachers just rotate weekly or daily for who is teaching where. This is a high possibility for what would take place at Cascadia as the new gym is smaller than our current one. Teaching 60 kids in one class at a time does not work for their learning, safety in movement, classroom management, and skill development. Since dividing the new gym will be challenging due to its smaller size, we would likely have to teach some classes in the cafeteria.
Reasons to create a Geo Split at Decatur
Creates Stability-The new school will have more predictable enrollment.
Location is close to where students live-a large number of HCC students live in North East Seattle. Some of our students on the east side currently have over an hour bus ride to the Lincoln site.
Lower Transportation Costs-With budget cuts next year, cutting transportation costs will help the district. This year we have 16 buses, which is too many to fit at the new school. This many buses will also affect the commute time for many of our students, who already have long bus rides.
Teachers want to work in their community-Many teachers are excited at the prospect of working at a smaller school that is closer to where they live and building community with the new school.
Our teachers and staff love our community. A decision of this magnitude, that would be going against the interests of the educators and families of our school, communicates that the school board is only listening to the vocal minority and does not care about the stability of the HCC program or our school. Voting on an issue that will impact HCC students and never talking to the teachers and staff who work closely with this population is concerning. We are also stakeholders in the community and we expect our voice to also have a place in this decision.
We urge you to consider the impact your decision will have on our students. We would like to extend an open invitation to speak with Cascadia staff about our concerns.
The Cascadia Teachers and Staff
Gary Bass
Abbey Buchert
Anya Rifkin
Jennifer Daffara
Erica Gregory
Zach Warren
Ellie Kim
Sean Hamby
Emily Thilo
Nathan Wheeler
Kate Sayles
Kendra Rohrabaugh
Jim Clithero
Allie Orme
Cheryl Adams
Lauren Fuller
Beth Lee
Sage Kleinhanz
Barbara Ford
Sarah Watkins
Mary MacDonald
Maureen Newton
Katie Holman
Kimberly Erickson
Eric Eddy
Eileen Gray
Daniel Morford
Shelly Landschulz
Shirley Briones
Brandie Absher
Josh Hill
Jeremy Drollinger
Josephine Cross-Whiter
Elizabeth Savage
Matt Perez
Camille Paul
Ashley Toney
Nathan Brown
Allison Underdahl
Melanie Voytovich
Christy Smith
Ashley Meyer

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