October 9, 2023

School Facility Efficiency Review Committee


Meeting 3 Minutes: 10/9/23

Committee Convened: 5:35 PM.


Welcome and greetings from Shannon Bingham (SB) from Western Demographics, Inc. (WDI). Mr. Bingham acknowledged the Squaxin tribal ancestry of the district. New committee members were introduced.


SB indicated he received 18 research requests which he has completed 85% of work on. He is posting all the information related to the research requests to the website. It will be there to browse and may generate other research requests. He anticipates hosting office hours so that committee members can ask questions and explore data with him.

SB briefly listed the items in the evening’s agenda and mentioned that a group exercise and survey will be part of the evening’s processes. Five small groups will be formed before the small group exercises. SB mentioned that the group process would not address all criteria and indicated building condition and socioeconomic status criteria will be addressed in subsequent meetings. He will show building ratings based on the WDI approach with support in several regards by OSD staff.

SB presented from PowerPoint and queries to a Geographic Information System (GIS). The GIS was used to examine boundaries and student density for those boundaries. The tool allowed SB to toggle between elementary, middle and high school boundaries and student densities with various map overlays. SB noted that middle schools have different number of elementary schools feeding to them. Some have two elementary feeders, while another has four elementary feeders.

SB indicated he is hoping to determine whether the committee members feel the current grade configuration is fixed, or if it has some flexibility. A lot of districts are looking at grade configuration as a useful school efficiency tool if educational goals can be achieved. Some districts will modify individual, small schools from K-5 to K-6, for example to achieve enrollment goals. Some families prefer to have middle school aged students in middle schools that have highly specialized core instruction (math, science etc.) rather than K-8 settings where instruction might be more interdisciplinary.

The committee members interspersed questions and comments throughout the presentation. Those are documented on the table that follows.



Questions/Comments from committee members with answer from SB/WDI:


If you move the boundary, how do you know the number of students in a target area will be consistent moving forward? [What is the durability of boundary changes?]
Some of district’s partial grade-level round situations have been around for 3-4 years. Changing these is typically durable for about 5 years. Changes of this type is not an uncommon approach for school districts.


What does academic research say about academic outcomes for grade configurations?

There is no real definitive research pro/con for K-8s. For the most part, there has been a consistent declaration of “no harm” done. Research has been diluted by fact that majority of K-8’s are run by charter schools and demographics are not consistent situation to situation.


For Boston Harbor and Madison, why does one pull from all over the place?
It is about residential density. District staff answered: There is a special education program and another program that pulls kids from across the district.


Can you change the contrast for the schools displayed on screen?

Yes. [took a moment to adjust]


Based on capacity we were looking at before, is there room for group of kids in Garfield?

Yes. For this area of the district, the ratio of number of seats available in buildings to children in those neighborhoods is high. About 2:1.


Is there a possibility of getting large parcels on a map that would show residential density?
SB agreed to send a parcel map and Thurston Co. zoning map on top of school boundaries.


The zoning matters too, so, for example there is zoning of one house per five acres.

GIS software was used to show areas of the district with five-acre house lots.


There is a squiggle boundary between McKenny. Why is that?
SB – I do not know. The line is clearly jagged and based on parcels.


Can you map the new development?
SB will contact FLO analytics.


Walkability scores are based on current boundaries, so if we change boundaries, it will change?

Yes. I will be able to give a number when I complete the research request related to this.


A lot of them are riding with parents even when they could easily walk to school. Why?

After 9/11 and the pandemic, parental comfort with walking to school has declined. Also walkability is low when there are no sidewalks which is the case in some parts of the district.


When you do the research on kids who live in walking, is it going to compare attending vs. residing?

SB will address this in the 26th and Bethel area.


By buses, do you mean city buses?

She [another committee member] is alluding to city buses, and she’s saying they walk. SB asked administration: At high school do students get bus passes. Reply: Bus passes are free.


What is walkability? Doesn’t it have to do with density and is it a fair metric for efficiency studies?

It is a standard metric for scoring when looking at school efficiency. It may not be fair, but it is factual when looking at rural areas. Some committees would weight it low and make it less of a consideration.


To me, it is important to keep kids who can walk.

You are going to get a chance to do ratings on this kind of thing.


Our density planning for the City is already indicating many areas as built-out.

Maybe you can help me look at that and provide data to the committee.


What’s your guidance for thinking about schools with students outside their boundary [like ORLA]

ORLA is not a neighborhood school, anybody can attend ORLA. There is an equilibrium for that kind of program in the district when marketing and recruitment are fairly static. I’m currently not proposing doing anything with the schools that are program-based and do not have an attendance area, like ORLA. I’m working with them directly. Q: to administration: How does the bus serve the community for ORLA? A: We do not have buses that go out into the neighborhood, we use a shuttle that goes around the district and collects students who transfer from routes associated with their neighborhood schools.


When you say it is market-driven, does that mean that you are always going to see level enrollment?

It is just FLO’s assumption, maybe we can talk more about that after the meeting. I would like to explore forecast for ORLA that reflects their plans.


Re: Boston Harbor, you say it was built as a one-track school. Are you taking into account staffing when you say it is efficient?

That is correct. It is pretty full given the student body it was built to accommodate. It was just built small to serve the immediate neighborhood.


Would it be possible to make Centennial a four-round school?

If we had enough enrollment.


How do rounds relate to the number of students per grade level?

If it were a 3, 4 or 5 round geographic area, it could be 75 kids per grade level, 100, or 125.


Some classrooms are used for early learning. Would proposed changes impact that?

I would want to make sure I understand the district plan for early learning and maintain the same level of service regardless of the building configuration. I strive to do no harm to preschool enrollment levels. The Superintendent added: One person who can help is Tom Parnel who focuses on our early learning program. We can bring him to talk to the group.


Is there anything legal we need to be concerned about having multiple age groups in a building?

No, there is not. There are some things we have to do for pre-school like they have to be on the ground floor, have multiple egress and toilet access requirements. Other levels have some certification restrictions that most districts accommodate.


If we close elementaries, how does it effect middle schools? Have we considered other configurations like making middle schools grade 5- 8?

A 5-8 can work. We could also have elementaries run K-6. There is always a feeder effect and we try to consider the context of elementary and middle school relationships.


What are the viability concerns associated with K-8’s?

There are strong opinions one way or another in many districts, others are more flexible and inclusive. K-8s are not popular in college towns or capital cities, but they are popular among charter schools and in rapidly developing areas.


As you look at schools with mini buildings, are there missing facilities for elective programs? Things like shop.

There would have to be some retrofitting and we are exploring viability of the ones we have.


Some of our middles schools have special programs and curriculums. When you’ve worked with other districts, do the programs move with the change?

 The idea is we want to maintain the most consistent level of service as possible. So, yes, preservation of existing programs is generally assumed.


Have you looked at the whole district being PK-6?

I think that would pull even more kids out of 450-student middle schools which seems to be going in the wrong direction. My interest in it is situational.


If the district had some middle schools and some K-8’s would that create an equity issue?

There is not research, but there is a lot of anecdotal information. If you had 2 and 2 (east and west), families with strong preferences would have choices of program for their students.


What happens buildings after consolidation?

There are a lot of options. We are currently focusing on addressing immediate goals and challenges and alternative use would be a strong consideration after a basic strategy is identified.


Do you have a sense of how many families will choose K-8 vs choose middle school?

I think 85-90% would go where they are told to go based on their attendance area. For the most part in heterogenous districts where there are several grade configuration options, we tend to have very low rates of students deviating from boundaries. The district would strive to create quality sports, clubs, activities. It is a management issue. The appeal of K-8 tends to be very strong.


If we had two desired programs in a small geographic area, are we strictly limited to offering programs in one facility?

We could run two buildings on a single campus with one administration. There are creative options that could be considered.


Small group discussion: 7:42-7:50 p.m.

The committee members were asked to take a survey and given time to do so. There were a few additional questions.

The meeting adjourned just after 8:05 p.m.