Article downplays the seriousness of Rosa Parks overcrowding | Letter to the Editor
October 26, 2012 · 11:20 AM
Unfortunately, an article in the Oct. 19 Redmond Reporter serves to downplay the seriousness of the overcrowding at Rosa Parks Elementary School. (“Pierce plans to implement temporary boundary for Rosa Parks.”) True enough, to point this out won’t make any difference in how the Lake Washington School District (LWSD) will have to try to cope with the situation. But let’s keep in mind that parents and students are those most affected. They’re the ones who really have to cope! Parents deserve an accurate and straightforward presentation of the facts. Let them face the realities, too.
The Redmond Reporter article repeated Superintendent Traci Pierce’s statement from her Sept. 27 PowerPoint presentation at the school.
Pierce stated that Rosa Parks Elementary “is 11 percent over capacity at 793 students.” At best, the 11 percent figure is misleading. The superintendent could even be perceived as disingenuous.
When the number 713 is used as the baseline for calculating the percentage by which Rosa Parks is over capacity, the result is 11 percent. But the more realistic baseline that should have been used is 483, the number of students for which the school was built. Calculated by the proper arithmetic using the current enrollment of 793, up from 483, Rosa Parks right now is 64 percent over capacity — not the 11 percent reported!
In the PowerPoint presentation (slide 9), under the column titled School Capacity, the number 713 was listed for Rosa Parks. Granted, the phrase “includes portables” appeared parenthetically within that column heading. Maybe some parents gave it a passing thought, maybe not. That phrase received little or no mention orally by Pierce. The same figures were presented on slide 13 — Long Term Projections — with two additional columns. That slide lists 1,034 as the enrollment projection for 2015-16. Calculated by the proper arithmetic, Rosa Parks will be 114 percent over capacity — not the 45 percent reported!
The generally accepted definition of school capacity is: the maximum number of students a building is designed to reasonably accommodate — not including portables. When unexpected increases in enrollment occur and portables do become necessary, school utilization is the descriptive term for the total number of students on a school’s campus. That’s an important distinction. Synonyms are “permanent capacity” and “temporary capacity,” respectively. Regardless of the chosen terminology, the distinction should be made for the sake of clarity, openness, and “transparency.”
Dr. Pierce was not openly challenged at the parent community meeting over the figures she presented. But the potential obfuscation and downplaying was pointed out at the next meeting of the school board on Oct. 8 during the public comment period.
Apparently no newspaper staff writer was there to report the need for clarification. School Board Director Siri Bliesner is to be commended for spontaneously commenting to her fellow board directors her agreement that the distinction regarding “capacity” should be made. Some discussion did follow immediately.
Perhaps ironically, an awareness of how truly serious the overcrowding is just might motivate — or should we say jolt — parents and other voters to approve a school bond issue that is certain to be put before us in February 2014. That date will seem to come quite soon.
Even with the best-case scenario of the bond passing, a new school would not be completed until 2016-17. Call it long-term or short — we probably don’t want to see 10 more portables taking up what’s left of Rosa’s playground at that time! (Four portables on an interim basis is what’s considered “permissible.”)
Parents and voters throughout the district, when the date comes — and it will seem soon — please vote to approve the bond issue. Rosa Parks Elementary is in a very serious situation now. Given that demographics do change, sometimes dramatically, the next attendance area affected may be yours. Think ahead. If at all possible, please find a way to adjust your own budget so as to support the bond.
Larry Happ, Redmond