Help plan the next use of the Columbia School
Meeting on Saturday, March 29 at 10:00 AM at Tutta Bella.
In the summer of 2009, the New School will leave the Columbia School for its new facility in Rainier Beach and for the first time in more than 100 years, a public school may not be operating in the heart of Columbia City. Over the coming year, the Seattle School District will likely decide what to do with the soon to be vacant Columbia School building.
The community has founded Friends of Columbia School (FoCS) to facilitate an open dialogue about the future of the property in hopes of creating a coalition to communicate with the Seattle School District and develop a vision that reflects the community's wishes.
The planning process will begin with a community outreach campaign and will be designed to foster and encourage the exchange of information and opinions. The process will be focused around a series of large community meetings over four to six months. On March 29 we'll begin discussing the planning process and hope to begin the process this fall.
RSVP for March 29 meeting to: Rebecca Cate at ten.tsacmoc|etackr#ten.tsacmoc|etackr or 760-8078
I would highly recommend that the members of this group actively recruit diverse community members to participate in this process and do so quickly. If there is any sense that this group looks or feels a particular way, there could be significant backlash. Something that was meant to bring people together around a common cause could end up further entrenching old grudges and stereotypes. Being strategic in recruiting diverse members could be a real point of coming together, and I would recommend that the group work diligently to do just that.
The Friends of Columbia School has been carefully assessing how to proceed since the
announcement of the school closure was made in 2006. I am confident that their
leadership will do what needs to be done to hear as many voices as possible! 2008
should be a year of outreach, organizing, strategic planning, and communicating with
the decision-makers. There may not be a more challeging task then posing the
question: "what is to be done" with Columbia School?
Here's what one school activist thinks we're up against. Having experienced the school closures process two years ago, I take a similar dim view.
Big questions for this group —
- Who at the District is likely to pay attention to what neighbors suggest, and
- How do we cultivate some real cooperation from the administration?
Some background on why the local education situation does not exist in a vaccuum.
The school is within the landmark district boundaries. Won't that provide the building a little more legal protection than most of the other school district properties?
Actually, Columbia School is just outside the landmark district. The school is on the west side of 37th, between Edmunds & Ferdinand. But it is included in the Dept of Neighborhoods' list of historic buildings.
The Columbia School building was built in 1922. Architect F.A. Naramore designed the school building for the Seattle School District. … The school buidling (sic) previously located on the site was built in 1892, with a rear addition built in 1893, and was the oldest school in Rainier Valley; the school had approximatley 80 students and two teacher in its beginning years. The subject building is significant as the only Mission Revival style school in the Seattle School District and as the only stucco clad building that Naramore designed. Columbia School is not included within the locally designated landmark district, but it is included in the national register district, so an inventory form was prepared for the building.
It raises more questions. We should put our heads together and figure this out.
Scott Barkan has updated the Friends of Columbia School page and links to their letter to the schools superintendent, Dr Goodloe-Johnson.
School closures make me crazy. That said, this is an opportunity for some rational and creative alternatives. These are my big questions —
- how do we inspire our south-end families to entrust their kids to our public schools,
- and how do we make sure our schools reflect our neighborhood?
Columbia Citizen Beth Bakeman started the Seattle Public Schools Community Blog during the last round of closures. It's been going strong with a regular series of discussions, but of course these days it's shifted into high gear.
I posted this idea just now:
I get steamed about closures. But if Lowell must split, and if its halves must be moved to other buildings, and if at least one of those buildings is located in the south end, then we need to think hard about dual programs.
In our Seattle context of school choice and segregation, dual programs can be sensitive… and successful. Consider Graham Hill. But programs are communities, and I sense that separate communities mesh best when they grow and change together. To scrunch an existing program into a building already occupied by an existing program — that's an uninspired choice.
A more inspiring choice would be to locate these highly motivated, engaged kids in a school where they are the new context. The partner program would be our opportunity to grow the system — to draw local families back into the school system, and to offer a great default option to families who don't exercise choice.
What if we turned Charlie's all-choice school idea on its head? Install 1/2 of the Lowell program in Columbia School, in Columbia City. Then open the partner program only to neighborhood children whose families either (a) express no school choice, or (b) don't get into their first-choice school. That second, desirable program would be entirely off limits to school choice. But it could succeed, because it would be thoughtfully engaged with a program that's designed to succeed.
We had a great turnout for the meeting October 11th – thanks to everyone who came and brought their enthusiasm and ideas. We had high hopes of pulling a community visioning meeting (charrette) together in November, but since we haven’t found a facilitator yet we’ve decided to put this off until late January to give us more time to plan a better event. Here’s what we have going:
Next Meeting: Sunday, November 8th, 4-6pm
Southside Commons (the old Southside Church by the park)
3518 So. Edmunds Street
We’ve decided to have another planning meeting to discuss approach and outreach.
Update from the School District
The district now feels the school will need to re-open in a few years, so they’re not talking about selling the property or leasing it for long-term use. The district will vote on this decision on November 18th, so we won’t know by the time we meet on the 8th. If this decision is confirmed, they’ll be looking for a tenant wiling to lease for 12 months at a time. There’s no telling how long a “few years” is, but even three or four years is enough time for an idea to “incubate”, get established and gain traction. This might be an opportunity for a community project to get established, and then look for a permanent home when and if the school re-opens.
What Can You Dream Of?
We’ll host a community visioning session, likely the last weekend of January, to invite everyone to come and dream big about what we’d like to see happen in the neighborhood, and at the school for whatever time we can have there. Let’s give ourselves the opportunity to think big, sky’s the limit, what can you imagine if time and money were no object? Seriously, bring your biggest dreams and let’s have some fun. We’ll send out date, time and location once we know.
Stay In Touch
If you would like to be added to the e-mail list please send a message to moc.liamg|sdneirFloohcSaibmuloC#moc.liamg|sdneirFloohcSaibmuloC.
Friends of Columbia School
This is a reminder that we’ll be meeting this Sunday as follows:
Sunday, Nov. 8th
3518 S. Edmunds Street
Here’s our agenda for the day:
- Brief background
- Update from planning committee
- Talk about themes for visioning session
- Outreach – brainstorm a list of groups to send info to, and see if we can get people to commit to follow-up with some of them
- Next steps
Please e-mail moc.liamg|sdneirFloohcSaibmuloC#moc.liamg|sdneirFloohcSaibmuloC with any questions you may have, and feel free to spread the word. We’ve got a page on the Wiki with some background information: http://columbiacitizens.net/focs:welcome
A big thank you to Southside Commons for donating the space for this meeting. It’s a beautiful space, and available for events.
Thank you! Hope to see you on Sunday.
Friends of Columbia School
We had a good meeting yesterday – thanks to everyone who came out in icky weather on a Sunday afternoon. Thankfully, Sue and Kristen brought tea and treats. (Note to self about coming to future meetings … Treats!)
I’ll be sending out a separate message about outreach. Our list was quite extensive!!
Let me know if you have questions, or anything to add/correct to the minutes.
Friends of Columbia School
Friends of Columbia School Meeting: 11-8-09
Thank you to Meredith with the Southside Commons for taking notes, and for donating the space.
We had about 15 people come out, and it seems that people heard about the meeting either through the Wiki or word-of-mouth.
- Began 3 years ago, before New School was there
- Public meetings on and off for the past 3 years
- District has made no decision – voting on Nov. 18th to possibly keep the school in their inventory to re-open in a “few” years, and rent for 12 months at a time.
- Ideas discussed in the past: permanent home for Farmers Market, Zion Prep to purchase (talk about AIM now being part of ZP), affordable art studios through SEEDArts.
- Emphasize that this is a theoretical exercise, and an opportunity to find out what types of projects have wide-spread community support behind them.
- Outreach with existing projects: PNC, Youngstown, University Heights, Cedar Park (Artwood Studios) have all been contacted. Very different circumstances around those properties than here in CC.
- Parameters have been discussed – what defines our “problem”.
- We now have moc.liamg|sdneirFloohcSaibmuloC#moc.liamg|sdneirFloohcSaibmuloC.
- Outreach to various parties experienced in processes like this:
- DNDA with Youngstown
- Catherine Stanford (was on BOD with University Heights to help acquire the building)
- Ed Medeiros, ED of PNA
- Jim Diers, Dept. of Neighborhoods, Interim Dir. DNDA 2002
- Anne Paisley with Cedar Park Elementary, now Artwood Studios
Visioning Session/Charrette: Tent. 1/30/10 or 1/31/10
- FoCS has decided to move forward and have a visioning session, despite not knowing SPSD’s decision.
- We are talking to a handful of potential facilitators, and once we choose someone they will create their own agenda for that meeting.
- From that process we hope to have a “project” or umbrella vision of what the community would like to see happen at the school given the parameters that we have, and look to partner with an established organization that will be the master tenant with the school district.
- The goal is to generate broad community participation, and see what concepts/ideas/projects have the most energy behind them to guide the process of submitting a proposal to the district.
Planning committee will help with outreach and logistics of the visioning session: set-up, clean-up, supplies, etc. More people are needed: if interested, please contact moc.liamg|sdneirFloohcSaibmuloC#moc.liamg|sdneirFloohcSaibmuloC.
Themes and Outreach
- We reviewed themes from the last meeting, and agreed that there’s overlap, and possibly themes that haven’t surfaced yet. These include:
- Education: life-long learning, kids, re-open as public school
- Arts: Seattle’s lost a lot of performance and studio space, and there’s a need
- Sustaniability: Farmers Market home, gardens, home sustainability, energy center, eco-transportation
- Urban Village: pedestrian-oriented “hub” to the neighborhood
- Shared Resources: tool lending library, community kitchen
- International Cultural Center
- An effort should be made to connect with school board members now.
- Estimated cost of repairs was reported to be between $1M and $2M.
- What are projections of school-aged kids in the area?
- It was suggested we look at ideas for the immediate future – what things could happen in the short-term, that require little planning?
- Positive response to interim arts space like in Burien – where Burning Man sculptures are on display at a construction site while developer goes through permitting. People connected to the Burien project highly recommend having an arts council to shepherd that process along.
- We talked about having a meeting before, and possibly after, the visioning session to invite people connected to other, similar projects to share their experiences. Or, people from FoCS could research other projects and present their findings as a way of getting people to think creativity about the possibilities. Meeting after the visioning session would be more to learn about the specifics of projects that are similar to whatever comes from the charrette.
- Letter to the school board stating our intention
- Create an introductory letter about FoCS for people to hand out/send
- Update the Wiki
- Tri to create a listserv
- Finalize facilitator, and distribute agenda when available.
- Confirm date, time, location.
- Planning committee to work on: food donations, outreach
- Create flyers and handouts – translations?
Outreach will be important to make sure we have truly broad representation from the community. Below is the list we came up with, and I’ve tried my best to organize it.
I’ve put my name next to organizations I have connections to, and will communicate and distribute information as we have it. If others would like to send this list back to me and indicate who you have ties to, that would be great. Some of these folks are already on this e-mail list, but it would be nice to know if and how you’re wiling to help us with outreach.
Friends of Columbia School
- Asian Counseling Referral Service
- Beacon Hill Blog - Wendy Dunlap
- Block Watch Groups
- Columbia City Business Association (Joanne)
- Columbia City Choir (Joanne)
- Department of Neighborhoods - Yun Pitre (Joanne)
- Farmers Market (Joanne)
- Filipino Community Center
- Genesee Business Association
- HAL Development
- Harbor Properties (Joanne)
- Hillman City Business Association
- HomeSight (Joanne)
- Lakewood/Seward Park Community Club
- LELO (Legacy of Equality, Leadership, and Organizing) - Michael Woo
- LEM’s Bookstore
- Mark Hanum
- MLK Business Association
- Mt. Baker Community Club
- New Freeway Hall
- Rainier Beach Empowerment Coalition
- Rainier Valley Historical Society
- Rainier Valley Post (media)
- Rainier Vista, Seattle Housing Authority
- Refugee Women’s Alliance (REWA)
- Royal Esquire Club (Joanne)
- Seattle Public Library – Coumbia City
- SE District Council
- SEEDArts - Jerri Plumridge (Joanne)
- South Seattle Beacon (media)
- South Seattle Precinct - Mark Solomon
- Sustainable South Seattle
- Susan Davis, Rainier Chamber
- Yahoo Groups
Other School Projects
- Artwood Studios (formerly Cedar Park Elementary) (Joanne)
- Delridge Neighborhood Development Association
- Phinney Neighborhood Center
- Queen Anne Condos
- University Heights
- Youngstown Cultural Arts Center
Potential Partners/Local Resources
- Allied Arts
- Boeing Foundation
- Burien Interim Arts Space (B/IAS) (Joanne)
- City Counsel
- Community Development Fund (Joanne)
- Cornish College of the Arts
- Eagle Rock Ventures (Othello/MLK development)
- Gates Foundation
- Great City Initiative
- Historic Seattle
- Mayor’s Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs
- Mayor (McGinn?)
- Paul Allen Foundation
- People’s Waterfront Coalition (for outreach ideas)
- Seattle Foundation
- Seattle Tlith
- Sound Transit
I’ve heard very little from anyone since sending out the last update, but I’m getting ready to leave town from Jan. 9th - 25th, so I thought I’d send out what I’ve heard and what I know.
The link to the RFP is:
Zion Prep, I believe (Doug, correct me if I’m wrong), will submit an RFP that would include the Farmers Market and possibly BikeWorks. They currently house Arts in Motion as well, so there would be a variety of community offerings there.
The Farmers Market is working with The Cedar River Group to find a location for this season, and hopefully beyond. I asked Karen with the market today if Cedar River Group might be interested in combining with like-minded groups to submit an RFP that would utilize the property more than once a week seasonally, and she’ll ask them.
BikeWorks is still looking for space.
The Rainier Valley Food Bank needs new space, and while they’re going to look at the school, there’s some doubt that it will really work for them.
I’m wiling to continue to disseminate information as I get it, and if anyone knows anything more, please let me and/or the group know. I believe the RFP is due in February and it can be for partial use of the property – it doesn’t need to be for the whole space.
Friends of Columbia School
Well, it's been 6 months since the last update, and things are finally
working themselves out. The Torah Day School has taken possession of
the school, and is finalizing leases with a handful of us to rent
classrooms in what will soon be called the Cultural Corner. In one
classroom will be the Seattle Poetry Lab, ReelYouth and Muse Indigo.
In another classroom will be visual artist Molly Scott. There's still
one classroom available as follows:
700 square feet
$600/month, utilities included (except for wi-fi - we'll be installing
our own and splitting it among the Cultural Corner residents)
Option of a one-year or three-year lease
I believe "early bird" renters get one month free this first year
If you're interested, please contact the property manager, Adam Simon:
The Rainier Valley Historical Society is considering storage space in
the building, and Adam says they're hoping the Farmers Market will
come onto the property for next year's market. AlleCat Acres was on
the original RFP to create P-patches with the gardens there, but I've
not been in contact with them. There's been some communication gaps
while things are in transition, but hopefully everything will smooth
out after the Jewish holidays. Those of us renting plan on moving in
on October 1st.
We collectively hope to create a community arts gathering space, and
will put out a calendar of events once we move in and get settled.
Thanks to everyone who's been on this ride for the past five years.
Your input and the discussions we've had have been really valuable in
terms of seeing what's important to the neighborhood. What we've ended
up with is a mixture, and that seems like as good a solution as we
could have for now.
Sincerely and optimistically
Joanne Lauterjung Kelly
Resident and Wannabe Creative Catalyst
I just (JUST!) moved to Columbia City from Philadelphia. I was pretty active in the poetry scenes out there and it involved event organizing and a moderate amount of education-based volunteering. A bunch of us Philadelphians (including myself) got the chance to really open eyes in terms of what poetry is and what it can be. Working with youth of all ages was especially rewarding through all of its challenges.
I'm interested in learning about this school initiative and if there's a way I can get involved in volunteering with some of the creative or infrastructural work. As I'm in my early-twenties I don't have a lot of financial capabilities for renting space but would love to be involved in other programs. Please send me an email when it's convenient and we can touch base on what looks to be a great future for this community.
Welcome to the neighborhood! I would llve to connect with you. Please drop me a line so I'll have your contact info: moc.ogidni-esum|ennaoj#moc.ogidni-esum|ennaoj.
Paul Nelson, with Seattle Poetry Lab, will be eager to meet you! As am I. Please get in touch and we can meet.
Welcome to the NW. Check out the Splab site. http://www.splab.org I'd love to meet with you and discuss how we could potentially collaborate.
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