What prompted this move? Why now?
The incredible opportunity to exchange locations with the Billings Schools was a very fortunate coincidence. The Billings school community and SJCS school community overlap with many families who attend or have attended both schools and love both schools. Some parents aware that SJCS was considering a move, as was Billings, shared the idea with the Heads of School. As Billings is ending the lease on its overflow space, this timing let both schools make the change before next school year.
What makes this new space the right one for the school?
The new space will be completely our own and customized to our Program. Our new educational space is both the school buildings and the outdoor spaces and amenities of the Green Lake neighborhood. The location matches our desire to increase programming related to community, environment, and social justice, and gives teachers a rich canvas on which to develop exciting curriculum. The Green Lake location makes the school more accessible to current families and lets the school reach a much larger market of Jewish families which is essential for our financial sustainability.
What does this new space offer?
The new space is both well-suited to our current size and can accommodate 33% more growth in North Seattle’s most family-friendly park and location. We will be the sole occupant of the building and will not need a tenant to support the facility. Our classrooms will be smaller than the current rooms designed for high school students. The smaller inside space will create a sense of intimacy and community, while the outdoor spaces of Green Lake will transform the outdoor education experience of the children.
When will the move take place?
We are putting our every effort into moving in time to start next school year in our new home. In case of any unforeseen delay, we have built in an ‘insurance’ plan so that we and the Billings School may occupy our current homes through the fall and move during winter break.
How can I learn more and keep up with what’s happening with the school and the building?
We will provide regular updates by email and will devote a special web page to information about the move, including ongoing FAQs to respond to your questions. We will have additional information sessions for parents and tours when the school renovations are complete. HaMoreh Ron, teachers and staff will be available over the coming months to meet with you should you have any concerns unique to your child or family.
What construction is being done on the new school building now?
We are doing repairs and renovation. Our new school building is now empty because Billings’ initial plan was to build a new building on the site and they now occupy leased space. We will be repairing, reconfiguring office walls, repainting, and re-carpeting to renew the space. Billings is a Middle School and we will be making renovations to better suit K-5 age children and elements such as the Beit Midrash and access to adjacent classrooms for mixed age cohorts. We also aim to create spaces for parents, STEM, art, music, a library and outdoor play. The empty building now gives us six months to design and complete the interior changes.
How does this move impact SJCS’ financial situation?
Billings and SJCS are conducting a reciprocal sale and purchase of our school properties and the SJCS property is a more valuable one. The net proceeds after our purchase, renovations, and move will seed a small endowment and investments in our teachers, programs, marketing, and some additional renovations in the summer of 2020. With the continued generosity of our institutional donors and community donors, the program quality and the financial future of the school is secure for years to come.
When will parents and students be able to see the new space?
Our new building is vacant as Billings moved out of the building into temporary leased space to build a new building before the opportunity emerged to exchange locations with SJCS. Unfortunately, that makes the school a construction zone and it will become a ‘hard-hat’ site very shortly. The architect working for SJCS will develop floor plans and building renderings to give you some sense of the new space. We will hope to have teachers tour the building as well as limited numbers of parents as time and safety will allow.
Will there be changes to the curriculum?
There will be a gradual transition with some changes to grade structures next year that will improve the curriculum and let us best provide a differentiated learned environment for every child. We will gradually structure teaching in a framework of age-related learning cohorts. This change has been tested and developed over the last two years at SJCS and is at the cutting- edge of K-5 program delivery nationwide. The change was planned before the new building, and the new building will be designed to facilitate the needed learning spaces and continued improvement of our excellent program. Our curriculum will take every advantage of the Green Lake Park, Library, Community Center, and businesses to make the neighborhood into a learning laboratory.
How will the new building affect the learning?
We believe our ‘community qualities’ are one of the differentiating advantages of SJCS that has a significant impact on the confidence, love of learning, and ethics of our graduates. Our own ‘right-sized’ space and General and Jewish Studies curriculum embedded in the Green Lake neighborhood will let us amplify our core values and strengthen the community that nurtures our children.
Will there also be changes in leadership, faculty or staff?
Some, yes. While we will not be downsizing the number of full-time employees, we will be introducing associate faculty (teaching assistants) as increasing enrollment numbers demand, to support our full time teaching faculty. We hope to also bring on board a part-time counselor and enhanced development support. In addition, every year our school has seen a change or two in teachers or staff which is very normal for any school.
How can this space accommodate growth?
The new space can accommodate at least 33% more growth, from about 60 students next year to 80 or more. If you take a walk around the new property, you’ll see there is the main school and the multi-purpose learning annex across a narrow alley. That “double footprint” design could allow us in the future to do major construction on either part of the property in a phased way that lets us grow.
I’m considering SJCS for my child next year, and the date for registration and acceptance is well before the move-in. I’m unsure how to proceed without having seen the new site. What are my options?
Please come and talk to us. We can share our excitement and confidence of the benefit of this move to making our great program even better. We can share drawings and plans for our school and you can meet with our teachers who will be touring the site and offering design input to our architect and team.
How will we provide security?
We are renovating the school and planning our program with security as an important concern. We are studying the security plans of a dozen urban, Jewish elementary schools as well as urban Seattle schools, like the Spruce Street school. Professional security consultants for Jewish institutions will advise the design and construction team. We will have security cameras, security doors, single points of entry and intercoms and a more enhanced security program than we do today. We will continue to provide more detail as our plans are completed.
Where do students go in case of a fire?
The school will have one entrance but 3-4 fire exits. Protocols will be developed that evacuate children to Green Lake Park and other nearby spaces. Green Lake is currently home to three preschools that work closely with the Seattle Fire Department to develop evacuation protocols.
What will we do about parking?
There will be less parking at our new location. We are still exploring limited parking options including access to nearby parking lots. Teachers, staff, and families will have to adjust to this change and allow the time for street parking in Green Lake. Furthermore, as we adjust to our more central urban locale, we anticipate faculty will access car-pooling, local transportation and, weather permitting, cycling opportunities. This is one of the trade-offs for a location that is otherwise more convenient in many regards for family social life, play in the park, access to stores and restaurants, and shorter commutes.
How does the campus move affect commute times for families?
The new campus is about 7 minutes driving south of our current campus in NE Seattle. While we know the new campus is easier to access for many families, we are aware some families will experience longer commute times. As always, we strongly advise carpooling to reduce impact to many parents and to reduce carbon footprint. We will do everything we can to support carpool matching and to continue excellent before and after-school programs.
How will we do drop off and pick up?
There will be designated lanes with no parking allowed during school drop-off and pick-up. We will use additional staff and volunteers to ensure a smooth and friendly experience. We are also learning from Billings how its older children and the local pre-school children handle those important transitions.
What will happen to the after-school program?
The Before and After School Enrichment (BASE) program will continue. The new building will have excellent spaces for the program.
What about a dedicated kosher kitchen?
The new building will not have an institutional kitchen for our kosher meals. The multipurpose Learning Annex next to the main building will be able to host school events like the model Seder and other celebrations and larger events with catering.
What will happen to the hot lunch program?
We do not know but we may need to discontinue the program. We will form a small committee to explore the possibility of catered lunches for the children that would be economical, healthy, and convenient.
What will children do for gym?
There will be really fun options for gym! Weather permitting, we will use the Green Lake Park and the Community Center for Physical Education (as did Billings). The Learning Annex is also suitable for gym.
What happens to outside play on rainy days or short recesses?
In the plaza outside of the Learning Annex we will build a small play area for short recesses and outdoor snack and lunch breaks. The Learning Annex itself offers 1,500 square feet of open space for indoor recesses. Like the Billings School, we will also reserve the basketball courts in the Green Lake Community Center when appropriate for special programs.
Where can parents do their “parking lot chatting?”
We’ll lose our beloved parking lot! We plan to create some ‘touch-down’ spaces for parents in the school building and find ways to use the plaza outside the Learning Annex. With all of Green Lake’s coffee shops in short reach, a public library only a block away, as well as opportunities for walks, scenic jogging and public access to the nearby large playground, we think SJCS parents will find no shortage of places for planned and spontaneous schmoozing, snacks, meals, and play in the Park.
How will this move affect SJCS’s tuition?
The move will not cause any increase or reduction in SJCS tuition. We have already announced 2019-2020 tuition. In recent years, the school has worked to make tuition increases track near to the inflation of Seattle cost of living increases. Periodically, changes may occur in our school programs, in the school marketplace, or in public policy that lead to larger changes than just cost of living. While we cannot rule out future tuition increases, the costs of the move, purchase, and operation at Green Lake will not cause a tuition increase in the near term.
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