Seattle Schools Fail Another Test

Superintendent Suggests Kids Learn in Construction Zone

Seattle Schools Fail Another Test

Seattle Public Schools superintendent José Banda is trying to appease angry parents from one school by pissing off parents at another.

After renting their North Queen Anne building from the school district for 28 years, the nonprofit Northwest Center Kids school has been evicted to make room for the rapidly growing Seattle school population, and the Cascade Parenting Partnership is slated to move into that space this summer. But while parents and staff at the Northwest Center have begged the district for more time to adapt—since the replacement site the district offered them is inadequate for their physically and developmentally disabled students—Banda has been mostly uncommunicative since they were given the boot.

But at a quickly assembled meeting on February 26, Banda met with Cascade's parents to offer a solution to the Northwest Center problem. What's his big idea? For Cascade to stay in their current space, the Wilson-Pacific Building, while it gets demolished and rebuilt over the next year. That would buy the Northwest Center some time.

That's right: The plan is to operate a school in a construction zone.

More of a new problem than a solution.

Both programs have students with special needs, and the idea of moving kids around the building to avoid construction while trying to accommodate kids with sound and sensory issues is ridiculous. Now instead of just angry Northwest parents, both camps are fuming.

Parents have said from the beginning that the best interests of the children at both schools are paramount. But by pitting the two communities against each other, Banda has managed to demolish that spirit of collaboration—while still underserving both of these important programs. recommended


Comments (12) RSS

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New schools get built next to old schools all the time. Not really that big a deal.
Posted by bigyaz on March 5, 2014 at 11:31 AM · Report this
I clearly remember staying put in my elementary school, sometime around the 5th grade, as a significant reconstruction/expansion project happened between the existing building and the playground. Noise was carefully contained and disruption conscientiously minimized. No child's education was adversely impacted.

In the absence of greater specifics, I'm tempted to presume a childless Stranger writer is deferring too readily to the fears of uptight Seattle parents.
Posted by d.p. on March 5, 2014 at 11:34 AM · Report this
tabletop_joe 3
Someone needs to do something about this dude. He chronically makes the worst decisions and his newsletters are chirpy-derpy about how families matter blah blah blah. Fire. Him. Someone, please.
Posted by tabletop_joe on March 5, 2014 at 12:35 PM · Report this
"New schools get built next to old schools all the time. Not really that big a deal."

It is when (1) you are not next to the building but in one building (with rats) where the next one is being demolished and (2) your student population is high needs and your are getting rid of asbestos and lead paint.

One issue is that, unlike other districts, SPS does NOT traditionally build with students in place. So parents really don't understand it but this particular building is NOT the one to try this with (but they did at Nathan Hale and it was fine).

The district and NWC signed a six-month lease. NWC had Cascade parents tour it and, as well, a district official told them the building was under consideration to be taken back by the district. So it's not like this should be some surprise to the the management of NWC and you have to wonder why THEY weren't thinking ahead.

Posted by westello on March 5, 2014 at 1:05 PM · Report this
Do you listen to the radio? You should ask the reporters who read the hundreds of pages of e-mails from Seattle School District why the NWCenter "wasn't thinking ahead." They were thinking ahead, asking ahead, but they were lied to by the district - yeah the same district staff like Danielle says, that are willing to have special needs children go to a school during construction. And shallow thinkers fall for the tactic of pitting two worthy groups against each other in order to point the finger away from the real source of troubles. I see you blogging in behalf of SPS in several places - do they pay you?
Posted by grannygreen on March 5, 2014 at 1:22 PM · Report this
Regardless of whether or not the SPS communicated honestly with NWC, I agree with previous comments. NWC has known for years about this possibility. What did NWC key staff and leaders do to anticipate this? Why didn't they do what they're pointing fingers at SPS for... planning ahead. NWC had years to look at alternate sites and plan accordingly. NWC needs to point the finger towards themselves
Posted by Objective observer on March 5, 2014 at 1:51 PM · Report this
"Regardless of whether or not the SPS communicated honestly with NWC, I agree with previous comments." Seriously? What a jaded way to view the world.

There is documentation that NWC was being proactive with their inquiries to SPS, and were being LIED to. This is a Non-Profit organization that provides families of special needs children a safe place to grow and develop, many of them at little to no cost. They operate on a very small budget so that they can provide scholarships to families who couldn't otherwise afford this type of care.

But apparently rather than taking the word of their landlord and partner of the past 28 years, they should have been out competing with the private sector for expensive real estate in Seattle!?!? Rather to continue to operate on a small budget so they could provide scholarships to those in need, you'd rather have them line the pockets of various real estate companies?

I'm not sure what is more disturbing, the mismanagement/miscommunication of SPS, or some of the posts here that are defending these actions. As GrannyGreen mentioned, I'm curious as to the motives behind some of these posts...
Posted by SLOG Watcher on March 5, 2014 at 2:40 PM · Report this
Cascade, or Wilson Pacific, is not one big building, it is a bunch of small buildings close to each other. The AC does not come on often and the heater is always running in the spring so the windows are usually open. If the windows have to be open and the building is literally right in front of the window then how will that noise possibly be contained?
I could see how this would be easier with one big traditional school as we generally picture with non-opening windows, and functioning AC and good insulation, but this is not the case at WP.
Posted by not worried on March 5, 2014 at 4:38 PM · Report this
A very large problem with this plan is the fact that the kids would be occupying the site during the demolition.

Wilson Pacific is old enough that it contains asbestos and lead. This would be a huge liability for the school district (tax payers).

Asbestos causes cancer and lead causes brain damage. While it "may" be a safe situation for the adults working on the site, no level of exposure to asbestos is considered safe for children. And very little exposure to lead is considered safe.

I don't think that very many parents would feel comfortable agreeing to this situation for their children (not to mention the smaller siblings and pregnant mothers).
Posted by Snickerdoodle on March 5, 2014 at 8:44 PM · Report this
I read that NWCenter has a 10 year lease with a 6 month lease termination clause. I believe NWCenter approached the school district and offered to purchase the property in Nov 2013. The district declined, but still did not inform NWCenter of the decision to evict them, a decision that was made a full year and a half earlier. How can our community organizations thrive or even remain viable in climate of deception and obfuscation?
Posted by Roxxy on March 5, 2014 at 9:23 PM · Report this
@8: Noise would be contained by scheduling the truly noisy work after school hours. Not every moment of construction involves jackhammers.

Anyway, if @9 is right that asbestos removal would be unable to be carried out behind a quarantine, or when school is out of session, then that is indeed a valid concern. Do we know for a fact that asbestos is present, or is that just guesswork at this point?
Posted by d.p. on March 6, 2014 at 1:59 AM · Report this
The presence of asbestos is confirmed.
Posted by Snickerdoodle1 on March 6, 2014 at 9:13 AM · Report this

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