Here's the latest on this story:
From My Northwest:
So far, the only response from the school district came in an email
saying they'll let Northwest Center know the next step after enrollment
numbers are in on March 7. By that time, Northwest Center will have
just three months left to figure out a plan.
From The Stranger Slog, now we have a Seattle legislator involved:
The Northwest Center understands that they may have to move, but is
asking for more time to find a suitable location for their
developmentally and physically disabled students, many of whom require a
facility that will accommodate their specific needs. SPS spokesperson
Teresa Wippel told me that the old Van Asselt school has been offered to
the Northwest Center, but Northwest Center President and CEO Tom
Everill says, "There is no offer of Van Asselt on the table—no
planning or site analysis has been done, and there are no applications
for construction permits or licensing."
It seems that neither group wants to be located anywhere but centrally. It makes sense but in the facilities landscape of SPS, not probable.
The aside to all this is reporter Danielle Henderson who I spoke with yesterday. She's new to Seattle, trying to understand the district and she asks the burning question:
I can't help but wonder—does Seattle Public Schools have a longterm plan or have any idea how to manage their demographics?
Here's what Rep Reuven Carlyle, whose district falls in the Queen Anne region, had to say:
He acknowledges that the district is facing a crisis of facilities
because of overcrowding, but when it comes to SPS' treatment of the
Northwest Center he gives them a failing grade:
"It’s been an F- when it comes to open, transparent community engagement and communications"
The legislative delegation had approved and then rescinded a $10 million
capital budget request to renovate the North Queen Anne location once
they found out how the funds were going to be used:
Rep. Carlyle and the legislative delegation are instead asking for $20
million to refurbish and reopen the Magnolia school, which can handle
400-500 students and help with the growing population, and an additional
$5 million for an additional school building. "We’d rather
invest $20 million in a very large, important vacant building that can
be part of longterm 20 year plan than invest $10 million in a short
term, stopgap facility that doesn’t help."
He is also thoughtful in his messaging:
Rep. Carlyle realizes the struggle the district is facing and commends
them for trying to find a solution, saying "No one is criticizing their
stress around managing an explosion of growth—that's a hard job. The
question is are they going into this with a sense of community engagement that our city demands?"
He also urges for a strategic approach, which Seattle Public Schools
doesn't appear to have right now. Carlyle says the issue is the system,
not the buildings currently being contested. "The district has
unbelievable turnover, and the management of the demographics has been subpar."
Not good. Not good at all. I'm surprised the Board hasn't publicly weighed in but then, the Board is in a bit of flux (and, of course, does not want to get browbeaten for "interfering.")