Monday, January 25, 2016

Threatened Childcare Sites - Think About Uniting

I know from the Soup for Teachers group that a couple of childcare groups are involved in the fight over the possible closure of up to 19 sites located at SPS sites.  But I have also heard from many concern parents especially around how late they are hearing about this issue, for both themselves and their childcare provider (the former to find childcare and the latter to relocate.) 

I also know that there has been some outreach to members of the City Council.  Naturally, parents can reach out to whoever they feel might be able to help but the lines of governance and oversight are fairly clear here.  The City has nothing to do with this issue except, of course, that they, too, want SPS space.  Not exactly neutral parties.

My suggestions are to:

1) Go to one of this week's district meetings (see Seattle Schools This Week thread) and hand Dr. Nyland a letter with your concerns. 

2) Find like-minded parents at your school and get as many signatures on any letter to Dr. Nyland or the Board as possible.

3) It's hard because no one knows for certain which schools are being targeted but reach out to other schools in your region and create a coalition to advocate.  There is strength in numbers so use it.

4) Go to the directors' community meetings and ask how you can be part of any parent advisory board. 

Anytime you write to anyone, be sure to cc Flip Herndon, Facilities, and the entire board, spsdirectors@seattleschools.org.


alex said...

Thanks so much for these suggestions! We at Gatewood are on the list and trying to organize out responses. I testified at the 1/20 board meeting, and many Gatwood parents have emailed the school board and the Council--interestingly, I got a response from the Council and not the board. I would love to join forces with other parents in the same boat. We learned less than two weeks ago thy our provider is on the list. How were the providers on the list chosen? They constitute only 30% of onsite child care programs at SPS. How will the final decisions be made? We need transparency from the district!

murray said...

Do you know where we can find the list online?

Melissa Westbrook said...

There is no public list. I'm certain Facilities knows exactly where they are thinking of closing childcare but it's a state secret.

I think they don't want to cause upset but really, they are doing it anyway by being silent.

I also think they may be doing the time-honored district thing of trying to wait as late as possible to try to push the Board into something on "we have to make these decisions now."

alex said...

I don't think it's public. There is no transparency. The only reason we know is that our child care provider sent a letter home! It's so bizarre!

Melissa Winchester said...

Did your provider get an official letter from the district naming them as one of the 19? I thought that no one was going to know until 2/3.

Anonymous said...

We got a similar letter- I don't think the providers actually know. They are just trying to rally as many parents as possible. I have to say, at many of the schools I think the classroom space is more needed than the dedicated childcare space. I hope the district and providers are reviewing cafeteria and gym options, to see whether that may be viable. There are more spaces amenable to childcare than there are to classrooms.


Catherine said...

I've watched how SPS has treated childcare programs in their buildings for 15 years. In our local school, the child care program have been kicked out at least 3 times, two for space, one I don't know what it was about. One time is was done in August for that school year. I can't fathom putting anyone through that roller coaster: kids, parents, staff... what.a.mess.

Po3 said...

If they release the list those of schools where childcare centers will be closed those families will come out in full force, but by keeping it a secret they dilute the protest. It actually a very clever tactic and I am disappointed that the board is allowing it to happen.

My bet is that the northend, where there is extreme overcrowding, will be hit hard.

I would look at schools that have Boys & Girls Club in a dedicated space.

BF Day
Salmon Bay

Anonymous said...

CDSA and Kids Co also have dedicated spaces throughout the city. They have sent notes home too. Our school has every available large space in use after school. No place to relocate onsite childcare. No nearby community center. Where exactly does the district think hundreds of elementary students are going to go? Does no educational or political leader in this city understand the rent situation caused by the high tech boom? Does no district leader want to own up to the fact that they couldn't plan their way out of a box when we were all screaming years ago that we were about to run out of space? I knew about it and my kids weren't even in school yet. I lay this big fat t**d at the feet of Nyland, Murray and Council. Get it together and find a safe affordable place for our city's young kids. Parents cannot undo the fruits of the insane city density push and lack of Seattle schools planning on their own.


Lynn said...

I have a question that is related to more general capacity issues than child care - but it's all part of the same puzzle. What is happening at Schmitz Park after the school moves out this spring? There are many, many portable classrooms on site. Why are staff planning to buy 14 new portables instead of reusing them?

Charles Wright's plan had been to move city preschool classrooms into Schmitz Park and since the board didn't approve that as far as I can tell the building's future use has not been considered. The Decatur building is in the same position.

My thought is that they could refresh Schmitz Park over the summer, remove the portable village and keep the kindergarten and first grade classrooms in the old building. That would leave room on site for a special education preschool classroom or two and before and after school care. The new Schmitz Park building would then not be overcrowded when it opens and would also have room for before and after school care. The schools could share a principal and place a vice principal in the old building.

Decatur could be used in the same way to relieve pressure at one of the many overcrowded schools in the NE.

Oh - and what's going on with EC Hughes? I still think STEM will have to move there because we're going to need Boren for middle school.

Anonymous said...

From the Jan 15th Friday memo - it appears no one will know for sure until after the end of open enrollment in March. That just seems truly goofy (and beyond problematic)

Question“When will we know the specific schools and what spaces will be occupied at those schools?”
Enrollment Planning has provided a preliminary projection at our elementary and K
-8 schools to allow Capital Projects and Planning staff to begin their work efforts, hire architects/engineers to begin the design process and assess the loads on existing building systems. The Enrollment Planning Department will refine their enrollment projections in late January 2016 and finalize their enrollment projections for the 2016-2017 school year after the Open Enrollment period closes early March 2016. Capital Projects and Planning Department will utilize this new data to produce school-specific recommendations and notify the Board of Directors and building principals as to added classrooms required to meet enrollment growth and added classrooms to meet class size reduction goals. Capital Projects and Planning Department personnel will follow the Board of Directors’priorities when meeting with the building principals, then work with our Community Relations department
to communicate these impacts to the broader community

Link to Memo


Watching said...

The city's prek program will pit child care and prek against each other. Will we see another organized campaign of poor families that need and desire preK at the John Stanford Center, and, at the same time, see other families wanting child care space?

Tim Burgess, in a letter to voters, told citizens that the city didn't need prek space.

Tim Burgess had the opportunity to support safe child care and prek. However, he pitted a child care initiative against the city's prek initiative. He is a disgrace.

alex said...

Our provider, Cottage at Gatewood, got a letter from the district saying they were on a list of programs that could potentially be closed.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Director Burke put this up elsewhere but here it is again:

"Demographic Research Information Session, Friday, January 29:
Enrollment Planning is pleased to host our second Demographic Research Information Session on Friday, January 29, from 12-1 pm, at the John Stanford Center in room 2700. Our demographer, Dr. Natasha Rivers, will discuss the recent housing study with Integrated Economics that explores the relationship between housing and enrollment. Dr. Rivers will also briefly discuss a set of topics ranging from the Seattle Let’s Move transportation levy to the challenges of addressing inequality in a growing city with economic opportunity and increased homelessness. The presentation, followed by a question and answer session, highlights how these topics currently and may potentially impact enrollment in the district. SPS staff and public are welcome to attend. Comments and questions may be emailed to nmrivers@seattleschools.org."

Anonymous said...

Fairmont Park has been discussing taking the daycare space for classrooms since its opening. Looks like it will happen next school year. The YMCA is already using the gym for after school care in addition to 2 dedicated classrooms.

When Fairmont park opened Gatewood enrollment dropped and they lost teachers. The opening of Fairmont park was supposed to take pressure off Gatewood and restore their music space, preserve their library, storage, and daycare space. Has the South end of west Seattle really grown by hundreds of kids in 2 years or is something fishy going on?


Anonymous said...

I think most(all? Unless they are not currently operating in space that could be used as classroom space.) providers got that letter, alex. They are all at risk of being moved. Ours is Kidsco, which I know runs programs at several schools, so they are probably just operating under the assumption that one of their programs is probably on the secret list.

I know the principal at TC had been talking about trying to get Decatur as an enrichment center/childcare center for the NE. I think we need the classrooms too badly. Even if gyms and cafeterias are currently in use in schools with classrooms dedicated to childcare- the uses could be swapped, and those after school programs can take place in classrooms after school. It is nice for the childcare programs that they get to store stuff on site in classrooms sized rooms not used for any other purpose, but it is not necessary for quality childcare for kids. If we had gotten ahead of the capacity crisis it would not have needed to come to this, but we have not, and so now here we are.


Anonymous said...

I am not a working parent, but I can imagine the stress the potential loss of after school care is causing. It seems especially unfair to take away childcare the same year that most elementary schools are going to get out at 2pm. My daughter's school currently lets out at 3:40pm, and some parents are able to get to work early and pick up at the end of the day without using childcare. Next year school will get out at 2pm, and there will be a greater demand for after school care.

Is the district even willing to provide bus transportation to more off-site childcare facilities since they are saying the in school providers must find space elsewhere?


alex said...

We are trying to confirm with our child care provider if she thinks that ALL onsite child care programs got a letter from the district, or just some. I apologize if I am inadvertently spreading erroneous information on that.

BUT, regardless, they are going to select 19 programs to close, and there has been no community input into that process, and no criteria by which the 19 will be selected. That process should be utterly transparent.

And @Sleeper, my kid's school is not over-crowded. Our enrollment was as high as 500 two years ago, and now it's at 430. And, we have a high quality affordable pre-school program open from 7a - 6p in the two child care classrooms during the day. The program is FULL, with a waiting list, and in use all day long. WHY would we close that down? It's part of our overall school community, and part of what enables me, as a working mother, to go to work. I know my kid is in a good program when I go to work, and that program will now be running from 2 pm until 6 pm, thanks to the bell time changes, and they can't just operate in a cafeteria with no office, storage space or kitchen. It's not that simple to keep kids entertained for four hours a day.

And, finally, we need a comprehensive, long-term plan to capacity management. We can't do this one year at a time, in crisis mode. It's not good planning or policy.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Helen, I wondered that as well. Would parents drop their kids off at daycare and the district come pick them up and bring them to school (and the reverse)? I was pondering this and wondering if it might be more cost-effective picking up a whole group of kids than more piecemeal.

I don't know.

I will say that capacity needs ARE great at some schools and principals are having a hard time rearranging to satisfy everyone.

But, oh this district and how they roll things out. Terrible.

Anonymous said...

There is a capacity crisis in this district.

It is the job of the school district to put teaching & learning first. It is the job of the city to provide access to childcare for working families with school age children. Agree, that is very nice to have on campus, and it does wonderful things for community, but it's not critical to the school district's mission.

I also agree 100% that we need transparency. But I actually think the district is doing the right thing taking over classroom space for learning. And frankly these decisions should be based on numbers and not emotions.

We need more seats in the buildings, it's as simple as that. If your school is not at capacity, it's because its borders could probably use some adjusting. There are spots in the city that are absolutely bursting. In this current climate, full-day private preschool housed in a public school building is a luxury for sure.

These programs don't have to close. They'll have to adjust. As will the city and the district. There are some good ideas out there and in this discussion:

1. These programs can store their supplies off-campus and use classrooms, cafeterias, gyms, libraries, etc after hours. In many cases they would be able to share storeroom space on campus.

2. These programs can splinter their offerings into smaller enrichment-type classes, with mobile instructors who bring their own supplies and curricula. Several larger schools are already running their after school enrichment programs this way.

3. The city can increase childcare options at community centers.

4. Places like YMCA and Boys & Girls Club can increase offerings & enrollment.

5. SPS can provide transportation to off-site care centers (I believe they already do in many cases but they can make this policy and more widely known).


Anonymous said...

I should also add, if your school is not at capacity, then it's less likely the onsite childcare would be cut. I imagine they are looking at cutting in the schools with the most need.


Anonymous said...

The buildings are EMPTY after school. How infuriating to bus a 6 year old across town while a huge building sits empty. Use the school space. Adapt by allowing boys and girls and kids Co storage units and access to classrooms, library and playground and gym/cafeteria from 2 to 6. Enough with the BS. Share the space.

Anonymous said...

Well, see, if you keep the programs at the building then you have to pay a custodian more and an administrator more and manage rent differently and handle different insurance requirements and different license requirements and every single one of those is more than the system challenged school bureaucrats can take on because they can't handle the capacity headaches in the first place. So it's punt and forget about the goal which is first and foremost keeping kids safe. Attention Mayor Murray


Anonymous said...

I didn't hear anyone from the district say that were kicking any program out. They just said that they weren't able to continue offering free, dedicated space to these businesses. I agree with Adjusting - the school's primary mission is to educate, not provide day care. That seems more like a livability issue that should be the responsibility of the city, not the school district.

Ridiculous - These programs can go on using the "empty" school afterschool. They just may have to lose their dedicated space. I personally find it more infuriating to know there are school spaces sitting empty during the school day, reserved for these businesses, while kids are having to overcrowd into other rooms or lose playground space to portables.


Anonymous said...

Priorities sounds like a plant from Seattle schools. Or a parent who has after school care covered.


Anonymous said...

Absolutely priorities.
I guess the only solution that makes any sense is to hire a fleet of busses and bus the kids to the puyallup fair grounds. Working together to make it feasible for children to use their neighborhood school with its cafeteria , restrooms and playgrounds would just be unreasonable and far too complicated. Best if we close these buildings down and lock the doors at 2pm. It just makes sense.

Anonymous said...

And yes, our aftercare program was told they would not be able to operate on school grounds .. Not just dedicated space... Due to number of kids , fire codes Etc with too many kids in cafeteria as they aren't allowed in the empty classrooms... So yea they are being kicked out in essence

alex said...

Our school space is NOT empty during the day. It's full with 40 preschool kids. That matters.

Anonymous said...

Nope, not a school employee. I am a parent whose child does go to an off site facility for aftershcool care because we have not been able to get into the school program. The kids walk to their program with adults and the world doesn't end. But let's move past the feckless ad hominen attack.

Ridiculous - you can say the sky is falling all you want but that doesn't make your hysteria true. I agree, use the space after school. Just get the gear out of a closet or storage unit instead of keeping a class room quarantined from school kids durine the scool day. But feel free to bus your kid to Puyallup instead. That is your perogative.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Sorry but I don't agree with sharing classroom and library space. Those are dedicated space, funded for certain uses.

I know that in some schools, janitor space has been reconfigured. That's getting to a near-crisis issue.

Anonymous said...

I'm not going to go so far as to give the district the benefit of the doubt here (I've witnessed way too many of their shenanigans for that). But I am going to give them this:

A private program should not displace classrooms in an overcrowded public school.

In situations where capacity is at a premium, SPS should take over the space. If they take over the space they should work with the city and school administrators to work out reasonable alternatives to the existing childcare. No one is talking about busing to Puyallup for goodness sake.

Melissa, how is a Kidsco type place different from an after school enrichment class that uses a classroom or library? My kids have had after school enrichment classes held in classrooms, cafeterias, gyms and libraries in four different school buildings. Maybe it's the instructional focus vs a childcare focus?


Melissa Westbrook said...

I cannot speak for every after-school enrichment program/class. I would assume, though, that most are:

- only one day a week for an hour or so versus every school day for several hours
- use a specific space rather than multiple space (i.e. gym and playground)
- may be more academic (math club or tutoring)

I am not against childcare; no one is. I have told at least one director that it is absolutely imperative that for every single space that makes the list, it is proven that the school is overcrowded and the space is needed for academic reasons.

I started this thread hoping to see that people were organizing themselves to advocate for more transparency and oversight, not to pit people against each other.

Anonymous said...

Priorities- no sky falling here ... Was being sarcastic. You and I agree that all available space need to be used for classrooms during school hours. Unfortunately there are not "walk to" spaces in many neighborhoods and the reality will be a costly and silly system of bussing across town....

And adjusting, that is my feeling too...if enrichment programs can use those spaces and they do everyday , then kids co should be able to as well. To be fair all use should be eliminated if that is the issue. Then perhaps more parents will get outraged by the waste of
Available safe space for our kids.

Lynn said...

I suspect the after school enrichment classes can be held in classrooms because they are considered recreational care and are not required to be licensed by the Washington State Department of Early Learning. Nobody is privileging one set of familes over the other.

Enrichment classes cannot be counted on to provide regular child care to allow parents to work. At our school they don't start meeting until October, there is a break between sessions (no classes this month) and each class meets only one day per week.

Melissa Winchester said...

Licensing is HUGE when it comes to an after school program using classrooms or other areas as spaces. You have to reconfigure and change so may aspects of the room (solid locks on cabinets, shatter proof light bulbs, Velcro EVERYTHING down that is on an open shelf--what program can take over a teachers room like that?!?

Also, if programs need to relocate off-site, how in the world can they afford to rent a big space in Seattle right now? Give a time line! Let them try to plan. There is an empty parking lot in my neighborhood for sale for 2.8 million!!! EMPTY PARKING lot!

Anonymous said...

Couldn't we loosed the licensing for these programs for them to be able to use this space that is obviously already declared safe for children? It is such a waste.

Lynn said...

Loosen? The licensing requirements are set at the state level.

Anonymous said...

Yep typo. Maybe that is a point we could try to get help with, so that school space can be used. We can't just throw up our hands and say "just Move and figure something out" Let's
Actually find the blocking points and appeal for changes to allow common sense solutions to be put in place. Enough helplessness and BS!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Melissa W. (hello, other Melissa W),interesting you should talking about buying property. There is some set-aside money in BEX and BTA IV (should it pass in about two weeks) for property purchase. However, there was a Seattle housing discussion at a Facebook page and Joe Wolf of SPS said this:

"David Lange: Joe Wolf what are the possibilities of schools taking over a floor inside a tower of density? Do schools have to be in separate spaces or is there a future being just downstairs from some families? Innocent question from a newbie.

Joe Wolf David - my Associate Superintendent, Dr. Herndon is in discussion with developers regarding that possibility. SPS wants to own the space it occupies so that's how the conversation is being framed."

Wolf then goes on to explain about space, indoor and outdoor, for a K-5 school.

That says to me that the district is still trying to site a downtown school. Is that where we really need space at this point? I don't think so and I am quite surprised that they want to buy it downtown given the costs. The district doesn't seem to be concerned with the decades of leasing space for The Center School so I'm surprised they want to buy anything downtown.

Melissa Winchester said...

I am in the Ballard neighborhood and our school is over capacity. What about safety? Isn't it against the fire code? The north end is booming and that is where space is needed.

Mom of 3 said...

Yes, Melissa Winchester. It's crazy. It's crazy to see all the development, how crowded our schools are and the developers have kicked in nothing to create more schools for all this density.

I guess our politicians have taken a liking to the newly legal weed. They're obviously smoking something if they don't see the correlation between development and need for more schools!

Anonymous said...

Exactly Melissa win- our school in QA is over building capacity as well ... It is against fire code but somehow they work it out to make exceptions and traffic flow plans ( i.e. Fourth graders use this entrance etc). Soooo I'm sure exceptions can me made to allow use of these huge child friendly buildings for quality safe after school care!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Lynn, that makes perfect sense. It's the licensing. I did a little digging and found this description of licensing requirements for school age care. Enrichment programs fall under "Recreational (Unlicensed) Care." http://www.del.wa.gov/care/school/types.aspx

And Ridiculous, I agree. Some creative problem solving is definitely in order! It makes sense for SPS to shift some of the burden onto the other players in order to address their capacity issues. Every player should take some responsibility here, and no single one of these is the be-all end-all solution:

SPS can provide access to alternative spaces on-site;
SPS can provide transportation to alternative spaces off-site;
Independently owned programs can take on the burden of getting those spaces licensed;
Independently owned programs can transition to a recreational care focus that does not require licensing;
The city can subsidize rents/relocating costs and offer up alternative programs;
Families can ride out the changes and advocate for fairness and equity.

We all want to make childcare work in this city and we all want adequate learning space for our kids. We need transparency to see the bigger picture. And I agree with others on this thread who have said this is a not the way to manage capacity, piecemeal, one crisis at a time. SPS needs a real plan.


Owler said...

If the childcare programs were allowed to use the classrooms, who pays for the transition from classroom to daycare space? In most classrooms I see, kids leave their water bottles and papers at their desk, and there's often caddies for supplies everywhere. Teachers use every available inch of space for instructional material, because they don't have closets to put things out of sight anymore. Are you going to pay the teachers for the time it would take them to put away their classroom material? How are you going to protect the classroom materials?

My kid's elementary school is hardly an "empty" building after school. Between teachers working late in their classrooms and the after school enrichment activities that go on in the gym, the lunchroom, the library...I don't know where a childcare program would meet that isn't already in use.

mirmac1 said...

I suggest the B&A families direct some of this energy towards pressuring Olympia to provide funds for capacity. Rather than rob Peter to pay Paul, let's get the part-timers down south to get to work on these matters. They would rather spend time on charter school work arounds than serving the vast majority of children in difficult circumstances.

Stevens parent said...

Our principal at Stevens just informed our daycare provider that we are not on the list. Why is the list of schools or information so piecemeal. The district needs to inform the daycare centers and parents now so they can make informed decisions now and not at the last minute.

Ms. A said...

It's not just before- and after-care programs, which obviously create hardship for working families (especially now there is a 3-tier bell program). It's also the preschools associated with the before- and after-care programs that the school district is closing. And, the school district seems to be a bit bi-polar about the whole process, ignoring the fact that they are collaborating with the city to open 12 underutilized preschool programs, and then listing existing well-attended preschool programs for closure.

My 3-year old daughter is starting preschool next week because she needs special education/speech and language services. The preschool was RECOMMENDED by the school district because it is located in a Seattle public school building at Gatewood Elementary in West Seattle. The school district told me that even though they are required to provide special ed services to children age 3+, they wouldn't provide my child any services unless she was located at a Seattle public school building.

Guess what - they also provide before- and after-care. And, this week I learned that they are on the list of 19 programs that could be closed in September. So, my child can't receive these special ed services until she goes to kindergarten? Or, only if she goes to an preschool run by the city far from where I live? This is ridiculous. And, it doesn't only affect my child - there are 170 kids in this program - both preschool and school-age children.

Our preschool program also provided a copy of a letter from another program slated for closing in Queen Anne. It has been in its location for 28 years, serves a lot of special needs children, and just spent a $250k grant on facility renovations. The program believes the district knew about the renovations, but didn't tell the program about the closure until the renovations were over. http://nwcenterkids.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Form_Letter_For_Parents_V1.pdf

Ms. A said...

@Priorities (Anonymous)

Many of these preschool and before- and after-care programs do not receive FREE space. They have leases and pay rent to the school district.

Lynn said...

Ms. A,

The program on Queen Anne closed prior to this year. (I believe in the middle of the 2014-15 school year.) It was leasing an unused building - which is now housing a district K-8 school.

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