Pre-school prioritized ahead of before- and after-school care

After the jump is a letter from Associate Superintendent Flip Herndon to the Pathfinder community regarding the forced relocation of the before- and after-school care currently using school space.

The letter makes the District's priorities clear: the first priority is K-5 classroom space, then pre-school space, and then childcare space. While the letter suggests that "we may be able to find multiuse space (e.g. gyms and cafeterias) within our buildings that is licensable and will work for our childcare providers", it is not particularly optimistic about it.

As the District designs schools, I would be curious about the extent to which they include space for preschool or childcare in their facilities plans.

March 2016

Dear Blazing Trails’ Families,

Seattle is growing, and Seattle Public Schools (SPS) is running out of classroom space due to increased enrollment and state mandated reductions in class size (which require more classrooms). We deeply appreciate your understanding and patience as we work through the complexities associated with the capacity management challenges we face as a community and their potential impact on childcare, preschool providers and families. Last year, the School Board prioritized space based on our constitutional obligation to provide K-12 education first, our commitment to preschool second, and childcare third. School and community partnerships which support children outside the school day are an important element to K-12 education, and our goal is to sustain such relationships whenever possible.

In October 2015, the district sent a letter to all district partners including your child’s childcare and/or preschool provider, alerting them of potential impacts to the provider’s dedicated space (space used during school hours) for the upcoming 2016-2017 school year. We also communicated that if they were to be impacted, partners would receive notification as quickly as possible. In order to ensure we are working with the most accurate data, our space analysis and capacity management recommendations are provided after our February 1st preliminary enrollment projections are completed.

Today, we informed school principals and your child’s childcare/preschool provider that they need to make alternative plans for the upcoming school year. The dedicated space they have been using is needed for a K-5 classroom in 2016-2017. We anticipate that all providers notified today will need to move from their dedicated space by July 1, 2016.

Over the next few weeks the district will be working with the school site, principal, and providers to review any possible space in the school that will work for before and after school care. Our intent is to preserve onsite childcare whenever possible. We are hopeful that we may be able to find multiuse space (e.g. gyms and cafeterias) within our buildings that is licensable and will work for our childcare providers. Preschool requires dedicated space during the school day so our solutions are very limited, but we will work closely with the City Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL) to support providers as they transition services into any potential community sites.

We are very sensitive to the impact any uncertainty could have on you, your child and family, regardless of the outcome. In the days ahead, we recommend families communicate directly with their providers to receive the most up to date information about the status of their program for the 2016-2017 school year.

In closing, I want to express my appreciation for your concern over capacity challenges and potential loss of childcare and or preschool services at your child’s school. How providers and partners serve our families, in or out of our schools, will need to evolve in the near future and we look forward to working with you and others to find opportunities that support students, families and the full community.


Flip Herndon
Associate Superintendent
Facilities & Operations

Next Steps

We will continue to revise our enrollment projections based on open enrollment (which is the opportunity for families to select schools outside their assigned attendance area) and again after school opens in the fall. While our projections are historically very accurate (about 99%), we cannot predict our exact classroom needs with 100% predictability in advance of the school year.

Meanwhile, there are ways families can participate in finding positive solutions. We have been inspired by the collaboration and mutual commitment of providers, partners and families in looking for viable options. The following are some things families may consider:

  • Offer assistance to your childcare and or preschool provider to help identify possible solutions within the school building or community which may be an option. In the next few months providers will be meeting with facility and school staff to audit the school spaces and determine if there are viable solutions onsite.
  • Help share information with other families about the potential loss of childcare and preschool services at the school site to ensure all of the school community is aware of these changes. Your help is critical in this effort.
  • Provide a positive climate for shared ideas and solutions. Our capacity management challenges are a community challenge; not simply a district challenge. Having community discussions which are solution based is a positive way to facilitate dialogue and positive actions

Updates will continue to be posted on the district website as more information becomes available. Please visit


Anonymous said…
The new Loyal Heights Elementary will have a stand alone, 2-classroom preschool and a fenced-off play area, occupying about 10,000 square feet of our small and highly desired playground space. This has been non-negotiable with the district from the start. I am fairly certain all new construction/expansion will contain something similar.

You can find the school specs at the bottom of this page.

-NW Mom
Anonymous said…
Between the draconian and inflexible assignment plans and the loss of before and after school childcare, SPS is truly waging a war against working parents.

-SPS parent
Seattle Parent said…
The Loyal Heights Preschool Classroom is disappointing because when we voted to expand that school on the BEXIII Levy, the City of Seattle Preschool Program did not exist. That was voted in during an election that took place years afterward. The preschool shown in the plans takes up a large area that could be used as additional playground space. I find it very disappointing that our K-12 tax dollars are being used to fund the Preschool Buildings for the City of Seattle Preschool program.

The election materials for the City's Preschool Program said that they would fund the locations (which I took to mean buildings) in addition to the program itself. Seattle Public Schools should demand payment for the Preschool building at the Loyal Heights Elementary school from the City of Seattle Preschool Program
Anonymous said…
This wreaks havoc with the capacity planning that FACMAC did related to Loyal Heights - those classrooms are DESPERATELY needed for student capacity, there is NO space for 2 preschool dedicated rooms in the lot-constrained LH building - say what you want about FACMAC, they absolutely understood the capacity crisis numbers better than anyone currently serving downtown, and they tried desperately to get seats added where they're needed. They butted up against a lot of other issues, interests and groups - but they knew every space at LH was needed for kids around the LH building.

The expansion of LH was meant to take pressure off the elem's around it - north, south, and east - that's one of the reasons FACMAC rec'd expanding LH instead of Northbeach (b/c expanding NB wouldn't take pressure off areas south of LH).

Setting aside space in LH does not solve the crunch at Adams! And that remodel was supposed to help LH AND ADAMS -

Seriously, the preschool people are driving the ship down there. What the heck? Flip Herndon was in the loop on the FACMAC decisions, everyone should understand how crowded Adams is as well - what is going on?

ADAMS families - get involved here alongside LH families on this issue right now - b/c the extra rooms for students at LH will help relieve your crowding too. That was the point!

-- been there
Patrick said…
Preschool space can be anywhere! It's a lot easier to have before- and after-school care at the school. I haven't had a dog in this fight for years, but that just doesn't make sense.
Anonymous said…
Back when the prioritization for space use was being voted on (late 2015?), I recall one of the Director's asking if City Preschools were included in the no. 2 priority of Preschool. I believe it was Flip who responded that the number two priority for preschool was for SPS operated preschools, and did not include the city preschools.

I don't recall if this conversation was reported from a committee meeting or a Board of Directors meeting. If it was from a Board of Directors meeting then it would be on tape.

Charlie Mas said…
I think Patrick raises a critical issue. What needs to be on site and what doesn't? SPS is not the provider of universal pre-school. It is not in the SPS mission.

Isn't this EXACTLY what people were concerned about? Will Pre-K some day take priority over PCP?
mirmac1 said…
If pressure at LH is to be applied, it shall be for the disabled preschoolers that shall be served by SPS or risk further federal sanction.
Anonymous said…
@Seattle Parent

The decision to expand the Loyal Hts building was made as part of BEXIV (not BEXIII) planning, but yes it was made well in advance of any (public) discussion of the Seattle Preschool Program.

-North-end Mom
Anthony said…
I've not followed this issue, but if the city wants to push-out child care for their prek is time for parents to take the fight to City Hall.
SPS Mom said…

I have the same memory that you have. That when prioritization was voted upon, there was a clarifying question and I too believe that Flip said city preschools weren't included in the preschool category. I believe it was at a board meeting because I wasn't attending/watching committee meetings. I think it was when the board vote was done, so which meeting to watch should be able to be determined by looking at the board agendas.
My recollection is that after BEX II, they wanted to bulid to have versatile buildings and that includes pre-K/childcare. Somewhere along the line - with the Strategic Plan - that morphed to an order of K-5 academic needs, pre-k and childcare. I don't think I even recall being phazed by this but when I think back, it feels like that's when the City was pre-planning the pre-k levy.

The Mayor seems to have a plan for all SPS. Wish he'd let us in on it.
Anonymous said…
It makes sense when building a new building put in one or two classrooms that are suitable for preschool (this mostly means having an adjoining bathroom). This allows the district to place a preschool class there if needed (I am thinking of the special ed preschool classes required under IDEA). It does not preclude those rooms being used for other purposes though - no harm done at all if older children end up in a classroom with a bathroom (kind of nice for kindergarteners, actually, especially early in the school year when they are still learning their way around). I haven't seen to plans for LH, but it sounds like there is something more going on than just ensuring the building has a space that could be used for a preschool classroom.
Mom of 4

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