CHILD CARE CRISIS UPDATE: Leslie Harris – On the Case -NEXT: EMAIL CITY COUNCIL & MAYOR
We received an email from SPS Board Representative Leslie Harris on Friday, May 20 in response to our appeals earlier last week for the School District to work with the City and Mayor to develop a solution for our after-school care crisis here at Schmitz Park. We’re asking for equitable access to childcare, access that other schools have currently that Schmitz Park families have had eroded over the last few years due to removing busing, expanding boundaries and bell time changes for next year. Read her full email response: Email from Leslie Harris. And the follow up from our Legislative Chair: Response from Legislative Chair
It is clear that the School District’s primary responsibility is the education of our children. However, it is also clear, that because of policy changes unique to Schmitz Park School, that it is essential we create a long-term solution involving the use of community facilities and busing to insure that our parents have piece of mind – and – our kids are cared for after their school day is over in a reliable, nurturing way. We are all ready and willing to pay, but need the City to step in as a partner to help provide a location and access, or a waiver for the use of our new school facility.
CALL TO ACTION: Email our City Council representative Lisa Herbold and our Mayor, Ed Murray – ask them to work on a swift, reliable and flexible solution to our after school care needs. Whether your child is impacted or not, this is an issue that effects the entire Schmitz Park Community. For data and content to craft your message, read background information from original post below. Send your messages TODAY!
BACKGROUND INFORMATION AND ORIGINAL POST:
The Schmitz Park PTA has sent a request for meeting and proposed solutions to both Lisa Herbold of the Seattle City Council and Leslie Harris, our representative on the Seattle School Board to address the crisis facing parents for after school care next year. Over 65 parents signed this letter on behalf of Schmitz Park families, and we encourage EVERY PARENT whether affected by the lack of after school care options or not, to email both representatives – compelling them to develop a solution to meet our care needs in West Seattle. For a full history of events leading up to our current predicament, read the full letter below, sent on behalf of parents by Legislative Co-Chairs Emily Giaquinta and Angela Cough.
Dear School Board Director Leslie Harris and Councilmember Lisa Herbold,
On behalf of concerned parents at Schmitz Park-Genesee Hill Elementary, we write this letter asking for help to address a growing crisis for our families. Schmitz Park-Genesee Hill Elementary is the largest elementary school in the District with 642 students enrolled for the 2015-2016 academic year. Our student population grows faster than the District’s increased enrollment figures resulting in the addition of 300 new seats since 2008. With our facility burdened by over enrollment, and portable count at the maximum allowed by City land use permits, we were given the gift of a new 650 seat school built on the nearby Genesee Hill campus. Our teachers, staff and students will move into the new building for the 2016-2017 school year.
Schmitz Park-Genesee Hill also is the only Madison/West Seattle High attendance area school that utilizes its own facility for Seattle Park & Recreation’s Hiawatha After School Care Program. We do not have a community center or public facility at our disposal within our school zone. For several years, our current building could not host a program large enough to fill the needs for the Hiawatha After Care Program because of square foot limitation. In July 2014, SPS eliminated bussing to other local community centers with available off site child care which added to the number of working parents at a loss for wrap around child care. Our PTA petitioned SPS to reinstate bussing to off site child care due to our facility limitations. They answered no.
The Schmitz Park-Genesee Hill community is eager to leave capacity restrictions behind us with the move into our new 90,000 square foot building. Unfortunately, that will not be the case. Preliminary enrollment figures have our student population reaching 700 students next year, including projections for 6 kindergarten classes. This results in multi-purpose classrooms, or “flex-areas”, designed and constructed for varied curriculum must be used for homeroom classes. The ripple effect of using those use flex-areas for classrooms means Hiawatha’s After Care Program will actually be reduced instead of expanded next year. Hiawatha currently offers after school care for approximately 100 students and there is a current wait list of 56. Next year, the program will only offer 60 slots and those were all filled this week by lottery to families already in the program receiving priority placement. 35 families losing their places in the program are now top of the wait list. Hiawatha hosted open enrollment to new families needing after school care yet none were placed including families with additional children entering school. These new families will be placed on the wait list starting at #36. Hiawatha cannot offer slots if their license is limited due to lack of facilities. If Schmitz Park-Genesee Hill enrolls 700 students, classroom space will be allocated for school use and not available for After Care slots. Our PTA petitioned SPS in 2014 to delay expanding our reference area boundaries because enrollment projections were exceeding the number of seats of the new building. They answered no.
Next year will bring a new Bell Time Schedule with Schmitz Park-Genesee Hill Elementary being dismissed at 2:05pm. Madison Middle School and West Seattle High are dismissed at 3:15pm. These bell time changes will prevent families from relying on older siblings or students for after school care. The new Bell Schedule makes the need for Hiawatha After Care even MORE dire as parents scramble to make up for the additional hour of after-school care required to accommodate this change. Yet, Instead of growing the After Care program to meet the increase in demand, it is being reduced. Our PTA petitioned SPS in 2015 to keep our Bell Schedule in Tier 2 to help mitigate the loss of older sibling or student provided after care knowing Hiawatha already could not meet the needs of our families. They answered no.
We now make our plea to you, our elected leaders, to act on our behalf. There are two possible solutions to address this problem:
1. Use the Schmitz Park Elementary building as a community facility allowing Hiawatha to operate an additional before and after school care program. There is no public plan for this building and it will be sitting vacant. The demand supports the ongoing use of this facility for a school or school care program.
2. Review the City Child Care license policy and allow Hiawatha to use common spaces for child care operations. At present, the new gymnasium, lunchroom, nor library can be used as After School Care spaces. 90,000 square feet of building yet Hiawatha is told only 60 children can join the program.
We know this will require pulling District and City resources together to solve this problem jointly for families and ensure that working parents have the security of knowing immediately that child care is in place when we return to school in September. The parents signing this letter below are here to ensure that meeting occurs and occurs soon. We have pursued all other avenues towards containing this crisis and now need a team effort. Please contact myself or Angela Cough, Schmitz Park-Genesee Hill Elementary PTA Legislative Co-Chairs if we can provide any further perspective or to set up a time to meet. We thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.
Emily Giaquinta & Angela Cough
Schmitz Park Elementary PTA Legislative Chairs
Jennifer Elger, Tony Martinez, Tracy Martinez, Jeff Jorgensen, Laurel Price, Jodi L. Kelly, Chantelle McCall, Chau Pho Tung, Kimberlee Soares, Alice Thavis, Rachel Merta, Ruth Williamson, Alicia Cummings, Amanda Nielsen, Stacie Langtry, Ellen Marson, Kathleen Reynolds, Michael Reynolds, Monica Miller, Sarah Colton, Nathan Todd, Merrick Bodmer, Fleur Godfried, Michael Godfried, Adam Wuerl, Valerie McDonald, Lindsay Campau, Jennie Wanamaker, James Wanamaker, Alison Read, Phil Read, Jennifer Taylor, Mark Taylor, Michelle Comazzetto, Ryan Comazzetto, Julie Riendl, Madeline Klem, Courtney Garcia, Jeff and Katie Chapman, Stacia Allen, Anthony and Catherine Caputo, Jenny Lau, Nicole Ott, Kevin Ziemer, Diane Bellisario, Michael Turner, Jessica Turner, Melissa Anderson, Erin Wagnild, Satomi Petty, William & Kelsey Edralin, Liza Anderson, Bruce Williamson, Jennifer S Allers, Cara Egan, Melinda & Chris Carter, Kelley O’Connor, Eleda West, Kimberly Johnson, Brandis Paden, Ludylyn Jumamil