The following meeting summary is from Kurt Westman, a Wedgwood community member and past WCC President, who attended the Wedgwood Open Space Neighborhood Coalition’s meeting.
On Tuesday evening, September 11th, a gathering of over 70 concerned Wedgwood residents met to discuss a Seattle Public Schools proposal to build a second, 650 seat K-5 elementary school on the current site of the Thornton Creek School playfield and playground. This proposal would also keep in place the current Thornton Creek School building and programming for up to 400 students. This would result in a combined campus of over 1000 elementary-agestudents, and the loss of the open space and playfields at Thornton Creek School. This proposal is included in the upcoming BEX 4 schools levy to be voted upon in February.
Obviously, this proposal is gathering much attention and concern throughout Wedgwood, and the community at large. The concerns expressed during the meeting centered around issues near and dear to Wedgwood residents, as expressed in the Wedgwood Vision Plan
Concerns were discussed involving the loss of open recreational space and playfields within the neighborhood. Which, during non-school hours, besides being the only large park environment for much of the neighborhood east of 35th Ave NE, are also home to local youth baseball, softball and soccer leagues for children at their most fundamental, developmental age. The issue of childhood obesity and the need for open space in neighborhoods was expressed as a means by which this epidemic can be stopped.
In addition, major objections were expressed regarding increased traffic, it’s mitigation, as well as the inadequate infrastructure of the residential streets surrounding the campus. Many of the local streets have none or incomplete sidewalks, and do not provide for a legitimate safe route to school. The streets themselves are in poor condition, and are too narrow for traffic as it exists in current conditions. Most streets are also physically incapable of handing current bus and vehicle traffic, with neighbors experiencing ongoing water main breaks, sinkholes, and washouts on the margins with gravel shoulders lacking sidewalks or adequate drainage.
Educational and safety concerns were also heard in regards to having that volume of students aged 5 to 12 in a crowded campus environment, with little or no outdoor recess or field space being provided. The educational environment and atmosphere would suffer, to the detriment of the students Seattle Public Schools is charged to serve.
The overall consensus from this community meeting is that Seattle Public Schools can and must do better than the Thornton Creek proposal as it stands today. Seattle Public Schools needs to do better for this greater community, before the final draft of the BEX Levy is written and approved to be placed before voters. Seattle citizens do a good job supporting school levies. On the assumption that this levy will also pass, as it is currently drafted, this levy contains a proposal for Wedgwood for which the majority of participants in this meeting, as well as the current site council for Thornton Creek School, finds deeply flawed, needing further consideration and modification by the school board and superintendent. Action items were initiated with letters, and petitions to be circulated around Wedgwood.
Participation is encouraged in the BEX Open House being held at Whitman Middle School on September 20th, the Wedgwood Council community meeting on October 4th, as well as during the visit by Superintendent Jose Banda at Bryant Elementary on Oct 1st. There is a short window of time right now to influence the school district in making changes to the Thornton Creek proposal that will not only allow for them to continue to fill their needs for increased capacity, but also to provide for a greater benefit to the Wedgwood community for whom they serve.