Residents Turn Out to Discuss the New, Proposed School on Thornton Creek Elementary School’s Playfields

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.


Residents participating at Wedgwood Open Space Neighborhood Coalition meeting. Photo courtesy of Kurt Westman.

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.

The Thornton Creek Elementary School playfields. Photo courtesy of Polly Aird.

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.

6 Replies to “Residents Turn Out to Discuss the New, Proposed School on Thornton Creek Elementary School’s Playfields”

  1. A lively discussion followed the presentation at the meeting of the School District’s BEX IV plan. People asked about the potential effect on property values, on the air we breathe, on the quality of our life, and on the conflict this plan presents to our Wedgwood Vision Plan. Most of all were concerns about the loss to Wedgwood of our treasured open space. Besides being used by the school children, it is a prime practice area for soccer and baseball leagues, is used by all ages for pick-up games, kit-flying, model airplane flying, and even cross-country skiing, and is a grand open space for dog owners to exercise their pets. Please write to Schools Superintendent Jose Banda as well as the School District Board and plan to attend the meeting of the School District on BEX IV to be held at Whitman Middle School in Shoreline on September 20. This is our best chance to get the plans changed.

  2. Kurt Westman has captured the mood and the content of the Wedgwood Open Space Neighborhood Coalition community meeting very well in his summary of the event. During the lively discussion period, several important concerns were brought to our attention that had not previously been emphasized. One was the concern over pollution impacts due to the projected increase in traffic of up to 840 additional car trips per day and many more daily buses than the current number of 10. In addition, concerns were expressed over the possible release of hazardous materials that could be buried under the fill covering the playfield remaining from the deconstructed Shearwater Housing Complex built on the site in 1924.

    The solution to the K-5 capacity deficit in North Seattle should not be solved at the detriment of one school community. This is a broader problem than just the Thornton Creek School Neighborhood. It is a NORTH SEATTLE problem. We are asking for a shared and fair solution, not an EASY FIX.

    The current School District proposal is contradictory to what over 800 residents expressed in their development of the Wedgwood Vision Plan. One vision being: Improve school yards to serve as additional community parks and provide green space/trees. The community values determined to be important in the Vision Plan are important today and we ask everyone to uphold them and help keep Wedgwood a wonderful place to live and raise our families.

  3. An absolutely fantastic summary of the issue–thank you, Kurt. I urge all Wedgwood neighbors to inform themselves about this issue and to make their voices heard within the district, the City of Seattle, and the parks department. Now is the time to work to change this plan, before it is decided. If you have questions about who to contact, feel free to email the Wedgwood Open Space Coalition at wedgwoodopenspace@yahoo.com

  4. How will the community seek a balance between their concerns and the District’s need to create more capacity for students living in your neighborhood and shoe-horned into overcrowded schools?

    I read a lot of complaints about this plan, but I don’t read any alternative solutions. How, exactly, does Carole Martens propose that all of North Seattle share the solution of adding 650 elementary school seats in the northeast part of the city? Perhaps Ms Martens isn’t aware of the plans to build or expand other schools in North Seattle at Wilson-Pacific, Olympic Hills, and North Beach. The burden of additional capacity is being shared. The entire burden is not falling on a single community. In addition, there are other communities that are bearing the burden now as their schools are overcrowded. Shall we continue to overcrowd them and have those children suffer to preserve your play fields?

    As for the car-trips, they are already happening as those children have to go to school somewhere. Wouldn’t the pollution be less if the students didn’t have to travel as far?

    I’m sure you don’t see yourselves as a bunch of NIMBYs, but how are you not?

  5. Mr. Richard Hall, volunteer at the Federal Archives, has brought to my attention that the Shearwater Housing structures were built during WW II, not in 1924. Thank you, Mr. Hall.

    One additional item of interest from the Archival material is a letter dated April 11, 1964, from Mr. Harold K. Roe, President of the Wedgwood District Community Club to Mayor J.D. Braman, City of Seattle, Re: Availability of Navy Shearwater Property. The letter noted copies to the U.S. Navy, the Seattle Park Board and the Seattle School Board.

    Quoting excerpts from Mr. Roe’s letter, he stated, “The Wedgwood District Community Club Board of Trustees are anxious that: 1) Additional playground space be provided for Decatur Elementary School; 2) Park space be developed in conjunction with the school; 3) The Shearwater Hall be examined for possible use as a temporary park recreation building….

    Mr. Roe, and the foreward-thinking 1964 Wedgwood District Community Club Board of Trustees, were instrumental in obtaining the open space and “Park” that we value so highly today. A “Thank You” is due to our predecessors who made a difference. They preserved a space that could have been lost to development. Decades of children have played here and benefited from these playfields.

  6. Dear Mr. Mas,
    Thank you for your pertinent questions regarding the Wedgewood Open Space Neighborhood Coalition’s position on building a new second school on the Thornton Creek Elementary School playfield. I do not speak for the WOSNC, but know that WOSNC is well aware of the District’s plans to “build or expand other schools in North Seattle at Wilson-Pacific, Olympic Hills, and North Beach”. In all of these cases that you cite, these are schools that will be TORN DOWN AND REPLACED, not cases where a new building will take over the existing playfield of a current school. Wilson-Pacific has a great athletic field – my son played some of his away little league baseball games there. The District certainly won’t be gutting that field. Furthermore, I know that a number of people from WOSNC HAVE PROPOSED ALTERNATIVE PLANS to the District, but these alternatives do not appear in the web article associated with these comments. I hope that in response to your comments the WOSNC will post another article that highlights suggested alternatives to the District’s plan for Thornton Creek Elementary School.

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