GUEST POST: We Need a Better Solution for Thornton Creek Playing Fields

The following is a guest post from the Wedgwood Open Space Neighborhood Coalition.

The Seattle School District’s latest idea for the Thornton Creek playing fields reminds me of Joni Mitchell singing “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”  For many of our Wedgwood neighbors this will be the case if the plan goes forward to build a new 650-student school and “put up a parking lot” on the playing fields for staff cars and school buses.  The School District says it will mothball the present Thornton Creek School building and may demolish it in 2021.  Given present projections for growth in the NE, it is extremely unlikely the old school will remain unoccupied.  The most likely scenario is for a 1,000 student campus, with severely limited space and time for recess.Most of us value Wedgwood’s modest-scale.  Do we want developers, public and private, to respect the quiet livability our Vision Plan embraces?  Should that vision extend to all of us or exclude some of us?  What the District intends to build will overwhelm those who live in our area with an onslaught of traffic extending well beyond the streets bordering the school.  We have been told to expect a tripling of traffic, leading to a tripling of air and noise pollution.

On 40th Ave NE there has been a steady increase in traffic these past few months. The little streets surrounding the present school are already choked with traffic at bell times.  Routes leading to the school lack sidewalks, but there is currently no plan to improve pedestrian safety, except for completing the sidewalk surrounding the school property.  At a time when we are looking at terribly unsafe conditions on 75th street, here comes the creation of a new and entirely avoidable hazard.

The BEX IV building plan for the playing fields has been poorly conceived in all of its mutations.  This latest proposal to enlarge Thornton Creek School contradicts what the School District capacity managers have consistently told us: that the addition of a 650- student “attendance area school” was an absolute necessity while retaining the option school on the same site.

There are alternative solutions to over-crowding that would save open space, avoid placing the entire traffic burden on one corner of Wedgwood, and provide neighborhood schools that children could walk to.  A very few years ago, the Seattle School District leased and sold schools in the NE which they could now buy back and refurbish.  Once built on, the playing fields will be gone forever and in their place — a school plant for 1,000 young children with not enough room for recess, plus a traffic menace.

There is very little time left for us to make our views known, since the School District is fast-tracking the project.  People who want to make their voices heard on this issue can email and call the Mayor’s office, city council members, and the School District to press for a better solution to school overcrowding.

Superintendent José L. Banda (206) 252-0180:
Office of the School Board: (206) 252-0040
Board President:  Kay Smith Blum:
Mayor Mike McGinn:
Seattle City Council: