Space is tight and you will probably have to find a new home. This is the message the Seattle School District is sending to the before- and after-school childcare programs that are housed in elementary school buildings.
The district has more than 52,000 students and expects 800 additional students next year. On top of that, starting in 2018, the district is planning to cap class size in kindergarten through third grade from roughly 26 students to 17. This will put an extra demand on available room which is already hard to find.
“Pretty much any space that’s been available in a school is being used as a classroom,” said Flip Herndon, who's in charge of facilities and operations for the district.
Stages, art rooms, computer labs and even some hallways have been turned into classrooms. With space at such a premium, the district is notifying several before- and after-school child care programs and preschools that they need to find a new home by July 1.
The Kids Co. preschool at Adams Elementary in Ballard is one of the programs that has to move.
Sean O’Neill’s 4-year-old daughter, Juniper, goes here. He has no idea what he and his wife will do for childcare. He’s extremely frustrated.
“I was just reading this article from 2011, saying that Seattle Public Schools is blindsided by this new growth and here we are in 2016 and we’re having these sort of really short time frames, in what seems kind of reactionary measures to a problem that’s been here for a really long time,” said O’Neill.
If the child care program at your elementary school isn’t affected by growth this year, “It probably will be, if not next year, then the year after that,” said Herndon.
Some before- and after-school-care organizations who have to move out of their dedicated classroom spaces are working with principals to figure out how to keep their programs in the building.
One workaround is to move into the school’s cafeteria. This involves shuttling equipment at the beginning and the end of each day so it’s not in the way during school hours.
The child care programs in the elementary schools don’t pay any rent to the district. Kids Co., the non-profit that has to move its preschool out of Adams Elementary, is working with two real estate agents to help it navigate the commercial real estate market for the very first time.