School Board OKs plan to try to find room for more students, including possibly closing child-care sites

SEATTLE -- The Seattle School Board voted Wednesday night to move forward with its "capacity management" plan to find room for its growing student enrollment, including possibly closing some child-care programs to allow for more classrooms.

“The in-school program has been huge for our family,” said Jessica Colimares, who has two kids who use the program.

Dozens of parents packed Wednesday night’s school board meeting, and many took the podium to have their voices heard.

“If we don’t’ have quality after-school for our son, we can’t work. If we can’t work, we can’t afford to live in Seattle,” said parent Alexandra Olins.

Most parents were at the meeting to talk about two things:  Overcrowding in their kid’s classrooms, and the possibility the district will shut down some of the child-care  programs to make room for classrooms.

“This might be a Band-Aid for what you think might give you more space, but you’re going to create a whole dam of problems,” said Sebrena Burr, who said the program helps families in many neighborhoods.

The school board said enrollment has grown by about 1,000 students a year for the last seven years, so it needs more classrooms.

In the fall, the district notified 40 child-care providers on school properties that 19 of them could be shut down by September and turned into classrooms.

The school board said it has already added more than 200 portable classrooms and has taken over conference rooms and libraries to try to make room for all its students. But, the board said, it’s not enough.

“My husband and I both work and so we can’t get to our children until six in the evening. The after-school child-care program helps us out,” added Colimares.

Parents don’t know if their kid’s school could be impacted, so many don’t know what to do.

“Frankly it terrifies me. It’s hard to find quality child care before and after school. And if we lose this, my husband and I would have to evaluate who would reduce their hours of work,” said Colimares.

The school superintendent has sent a letter to the Seattle City Council and mayor asking for help.

The school board plans to have a better idea of what locations could be closing by next month, but it says it will work with parents and the community to find alternatives for their kids.