For 28 years, a small, private school that helps developmentally disabled children has been running its program out of a closed elementary school building in Seattle's Queen Anne neighborhood. Suddenly, the school district is canceling the lease.
It was quite a shock when the Northwest Center School learned it had six months to vacate the old North Queen Anne Elementary School. But Seattle Public Schools needs the building back.
"We are in a enrollment crunch; we've got way more kids than we've had in many years," said Seattle Schools spokeswoman Teresa Wippel. She says the building is needed next school year for one of its own programs, the Cascade Parent Partnership and its 200 students.
The district has offered to lease the Van Asselt School, its only other vacant building. But it's ten miles away and The Northwest Center School is worried it can't survive if it has to move that far.
"The truth is that the Cascade Parent Partnership program is in a very similar situation. They're located in the north end of Seattle. They don't want to go further away. Those are our students. They are enrolled in Seattle Public Schools," said Wippel. That program is leaving a building in the Northgate area.
The Northwest Center School has complained that it wasn't told earlier about the end of the lease and that six months notice is not enough time to relocate.
"We were not able to give any formal notification of a final decision on a move until the school board took a vote at the end of November on boundary changes," Wippel explained.
Northwest Center parents, many with special needs children, pleaded with the school board last week to delay the eviction.
The school board expressed sympathy with their plight, one board member saying "those kids deserve more than six months."
After a meeting on Friday, Wippel says Schools Superintendent Jose Banda is asking his facilities chief, Dr. Flip Herndon, to look, again, for a new home for Northwest Center School.
"Let's take another look at what is out there, let's have our property management folks go out and search the city, see if there's any other places that might be suitable, see if we can figure out another solution," said Wippel. "We are committed to doing that."
School Board member Sherry Carr held a district meeting over the weekend to discuss the Northwest Center School situation.
Adding to their frustration is that the Northwest Center School received a grant and spent $250,000 renovating the old Queen Anne building before learning it will have to move out.