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Queen Anne parents fight high school for recovering addicts, alcoholics near elementary school

The Seattle School District plans to open a special high school for students recovering from drugs and alcohol at the old Queen Anne High School gym across from an elementary school, over the objections of some parents. (Christina Economou via Change.org)

Some parents in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood are up in arms over a plan by the Seattle School District to place a high school for students recovering from drugs and alcohol directly across from an elementary school.

“They started this project without any public notice, due process, transparency or information to our school or surrounding neighborhood,” says Christina Economou, a parent with a first grader at John Hay Elementary School.

The Seattle School District confirms it plans to open a branch of its Interagency Recovery School in the old Queen Anne High School gym.

But Economou says she and other parents are furious the district failed to notify the community before launching forward with the plan, seemingly trying to hide it from the neighborhood.

“We are not opposed to Interagency programs but find it highly irresponsible of SPS to choose a site across from an elementary school’s playground where our most precious, youngest and vulnerable children are trying to learn,” she says.

A district spokesperson declined to speak specifically about the new school ahead of a community meeting scheduled for Dec. 10 at John Hay, but did issue a statement in support of the school, one of a number spread out across the district to “support students who need different supports than comprehensive schools offer.

Interagency Recovery School

Interagency Recovery School is a small campus designed to support high school youth who are committed to recovery from drug and alcohol abuse. Students have self-selected to attend Interagency Recovery School and have expressed commitment to actively work toward their academic and personal goals while attending school in a clean and sober environment.

Recovery School students come from all over Seattle, representing all races, religions and socioeconomic statuses. These are everybody’s kids who have made hard, mature choices to change their lives. More than anything, they need the support of their community as they walk this difficult road to recovery.

The school site, located in the old gym of the Queen Anne High School building, will offer the support of specially trained teachers, a chemical dependency professional, other support staff, and peers who are also committed to recovery.

The school will open in early 2015, with an estimated 10 students and will grow based on need and available resources. As its students are clean and sober, the school upholds a strict no tolerance policy with drugs and alcohol. Students found to be under the influence or in possession of drugs or alcohol will be transferred out of the school to another support service.

Interagency has partnered with King County Mental Health, Chemical Abuse and Dependency Services Division to offer this needed program. NAVOS is also providing a full-time staff member at the school to support students, funded by King County Mental Health.

While the school requires students maintain their sobriety to remain at the school, Economou says the parents worry about whether the students relapse or bring at-risk behavior to the neighborhood.

“What if people they have been associated with in the past show up at the school, directly across from our children’s playground. We just believe it’s not a safe location.”

Economou and several other parents are scheduled to speak in opposition to the new school at Wednesday’s school board meeting in hopes of convincing the district to change its mind. They have also launched a petition on Change.org that had gathered over 300 signatures as of Monday evening.

“None of the schools that we can find are across from elementary schools,” she says. “They are downtown, in the University of District, on Boeing Field.”

KIRO Radio’s Jillian Raftery contributed to this report

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