Schmitz family asks School Board to keep Schmitz Park Elementary open

October 20, 2012 at 7:54 pm | In West Seattle news, West Seattle schools | 38 Comments

(County Assessor’s Office photo of Schmitz Park Elementary, undated)
On November 7th, the School Board is expected to approve the final wording for the BEX IV Levy to go to voters next February – and its current draft calls for building a new Schmitz Park Elementary on the old Genesee Hill School site, to open in 2015. District staffers have not presented a plan for what would subsequently happen to the current crowded Schmitz Park school, but last week, West Seattle’s board rep Marty McLaren said the namesake family had told her they were against closure of the school, which is on land donated by the family. Today, we received a copy of the letter that Schmitz family members have just sent to the board; you can see it here, and we have transcribed it below:

October 19, 2012

Seattle School Board
(mailing address)

Subject: Schmitz Park Elementary School Proposed Closure

*The Schmitz Family of West Seattle strongly opposes the proposed closure of Schmitz Park School, for reasons detailed below.

*The Schmitz Family of West Seattle strongly supports the “One Voice” recommendations developed by the coalition of West Seattle PTA leaders.

For the sum of one dollar ($1.00) and over 50 years ago, Dietrich Schmitz, Emma Schmitz Hartmann, Dr. Henry Schmitz and Ferdinand Schmitz II deeded to the Seattle School District seven-plus acres of land adjacent to Schmitz Park for a new Schmitz Park Elementary School. The intent of this generous “gift” was for there to be a public elementary school on that land in perpetuity – and the Schmitz family requests that this “gift” be honored and respected by you as today’s elected School Board members.

The letter continues after the jump:

Schmitz Park School sits adjacent to the only piece of old growth forest remaining in the city of Seattle – Schmitz Park/Preserve, about 100 acres. Students at Schmitz Park School participate regularly in observing, monitoring, and maintaining Schmitz Park’s unique native forest habitat in their “100-acre laboratory.” A member of the Schmitz family speaks at the opening day of school for the flag-raising ceremony and opening-day events since the school opened more than 50 years ago, a wonderful and unique tradition.

Schmitz Park School is an outstanding and award(-winning) elementary school program, with excellent leadership and teachers on staff. Its parent involvement level is broad based and very high. Its PTA officers and members are very engaged in the life of the school. Enrollment has skyrocketed in the last four years, and we understand the District’s need to deal with overcapacity issues. However, high enrollment is a reflection of the school’s success.

The Schmitz Family and the One Voice coalition strongly agree that other solutions exist for solving overcapacity/enrollment issues rather than the closing of Schmitz Park School. We urge the Seattle School District to choose another option.

Respectfully
Gloria Schmitz Brinton-Davis
Ferdinand Schmitz III
Nancy S. Wilson
Patsy Carpenter
Julie Schmitz Broker
Dietrich Schmitz
Mary Howland Schmitz
Ilse Schmitz
Gunnar Schmitz
Vicki Schmitz Block
(and many other Schmitz family members)

The district’s history one-sheet for SP Elementary notes that an earlier-generation family member, Dietrich Schmitz, was on the School Board for more than 30 years. (The one-sheet also says that when the school opened 59 years ago, ironic in light of the current state of affairs, it was an annex of Genesee Hill, meant to relieve crowding.) We’re checking to find out more about the “One Voice” recommendations mentioned in the letter; some West Seattle school advocates have suggested that the current Schmitz Park stay open as a neighborhood school. It’s also been suggested as a possible permanent home for K-5 STEM (which opened this year in temporary quarters at Boren). The next meeting on BEX is a public-comment period this Wednesday (October 24), 4 pm at district HQ.

38 Comments

  1. I hope the Schmitz family has some kind of influence here. I thought it was a silly idea to relocate the school to a different neighborhood (albeit, a close one) but keep the name. They need to rebuild- remodel on the same site. Many schools have weathered temporary school sites to allow for remodeling; while not fun, you get through it. Remodel/rebuild Genessee Hill and some of the overcrowding goes away as well.

    Comment by me on 28th Ave SW — 8:12 pm October 20, 2012 #

  2. I attended Schmitz Park School the first year it opened (Genesee Hill was full) and went there from K-Gr. 6. The entire school consisted of a group of portables sitting on blacktop, connected by breezeways. I received an excellent education and have fond memories of science and art lessons in the park itself. I strongly hope the Schmitz family’s concerns are heard. Rebuild Genesee Hill and call it Genesee Hill if the school is needed but upgrade Schmitz Park and leave it where it is.

    Comment by Schmitz Park Alum — 9:13 pm October 20, 2012 #

  3. Schmitz Park is so crowded with 5 classes per grade coming in now. They wouldn’t all fit into a new school at Genesee Hill anyway.

    Comment by Mom — 9:31 pm October 20, 2012 #

  4. I don’t blame them, if my family donated land for a specific and good cause and then the local gov up and said oh well where gonna close this down and go somewhere else , thanks for the land we can now use use for another purpose, yea I would be unhappy about it too.

    Comment by cj — 9:35 pm October 20, 2012 #

  5. How about using that money and fixing Schmitz Park!!! It’s a great neighborhood school that is well supported by parents, teachers, students and the Schmitz Family. Yeah…let’s abandon a good school for something new, expensive and also insult the Schmitz Family by slapping their name on it after they have support the school since it’s opening, how dumb is that? Geez

    Comment by MSW — 9:39 pm October 20, 2012 #

  6. Why not build a 2nd elementary school at Genessee hill and keep Schmitz Park open. I’m sure 2 schools would benefit the area more than 1 mega-school.

    Comment by D-Mom — 9:51 pm October 20, 2012 #

  7. This is an old threat to close the school and then turn the land back to the Schmitz’s. This is why the school was not closed back in the 1980s early 1990s. Times do change. Enrollment got down to less than 200 and they kept it open then probably because of the repercussions.

    Comment by Dee — 9:52 pm October 20, 2012 #

  8. I was under the impression that Schmitz Park was donated with the assumption that it would always be a school. Shouldn’t that say? I would be upset if it were my family who donated the land. Keep it an elementary school! It should be for the children in the immediate neighborhood and the rest go to Fairmount Park. Why should there be a brand new school built? The school board closed school and now they a stuck in a hard place. Keep the neighborhood kids at Schmitz Park, move some to Fairmount Park and rebuild other schools that need rebuilt badly.

    Comment by West Seattle Mom — 9:53 pm October 20, 2012 #

  9. And another thing: the school board has a lot of nerve accepting a ‘gift’ and then planning to close it.

    Comment by West Seattle Mom — 9:55 pm October 20, 2012 #

  10. What are they planning on doing with Schmitz Park? Leaving it empty? So they are going to let Arbor Heights sit there with mold and asbestos and say it’s okay for the kids to go there while they could keep 1/2 the kids at Schmitz Park and send the rest to Fairmount Park (which I believe is in the boundary lines, right?) all because they don’t want to upset the people with more boundary changes? What about Arbor Heights? Keep them in a school falling apart just to keep one group of people happy.

    Comment by WSMom3 — 10:10 pm October 20, 2012 #

  11. .

    Comment by West Seattle Mom — 10:16 pm October 20, 2012 #

  12. No comments in this thread have been deleted or refused for publication, since, so far, nobody’s broken the rules. Please be patient if a comment doesn’t appear immediately; our system holds some for review, for a variety of reasons.

    Comment by WSB — 10:20 pm October 20, 2012 #

  13. Schmitz Park @ Genessee Hill is a ridiculous name for a school. The name Schmitz Park should remain with whatever school is next to Schmitz Park!

    Comment by skeptic — 10:56 pm October 20, 2012 #

  14. I never understood why it was not clear what the school district was planning to do with the Schmitz Park building. All the BEX press makes it sound like they are closing it… Why not keep it open and then remodel/rebuild Genesee Hill and reopen it as “Genesee Hill”. Is Schmitz Park school in desrepair? Or is it just too crowded? If it’s just too crowded then it makes total sense to keep it open!

    Comment by WS concerned parent — 11:11 pm October 20, 2012 #

  15. I don’t think that SPS has made clear what they intend to do with the site, but I’d be shocked if they let it go and chose not to use it for another elementary school, either neighborhhhod or option. Before we all go jumping off the cliff, we should wait and see what the plans are. It will be Schmitz Park Elem. until 2015 at least, lots of time to decide what comes next.

    Comment by JenS — 11:13 pm October 20, 2012 #

  16. I’ve thought that too, mom. The genesee hill site alone won’t be big enough either.

    Comment by Westseattleperson — 11:25 pm October 20, 2012 #

  17. The plot thickens

    Comment by J — 12:22 am October 21, 2012 #

  18. Schmitz Park at Gennesse Hill, K-5 STEM at Fairmount Park, Fairmount Park at Gatewood, Arbor Heights at Boren, Pathfinder at Cooper, Cooper at Lafayette…have I forgotten one? What’s next, Gatewood at Alki?

    Comment by STEM Parent — 2:38 am October 21, 2012 #

  19. Ack! My family moved to a home right down the street from the current site, loving the idea that our son (who starts next year) would walk to school. Now he might be moving to a new location mid-gradeschool? And one that’s significantly farther from us? Not happy!

    Comment by 44th Neighbor — 8:00 am October 21, 2012 #

  20. STEM Parent – just for the record, Fairmount Park’s “program” technically was, when FP closed, merged into West Seattle Elementary, which had up to that time been High Point Elementary.

    Comment by WSB — 8:06 am October 21, 2012 #

  21. The reason that Schmitz Park is overcrowded, is because the boundaries include too many children. Redraw the boundaries, renovate and open the closed schools and build Arbor Heights a new school. And while you are at it rebuild Roxhill which as COMPLETELY been forgotten. It’s a moral decision people.

    Comment by Amanda — 8:07 am October 21, 2012 #

  22. I believe Cooper was absorbed by Gatewood. No on BEX, yes for Charter Schools.

    Comment by A — 8:19 am October 21, 2012 #

  23. I thought the plan originally was to merge/move Roxhill to Arbor Heights when the new AH school is built.

    Comment by Jawat — 8:38 am October 21, 2012 #

  24. K-5 STEM at Schmitz Park! What an excellent idea. First, it has a old growth forest, watershed and riparian area right behind the school, perfect for the study of life sciences. Second, the building was originally designed with a science lab (now the computer lab). This room can be reconfigured to that purpose while the computers can be moved to the portables in back. Third, it has a stage that will allow STEM to become STEAM (adding theater arts).
    .

    However, most important, it has a covered outdoor area that will serve as a space to construct engineered projects (even in the winter). STEM students need a space to build stuff.
    .

    The brick and mortar infrastructure at Schmitz Park is rock solid, the mechanical systems work well, engineers (paid already) have redesigned the boiler system, the cafeteria is efficient and functional, and the distances between classrooms don’t require students to spend much of their days schlepping across vast distances to eat or play (or use a bathroom).
    .

    I can’t imagine a better legacy for the Schmitz Family than “K-5 STEM at Schmitz Park Elementary.”

    Comment by Photosynthesizer — 8:44 am October 21, 2012 #

  25. The Cooper “reference area” originally became part of the Sanislo reference area, according to our story from the night the board voted in January 2009 ( http://westseattleblog.com/2009/01/seattle-public-schools-closure-vote-live-as-it-happens ). The district-wide boundary-redrawing happened after that; definitely not in Gatewood (whose map is http://is.gd/m8yC6U ) – looks like (mostly if not all) Lafayette – http://is.gd/qJbXqN .
    .
    Meantime, as for Roxhill/Arbor Heights, that was a suggestion multiple BEX IV versions ago. Has not been in the plan for months (dropped in May: http://westseattleblog.com/2012/05/roxhill-elementary-meeting-touts-magical-place-that-needs-worthy-building ). The Seattle Schools Community Forum site ( http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com ) referred this past week to the “BEX bouncing ball” and that’s a perfect description. Maybe before the final vote we’ll get a chance to recap how it’s all evolved (at least the West Seattle proposals, since we haven’t tracked the rest of the city) – TR

    Comment by WSB — 9:07 am October 21, 2012 #

  26. I sure see a lot of babies in strollers in all areas of West Seattle. Hope the school district doesn’t make the same mistake that they did with the Fauntleroy and Jefferson school lands.

    All the private schools certainly will profit from SPS foolishness.

    Comment by Gina — 9:22 am October 21, 2012 #

  27. Cooper’s English Language Learners (ELL) program moved to Gatewood, including about 100 students, one teacher, 2 instructional assistants and some books.

    Comment by J — 10:34 am October 21, 2012 #

  28. Lots of concern and amazing points! I hope you are also sharing with the school board and our district rep! 2 more weeks till they vote!

    Comment by Jessica Pierce — 11:00 am October 21, 2012 #

  29. There are enough families with kids in that area to fill another elementary school.

    It would be a tragedy to waste the environmental education opportunity the forested Schmitz Park location offers.

    I’m so tired of watching Seattle Public Schools neglect maintenance and allow our buildings to deteriorate!

    Upgrade both Genessee Hill and Schmitz Park schools!

    Comment by cruzer — 11:20 am October 21, 2012 #

  30. So many of you ask good questions and I know for many the logic of what SPS staff is saying just doesn’t follow.

    And that’s because you are missing the point. The point is not what you want or what makes the best sense for West Seattle. There’s always some underlying reason that staff wants to do certain things and not what looks logical. It then later becomes apparent.

    Understand that you are experiencing some of this because of previous bad BEX III decision. That would be the decision to rebuild South Shore instead of Gennesse for Pathfinder. Cooper then got closed for Pathfinder.

    That decision caused a ripple effect in West Seattle that is being felt to this day.

    Keep that in mind as we go forward because this is not a decision of who goes first in BEX but rather what will it all mean down the line.

    Also keep in mind that the district is going to have a heck of a time with their narrative to the public to sell BEX. If you find it confusing, I can’t imagine what Joe Citizen might think.

    And again, remember that if 1240 passes and charter schools come in, all bets are off because any conversion charters will take their share of BEX money. Anything you think might happen with that money will change if I-1240 passes.

    Comment by westello — 11:52 am October 21, 2012 #

  31. Turn the Schmitz Park Elementary site into a permanent homeless encampment that calls itself “Nickelsville” and build a super-duper school on the Genesee Hill site.

    Comment by West Seattleite — 4:04 pm October 21, 2012 #

  32. I was wondering what the Schmitz family thought, and was very pleased to see your article. I’m 100% in support of the family’s position. My kids went to Schmitz Park and I thought it was a very important part of their connection to West Seattle and Seattle history to have Mr. Schmitz come every year on the first day of school to talk about why his family donated the land that the school was built on. Relocate the school long enough to rebuild it, maybe, but don’t move it permanently!

    Comment by rainycity1 — 4:10 pm October 21, 2012 #

  33. Schmitz Park Elementary should stay right there next to Schmitz Park. Schmitz Park at Gennessee makes no sense to me. We were happy when our daughter got to go there since it was next to the woods and they do great work with the audubon society with the classes. Gennesse site does not work well for a school – too much slope and shade for the field area. Keep Schmitz Park right were it is and rebuild there! Don’t say it does not work because it’s not convenient. I’m glad the family has spoken up.

    Comment by raincity — 8:53 pm October 21, 2012 #

  34. Absolutely NO to STEM program at Schmitz Park. Its not needed there, they do a fantastic job and have their own legacy already. Let STEM place their program somewhere else to enrich the community.

    Comment by george — 10:21 pm October 21, 2012 #

  35. First, no to 1240. Then yes to BEX. If 1240 passes it will siphon off money to god knows where and not leave enough for the district to do the rebuilds we so desperately need. Charter schools are not our solution. A new school at Arbor Heights, along with the spectrum program already there, will help to eliviate the over crowding being experienced elsewhere.

    Comment by Simone — 10:37 am October 22, 2012 #

  36. As a member of the Schmitz Park PTA and a long-time Schmitz Park parent, I can say that the Schmitz Park Elementary community has had a wonderful legacy at that beautiful site and believes that it is a great place for a school. If you asked any of the parents, teachers or staff if they thought the school should be shuttered, they would absolutely say no.
    .
    The District does need to add more capacity to the north end of West Seattle, and the Genesee Hill site is a great option, as it is currently unused. Should that school be reused, renovated, or rebuilt? I’ll leave that up to the experts that run the extremely complex numbers on that. Current state of things says that they plan to rebuild. The two sites are roughly the same size (Schmitz Park is about 328k square feet and Genesee Hill is just under 300K), but the Schmitz Park site is right on the steep slope into the park, limiting the amount of land that can be built on. Genesee Hill has a steep slope too, but I think it will affect things differently. Vehicular circulation is better at Genesee Hill too, as the site is surrounded on three sides by streets.
    .
    Is the Schmitz Park Elementary community caught up in what to name a school at Genesee Hill and/or Schmitz Park? I don’t think so. Continuing to call a school on the edge of Schmitz Park after the park makes sense, and continuing to call the school on Genesee Hill after the hill makes sense. The community is focused on the capacity issues at hand and the need to house more students. Schmitz Park is continuing to grow well past our current size of 540ish in a school that was designed to hold about half that.
    .
    I had an opportunity to speak with a member of the Schmitz family and had a lovely conversation. I completely support their desire to continue to have a lively, thriving school at that site. I’m with them 100%.
    .
    It would be great if the District had a complete plan for the Schmitz Park site right now. I know that there are a ton of options with many moving pieces. I have not heard any of those options stating that the Schmitz Park school will be abandoned. Does a new school at Genesee Hill require the closing of Schmitz Park? I don’t think so, because this is not an “either/or” situation. They aren’t mutually exclusive.
    .
    The bottom line for me is this – our entire West Seattle school community will benefit from the passage of the Levy in February. There are a 1000 little ways that people all over Seattle can pick apart the Levy and vote no. But there is one big reason why I’m going to vote yes – and hope that all of you do too. Its because I love my kids and I want the best for them and for all the students in Seattle Public Schools.
    .
    Mark Wainwright
    Schmitz Park PTA president

    Comment by Mark — 11:46 am October 22, 2012 #

  37. I would love to see both schools be up and running. They already exist. There are enough babies (I have one of them) growing up near the Genessee location to fill both of them, then everyone is happy. No mega-school necesssary (or wanted)!! Will there be a public hearing soon? How can we become involved? Thanks!

    Comment by Lou — 12:32 pm November 7, 2012 #

  38. According to the Genesee Schmitz Neighborhood Council, a community conversation meeting is planned at SP school Monday, November 19, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

    Comment by WSB — 12:50 pm November 7, 2012 #

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