West Seattle, Washington
“She’s one hell of a kid.”
That’s how Kristie Berg describes her daughter Avery, who starts middle school Wednesday at Explorer West.
The move from elementary to middle school is challenge enough for any child, any family, but things got unimaginably more complicated for the Bergs just a few weeks ago, when Avery was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
We found out about it from family friend Alana, who e-mailed WSB on Labor Day weekend.
Avery’s mom has been writing online about her family’s journey. From today’s entry: “My baby girl confidently walked into her middle school orientation this morning with half her head shaved and a pair of glasses with one eye blocked with scotch tape. She hasn’t been able to take a shower for days as she had a surgery last Friday and then ended up having an emergency shunt surgery on Sunday. And yet she still walked in with her head held high and her spirit eager and ready to embark on this adventure. I have never been so impressed with someone in my life.”
A few days earlier, Kristie wrote that she doesn’t know how the school year will go – after day two, on Thursday night, Avery is scheduled to start radiation therapy, which she will need five times a week for six weeks, in addition to six months of chemotherapy. The type of tumor she is fighting, AT/RT (Atypical Teratoid/Rhabdoid Tumor), is rare – 100 cases a year in the U.S., almost all diagnosed in infancy. But Avery was approaching her 11th birthday, on vacation with her family in August, when, Kristie recalls, she “casually mentioned she had been seeing double for a few weeks. And in that instant, our life changed.”
You can read all of Kristie’s updates – many with video of updates by Avery, who has a remarkable sense of humor (don’t miss the story of “Bob”) – by going here. She dubbed the updates “Step by Step with Awesome Avery,” and that’s the title of her mom’s website, too.
Kristie told us via e-mail, “These past three weeks have been unbelievably hard, but our community has been incredible. We should all be so lucky to live in a place with such supportive neighbors and friends. We’d love to extend this invitation to our entire West Seattle crew and have any attention we can brought to fighting pediatric brain tumors.”
The invitation to which she refers is an invitation to support friends and relatives’ team, Awesome Avery, for the Run of Hope coming up on September 25th to raise money for researching pediatric brain tumors. Avery’s dad Joe Berg has a fundraising page here. You can donate there and/or run by registering here.
Another sign of the season: David Hutchinson from Seal Sitters shares the photo and report on their banners’ annual arrival on Alki:
Seal Sitters would like to thank Seattle Parks & Recreation for installing our “Share the Shore” banners along Alki Avenue again this year. A special thanks to Parks’ employee, James Lohman, who has been responsible for handling this the past several years.
Harbor seal pups are born from June – September in south Puget Sound and Seal Sitters’ busiest time of year are the months of September and October when they “haul out” on our West Seattle beaches. They are protected by federal law, so if you come across one of these vulnerable pups, please remember the following: stay back, keep people and pets away, and call your local stranding network – for West Seattle beaches, that would be Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 206-905-SEAL (7325). For all other beaches, please call the NOAA Hotline at 1-866-767-6114.
Seal Sitters is a member of NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network.
That means they are the people to call if you spot ANY marine mammal onshore, or in potential trouble just offshore, not just seals; they were the first responders for the Fauntleroy humpback whale one month ago.
If you’re not going to be busy getting your own kid(s) to school tomorrow between 7 and 8 am … you are invited to “Be There” for the students of West Seattle Elementary as they start the new school year. It’s been almost two weeks since we first previewed the plan, and invitation, for “community leaders, school supporters, family and friends to line up to cheer, clap and high-five students as they enter into the new school year,” in partnership with the West Seattle YMCA (WSB sponsor). They’re hoping for at least 100 men and 100 women to be there, “dressed for success,” to give the students an unforgettable start to the year – just be there at 7 am to be part of it. The school is at 6760 34th SW.
Heads-up from SDOT:
The off-ramps to Harbor Island from westbound West Seattle Bridge and from southbound SR99 will be closed this coming weekend beginning Friday evening, September 9, at 7 p.m. The off-ramps will be reopened Monday morning, September 12, by 5 a.m. The closures are needed in order for the replacement of three railroad crossings at the south end of Harbor Island.
• Motorists who are not in large trucks/commercial vehicles can detour by taking the high level West Seattle Bridge, using the Delridge Way exit, then taking the right onto Chelan Ave SW, another right onto SW Spokane St, and eastbound across the Duwamish River’s West Waterway and back onto Harbor Island.
• Large trucks and commercial vehicles can take “official signed” detour route because it is primarily intended for large trucks that unable to use the detour described above. The signed will direct motorists to go south on East Marginal Way S, across the First Ave S Bridge. They will be directed to take the first exit after the bridge, looping them back onto northbound 2nd Ave S, and onto W Marginal Way SW. After passing underneath the West Seattle Bridge, they will be directed to take a left turn onto SW Spokane St, which will take them eastbound back across the Duwamish River’s West Waterway and onto Harbor Island.
The railroad crossing work is part of the SDOT project currently repaving SW Spokane St from SW Klickitat Way to East Marginal Way S.
A map detailing this weekend’s detours is here.
Rather than go home and kick back after work, some members of the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce have hit the street.
(Laura Schneider from Meeples Games [WSB sponsor] & Katie Krause from Daystar)
They’re cleaning up trash along California SW, starting at SW Charlestown and heading south to The Junction, until 6:30 or so. You’re welcome to grab a bag and join them – look for the people in the bright-blue T-shirts, as shown in our photo.
You don’t expect to hear “Happy Birthday” at the dedication of a new school. If you were at this afternoon’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Genesee Hill Elementary, that’s exactly what you heard, at the behest of School Board rep Leslie Harris, in honor of principal Gerrit Kischner and some of the students who joined in the ceremony.
School Board rep Leslie Harris leads crowd in Happy B'day for principal, some students. Her daughter (contd).., pic.twitter.com/XVRVCNnRhY
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) September 6, 2016
Kischner joked that the new school is a “91,000-square-foot birthday present.” His parents were there to help celebrate.
For Harris, there also was a personal connection, as her daughter attended Pathfinder K-8 in the old Genesee Hill Elementary on the same site.
The principal, staff, and students moved from Schmitz Park Elementary, which they had long since outgrown (as proven by a plethora of portables there), but the ties to the Schmitz family, who gave the SPES site to the district long ago, remain strong. At today’s GHES ceremony, family representative Vicki Schmitz Block was given the last flag to fly over SPE before the end of last school year:
(As announced last week, SPE will not be vacant – it will host after-school programs for about 100 students.)
The GH ceremony was outdoors, while the Arbor Heights Elementary dedication two hours earlier was indoors, but both were followed by tours (here’s our original look inside GH) and both shared several dignitaries who took to the podium, including third-year Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland, who declared, “These really are awesome schools.”
(Both GH and AH were funded by the BEX IV levy passed by Seattle voters three and a half years ago.) Again, tomorrow’s the first day of school; GH is opening with about 700 students, already past official capacity, but it’s been configured so that portables will not be needed.
Announced after our visit to Arbor Heights Elementary for today’s dedication of the new building: Mayor Murray will be at AHES tomorrow morning to greet preschoolers arriving for their first day in the levy-funded Seattle Preschool Program. The announcement we received this afternoon says he’ll be joined by school district and city officials during his 7:45 am visit. (We published an announcement back in July that the city-funded program had dozens of openings in local schools including AH.)
And the ribbon is cut at Arbor Heights! Genesee Hill dedication one hour away pic.twitter.com/7WF4Mw6NL2
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) September 6, 2016
The just-concluded dedication ceremony at Arbor Heights Elementary celebrated a day that twice came close to never happening. Mentioned many times during the pre-ribbon-cutting speeches was the fact that the school community had to fight to get the rebuild – and then had to fight to get the schedule moved up in the BEX IV levy so that students could get out of deteriorating conditions as soon as possible. Not mentioned – the fact that just a few years before, during a contentious school-closing process, the Arbor Heights program was proposed for closure. That too was fought and now AH students are hours away from their first day in a $28 million building built for their eSTEM curriculum, as highlighted by principal Christy Collins:
The ceremony in the AHES Commons was attended by a crowd we estimated at more than 400 – here’s just part of it:
The ribbon-cutting was followed by tours – here are our photos from the recent media tour, including many of the elements that Collins mentioned. She was joined onstage and at the microphone during the ceremony by 34th District State Sen. Sharon Nelson, 11th District State Rep. Zach Hudgins, Seattle PTSA Council president Sebrena Burr, Schools First president Melissa Pailthorp, West Seattle/South Park School Board rep Leslie Harris, School Board president Betty Patu, and SPS Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland.
AHES is one of 5 new schools the district is dedicating, and the next one is in West Seattle too – Genesee Hill Elementary (1 pm)!
ADDED: Another view of the crowd in the commons, showing the bracing in the back, meant to be educational as well as safety-enhancing:
The big smiles during the ribbon cutting:
Pieces of the ribbon were offered to kids afterward – “Batman” got one:
Both kids and parents were helping the Arbor Heights PTA make the most of the big turnout, handing out cards touting the “4th Annual Direct Drive” fundraiser – one was offered to us as we walked down the sidewalk before even getting to the school, and the PTA had a table in the lobby:
It was a day for celebration and for gratitude – with principal Collins thanking many, including the neighbors who dealt with two years of construction, and the Louisa Boren K-8 STEM community whose Delridge building they shared the past two years (“wonderful hosts”). And now, as of Wednesday morning, Arbor Heights’ new future begins.
We’ve reported already on the five Seattle Public Schools in West Seattle that are starting the new school year with new principals. We have since learned that a major local independent school has had a change at the top as well: PreK-8th Westside School (WSB sponsor) is now led by Ted Kalmus, who has a two-year appointment as interim head of school while Westside embarks on a thorough process to create a strategic plan and launch a leadership search. He took over after the departure of four-year head of school Kate Mulligan last June. Kalmus served as head of school at independent Billings Middle School from 1997 to 2015, and worked with Westside as a consultant prior to taking the leadership role. He also is on the board of the Northwest Association of Independent Schools (which has its headquarters south of The Junction). By the way, tomorrow will start Westside’s second year in its permanent location in Arbor Heights.
After almost two years of construction, two new Seattle Public Schools elementaries will be dedicated in West Seattle today. They top our list of highlighted happenings:
ARBOR HEIGHTS ELEMENTARY RIBBON-CUTTING AND TOURS: 11 am, the new school on the site of the old one will be dedicated, followed by open-to-the-public tours. (3701 SW 104th)
GENESEE HILL ELEMENTARY RIBBON-CUTTING AND TOURS: 1 pm is when you can see the ribbon-cutting ceremony here, also followed by open-to-the-public tours. (5013 SW Dakota)
Also from the WSB West Seattle Event Calendar:
BABY STORY TIME: 10:30 am, bring your baby/babies to Southwest Library for story time! Free. (35th SW/SW Henderson)
TODDLER STORY TIME: Or, if your little one is toddler age, 10:30 am is when you’ll find a story time just for them at West Seattle (Admiral) Library. Free. (2306 42nd SW)
TWIN PEAKS COFFEE AND CHERRY PIE SOCIAL: Noon at Easy Street Records, celebrate the reissuance of the original “Twin Peaks” soundtrack with, well, coffee and cherry pie. If you are/were a fan, you’ll know why – details in our calendar listing. (California SW/SW Alaska)
WEST SEATTLE SONGWRITER SERIES: 8-11 pm at Parliament Tavern, no cover. (4210 SW Admiral Way)
(Click any view for a close-up; more cameras on the WSB Traffic page)
6:57 AM: Good morning and welcome to a rainy post-holiday Tuesday. No incidents in/from West Seattle thus far.
BACK TO SCHOOL: More students return today – the Vashon Island School District, which has more than a few West Seattle students, is starting classes. But tomorrow’s the big day for Seattle Public Schools and the independent schools that follow the same calendar.
7:05 AM: Sound Transit just sent an alert that some of its buses, including West Seattle-serving Route 560, “are experiencing delays of up to 25 minutes due to heavy traffic and road conditions (rain) this morning.”
WEST SEATTLE CANCELLATION: This came in just ahead of that and we almost missed it until the mention in comments, but, for the record:
Transit Alert – Route 57 to downtown Seattle due to leave the Alaska Junction at 7:06 AM will not operate this morning.
— King County Metro (@kcmetrobus) September 6, 2016
Metro has tweeted four other cancellations this morning, but this is the only one in West Seattle so far.
ROAD-WORK REMINDER: The Spokane Street repaving project east of the low bridge enters its second month this week and is expected to last two more months. This week’s plan is here.
8:34 AM: If you’re headed toward the high bridge from the Fauntleroy end, beware:
— Mike Jensen (@mjtwit) September 6, 2016
8:48 AM: And if you happen to be heading southbound on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, there’s a lane-blocking crash near the Columbia on-ramp, per WSDOT.
8:56 AM: SDOT says that incident has cleared.