BACK TO SCHOOL: Schmitz Park Elementary’s future finally officially announced

(WSB photo, taken today)

With the students and staff from Schmitz Park Elementary moving into the new Genesee Hill Elementary, many have wondered what would happen to the SPE campus. Bits and pieces of information have emerged unofficially, and we’ve continued to ask the district for comment. Finally, this morning, the plan is out, as part of this announcement:

Seattle Public Schools is excited to announce that starting in fall 2016-17 families will be supported with expanded child-care options in West Seattle. SPS, in partnership with Seattle Parks and Recreation, will be providing new child-care options in the Schmitz Park building as well as in the Genesee Hill and Lafayette Elementary buildings.

For many years, the need for child care has been growing across the City but reached a crisis level in West Seattle. Recognizing the growing need, former Lafayette Principal Robert Gallagher and Schmitz Park (now Genesee Hill) Principal Gerrit Kischner, along with Associate Superintendent of Capital and Facilities Dr. Flip Herndon and other central staff, Seattle School Board Director Leslie Harris, Seattle Parks and Recreation, and City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, worked together and identified a solution to meet the needs of the district’s West Seattle families.

Details of the solution:

• Eighty child-care spots are planned for the new Genesee Hill Elementary school.

• The district has finalized a multi-year lease with the Associated Recreation Council (ARC), to provide additional child care at the Schmitz Park building. At least 100 new childcare spots are expected to be licensed and made available to waiting families.

• ARC staff will walk child-care students from Genesee Hill students the three blocks to the Schmitz Park building after school dismissal, just as they do currently in walking students between Lafayette and the Hiawatha Community Center. Once registration is complete, ARC will determine which students will remain at Genesee Hill for child care and which students will walk to Schmitz Park.

• Child-care registration and enrollment began on July 2 for the majority of waitlisted families.

• Additional child-care spots are also being added to Lafayette Elementary thanks to Hiawatha Community Center and Seattle Parks and Recreation.

The district wants to thank our community, Schmitz Park PTSA, and the City for supporting this solution for our shared families. We couldn’t have done it alone. While we haven’t been able to meet the needs of all our West Seattle families, we have made significant gains.

We also want to recognize the Schmitz family’s contribution to Seattle Public Schools and the West Seattle community. The Schmitz Park site opened as an annex to Genesee Hill Elementary in 1953 when Dietrich Schmitz served as President of the Seattle School Board and his brother, Henry, served as President of the University of Washington. In 1956, the assistant principal at Genesee Hill, Ms. Dorothy Jack, was appointed to open Schmitz Park School, and the current building was completed in 1962. With the start of the next school year, neighborhood students will return to Genesee Hill Elementary. SPS will retain the former school building in its inventory, and we are pleased it will remain open and serving families in West Seattle for the foreseeable future.

In keeping the building open, we not only meet the needs of our families but also reduce potential vandalism, ensuring SPS continues to be a good neighbor and steward of our resources.

Principal Kischner, who has been instrumental in development of the child-care plan, said, “This agreement shows what we can get done when we work together. I am especially pleased that this multi-year lease will allow families to plan ahead and commit themselves to the long-term viability of the Schmitz Park-Genesee Hill community. It demonstrates the kind of partnership that can make a difference to neighborhoods throughout the city.”

The SPS history of Schmitz Park Elementary is here. The school, at 5000 SW Spokane, is on land donated by the Schmitz family, which remained involved with the school for its decades of operation. They were part of the community celebration of the school that we covered back in June, and Vicki Schmitz Block and son Dietrich Schmitz represented the family as Grand Marshals in July’s West Seattle Grand Parade.

20 Replies to "BACK TO SCHOOL: Schmitz Park Elementary's future finally officially announced"

  • Mar August 31, 2016 (1:16 pm)

    Fantastic!!! Much needed! Thank you Garrett Kischner – we are grateful for your leadership! 

  • Elly August 31, 2016 (5:06 pm)

    Are there more details on what childcare entails? Does this mean preschool? If so, where do we sign up?!

    • WSB August 31, 2016 (9:52 pm)

      Elly – I believe this is after-school care for students of the schools mentioned.

  • gina August 31, 2016 (5:25 pm)

    5000 SW Spokane St ( 50th and Spokane.)

    • WSB August 31, 2016 (5:34 pm)

      Yes, just realized that when we went over to take a new exterior we’ll be adding later…fixing.

  • GHSmom August 31, 2016 (5:35 pm)

    Bravo!! Thank you Mr. Kischner, ARC, and SPS!  

  • webcami August 31, 2016 (6:41 pm)

    Great news.  Great for the community.  Will they get rid of all those portables? 

  • Nick August 31, 2016 (10:04 pm)

    Hoping someday that that building/property will get revamped or redone and open once again as Schmitz Park Elementary. Just like Genessee.

  • CrowKnows September 1, 2016 (12:46 am)

    What a fabulous idea and great collaboration between SPS and Parks. Can the southern end of West Seattle expect such services in the near future too? Maybe the old EC Hughes/Westside building could be included in this program to serve the students and families of Roxhill, Sanislo, and West Seattle–you know, those schools whoes students and families have fewer opportunities for enrichment/services and even fewer people to advocate for them.

    • AMD September 1, 2016 (3:39 pm)

      Last I heard they were talking about relocating Roxhill to the EC Hughes building since the current Roxhill building is terrible and Roxbury isn’t really a great spot for an Elementary School anyway.

      I, too, am hopeful one day the south end of West Seattle will see more of the kinds of investments I keep reading about for kids in the upper half.

    • Mike September 2, 2016 (6:47 am)

      It would be great if SPS would do what’s right for everyone.  I’m glad they decided to allow parents here to pay to keep this program open since they had originally cut the number of students they’d provide before/after care for by about half of what they had last year.  Even last year parents were on waiting lists to get in part way into the year.  There’s no end to wait lists on the North end, as there’s not enough space to take on everyone that wants to pay to get their kids into before / after care programs.  It’s already been said that the new school is over capacity and it’s yet to start the school year for it’s first year.   Luckily Kischner, ARC and the parents were able to convince SPS that parents will fund it and need it.  I just hope not too many people ended up quitting their jobs due to lack of space to have a before/after care program so they can keep going to work.

  • Ferrywalker September 1, 2016 (9:33 am)

    This building should be be for teaching and learning, not for babysitting. 

    • Mike September 2, 2016 (6:50 am)

      Obviously you don’t know how the before/after care program works.  It’s for teaching and learning.  I know when my daughter went, she got a lot of great extra learning support from the staff, help with homework, help with reading and math.  It’s not some 13 year old kid babysitting like you want to believe.  

  • WSGirl September 1, 2016 (10:33 am)

    @ferrywalker : Shouldn’t it be for what is needed in the community? After school care is seriously lacking in West Seattle. Most parents nowadays both have to work to support their families, so they need viable options for child care after school ends for the day. I think this is a fantastic idea, providing West Seattle families with what they need to support a happy and healthy family. 

    • Mike September 2, 2016 (6:52 am)

      It’s also better for the community to have the building in use rather than turn into a squatting ground for illicit activities.  I’d say even if the city had to pay to keep it in active use as a full time care facility for kids, it’s better than letting it sit and rot.

  • SC September 1, 2016 (3:01 pm)

    f@ferrywalker. This is not meant as an attach on you but I feel compelled to say as working parent who has to  stress and do a lottery each year for limited child care  options  this news comes with such relief to so many families. (many thanks to the principals, SPS, and Garret K!).

    There was a need!  80 families many with more than one child will now be served thanks to added use of the building and it will be used for learning. Many wonderful enrichment programs happen in the building for after school care. Kids are doing homework, playing, creating art, and learning from each other and the great staff. 

    I know many of the parents with kids in this program are wonderful contributors to West Seattle and contribute not only to the school but to the West Seattle community and businesses.Without reasonable child care options many of the families would not be able to contribute as much to their communities or continue to work and afford to live in West Seattle or anywhere in the city limits. 

    There were so many families left without care options and no transportation it was not a winning situation-families were not being served. 

    I am so thankful that West Seattle/Schmitz Park-Genessee Hill and Lafayette families have this new option. Thank you to all who helped work out a solution.

    Gensee Hill is one of the largest if not the largest school in the district and we are lucky to have the new building so students do not have to be in portables and have dated facilities but the space is needed. 

  • Marty McLaren September 2, 2016 (9:17 am)

    Fantastic development!  Thanks so much to all the people who made this happen, and modeled for all of us collaboration towards the common good.

  • green girl September 6, 2016 (11:30 pm)

      As a close neighbor, parent, Schmitz Park Parent volunteer and educator, I also am very glad that there will be someone in the building. I am disappointed that this ideal outdoor education location,right next to 53.1 acre Schmitz Park Preserve will no longer be utilized as a school. I realize the the before and after school program helps with homework, but all the classes that were offered after school will be at the new building. At least I assume so. 

    I would love to know more about repairs and upgrades that will be made to Schmitz Park Elementary as well. The Building is in need of upgrades in windows, lighting and energy efficiency. Who knows if the furnace (Bless Dave for knowing how to keep it going) will continue to work.  The back of the building still has the problem of being a place to hang out, as it cannot be seen from the street at night time. Let’s hope security or the W.S. police department keep a steady watch on this area.  I would love it if you could pass this along to Dr. Flip Herndon, Leslie Harris and Lisa Herbold. It is all well and good to make a decision, but the details must be worked out for a complete and comprehensive plan of action. The reasons that our community needed a new building still exist at this amazing and beautiful location. Are there many schools where eagles fly overhead?

  • GHSMom September 14, 2016 (9:05 am)

     I am very grateful for the collaboration that made this aftercare space available.  I do, however, second what Green Girl is saying.  My child is now at the SP aftercare and although we are very grateful for the opportunity to be there, much of the building is in complete disarray.   The kids are kept to specific areas of the building, but they can still see the aftermath of the move-out in the class rooms through the windows and debris on the playground.  They’re not allowed to run on the grass (likely due to the overgrown poison oak on the fence?)  It’s been an emotionally trying experience for my kid to start at the large new building and then to see his old school in this state.  He says it’s depressing.  I know that the staff were only allowed in the building the day before school started, and know they need time to settle in.  I just hope that SPS and ARC and the Parks Dept. can work to make this environment feel safe and healthy for the kids sooner than later. Maybe there is something us parents of the after care kids  can do to help?

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