Off-limits school playground? Seattle Public Schools blames understaffing

That gate leads to the Genesee Hill Elementary schoolyard/playground, one of the Seattle Public Schools playground/playfield facilities that readers have noticed were locked this summer. With the new school year now just three weeks away, kids are trying to pack as much playtime into the remaining days of summer as they can, so any inaccessible facility causes concern. After several reader inquiries, we asked SPS why. Assistant superintendent Beverly Redmond replied, “This summer, some of our fields have been less accessible in general due to understaffing. We are currently prioritizing our groundskeeping and custodial resources to prepare facilities for the start of school in September. We anticipate greater access after the start of the academic year. Those decisions will be made on a school-by-school basis.”

17 Replies to "Off-limits school playground? Seattle Public Schools blames understaffing"

  • flimflam August 17, 2022 (4:09 pm)

    I can’t help but think many employers have enjoyed seeing those low labor costs and are hesitant to staff at appropriate levels anymore…

  • Gina August 17, 2022 (4:20 pm)

    The asphalt was mowed at Lafayette last month, haven’t figured out why that was a good use of limited staff.

    • Bubba August 17, 2022 (5:57 pm)

      The mowing of asphalt to which you refer was an  attempt by me to knock down crack weeds in a potion of the playground in dire need of repaving, doing so while I was on site mowing the adjacent field; this futile try took a whole 5 minutes. Typically we address similar track weeds after they have dried up and before the playground is occupied at the start of the school year. You may have noticed the variety of grass growing in the cracks at Lafayette is still green, meaning it will certainly just grow back. Obviously, to me at least, the most efficient use of limited resources (basically me), is to time this task strategically. Since the Seattle School District does not engage in the practice of applying herbicides, which would help mitigate the problem, my only option now is to come out just before school starts in September and line trim (weed-eater) the entire area. Hopefully it won’t be 90 degrees out when I take on this challenging, time-consuming and labor-intensive task. FYI, I am also responsible for six other schools in West Seattle, totaling some 50 acres. Hopefully this information helps you figure things out.

      • Marina August 17, 2022 (7:30 pm)

        Thanks for what you do, Bubba! And appreciate the insight into your job. I feel like this world would be a better place if people were more aware of what it takes to get a job done and of how things work. 

      • Dandelion4 August 18, 2022 (11:05 am)

        Thank you Bubba for the work you do. Try spraying vinegar on crack weeds, it kills them just as well as herbicide.  Come back when they are dead and pull them out.

  • Mary Fleck August 17, 2022 (5:59 pm)

    I tried to visit the Genesee Hill School rain garden the Sunday before last, but it was locked.  I don’t understand why a rain garden and parking lot have to be locked up.  When I called the School District, they said it was because of vandalism to portables but there are no portables there!  It is a shame that this space is locked off.   It’s a nice place for kids to ride bikes.

  • Jon Wright August 17, 2022 (6:50 pm)

    I cannot tell you how much it infuriates me that the best open space in our neighborhood where our kids could play and ride bikes has been locked up all summer. The Seattle School District’s administration is the worst. They always have a sad story why they can’t do something that seems reasonable to everyone else. They are the epitome of “can’t do.”

  • GH parent August 17, 2022 (8:29 pm)

    WSB – I would recommend pushing back harder on the district from that explanation. I think we’re all getting the run around. Regarding Genesee Hill, first in 2020 it was because of Covid and “liability” but I never heard back from the school board when I inquired as to what could had changed with their liability insurance to force this (this was after other parks had reopened). Shocker. Then the school opened back up and it was because there were tables and chairs for outside lunch and apparently that caused too much new liability. Also told that the after care program was using the playground and because of Covid they didn’t want other kids mixing on it. Now, it’s lack of custodian staff? We’ve been without our neighborhood playground for 2.5 years now and enough is enough. 

    • WSB August 17, 2022 (8:40 pm)

      Oh, believe me, this is already the result of a push. First answer I got was “That’ll be explained in our newsletter when we send it out in two weeks.”

  • Kyle August 18, 2022 (8:08 am)

    Highland Park Elementary playgrounds typically locked too.

  • Charlestown August 18, 2022 (9:24 am)

    Too many off-leash dogs?

    • dogs August 19, 2022 (9:50 am)


  • Buddy August 18, 2022 (10:08 am)

    Public schools are built with tax payers money! This is totally wrong! 

  • YiLu August 18, 2022 (1:57 pm)

    If they left it open it would just get taken over by off leash dog owners and a lot of kids would end up avoiding them.I think more schools should do this if they can’t effectively enforce the rules.  Personally I’d prefer they keep it open and fund security and grounds keeping.

    • Jon Wright August 18, 2022 (5:11 pm)

      In our experience, off-leash dogs were never a problem at Genessee Hill…it was nothing like the situation at Madison.

  • KJ August 18, 2022 (11:45 pm)

    The community likes to use the school playgrounds for lots of different reasons yet the maintenance, responsibility, and cleanup up of that is left to the schools. Potholes in the grass field, dog mess, graffiti, trash, and even the summer fire that destroyed the Schmitz Park playground not too many summers ago. Am I bummed the gates are locked in the summers for my kids, sure. Do I understand why they are locked up, for all the miriad reasons, absolutely. 

  • DB August 19, 2022 (8:54 am)

    I work for a school district, not in this school district and hubby is a custodian. It sucks school playgrounds are locked but doesn’t surprise me. During the summer if they are left opened they are trashed and vandalized and schools then have to take man power they are low on like my husband who is carpet cleaning the schools in this heat with no ac up until a few days ago or power washing or getting all that needs to be done during the summer that can’t get done during the year as kids are there to come clean up after kids who trash the school whose parents are no where to be found. Just two days ago my husband went to a school for an evening shift and was doing trashing when he had to kick a bunch of teens out who were smoking 🚬 and left a mess and tagging. It’s sad we can’t use our local school playgrounds and enjoy them but do see where the people at the bottom like my husband are struggling to get schools ready for our kiddos.

Sorry, comment time is over.