My urban planning background means I end up having a lot of discussions and strategy sessions with friends and colleagues around built environment, transportation, and density. But it also inspires me to get involved with related considerations such as the recent issue around Seattle Public School capacity. The recent discussion by Seattle Public Schools to annex seven on-site preschool or child care locations to make room for new K-3 homerooms was a great case of my personal and professional worlds colliding. As a dad of future SPS students, a city councilmember, and the chair of the planning committee, I felt we should be engaging with the school district to ensure that we protected as many on-site child care providers as possible, and if we couldn’t find space inside the school, that we should be looking at nearby city and non-profit locations as possible homes for child care providers.
I believe that we need our city’s education system to keep pace with the growing number of people who call Seattle home. We need ensure that each student has a seat in a classroom, and that their families have the option of before or aftercare programs that not only serves the needs of working families, but programs that provide well-rounded opportunities for their children. Seattle’s growth is not projected to slow down any time soon, so ultimately we need long term solutions and better data to help the accuracy of the enrollment projections so that we don’t continue to face capacity issues with farther reaching ramifications.
I know that there are many people who have been working on solving the capacity dilemma but I strongly believe that the right answers can only come from a coordinated, creative, and forward thinking approach. Since our first week in office, my staff and I have been engaged in many conversations to help come up with solutions – we’ve been talking with child care providers about the type of holistic care they want to offer kids in their programs, with the school district about how they build their models to project student enrollment, with members of the School Board about how they want to ensure that families voices are heard throughout the process, and with Seattle’s Department of Education and Early Learning about their commitment to convene the right players to come up with solutions.
And while it is clear to me that this issue is a complex one, it’s the three girls who greet me when I get home from work every day inspire me to be a voice at this table – not to find a band aide of a short term solution, but to help build models that can help achieve smart, coordinated growth for the long term so that the students of Seattle and their families can be confident that their city and their school system will grow proportionally with the neighborhoods around them.
I feel direct ownership of these solutions both because I’m a parent and because many of the technical elements required fix our capacity problems fall under the umbrella of my Planning, Land Use and Zoning committee . We’ve been working on this issue for several weeks now; there’s more to come on that front soon, and we’re very much looking forward to being part of Mayor Murray’s education summit this spring to elevate the capacity discussion and put it in a broader context. Part of this summit will involve community conversations during the month of March and we will share more details once we have them in hopes that you’ll join us in participating. Ultimately, creating a family friendly city has always been at the top of my list and that all starts with having great schools.