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Superintendent Banda is trying to come up with a solution for the Northwest Center and Cascade Parenting Program, both of which are scheduled to move in June. At first it was just the Northwest Center who was unhappy with their offer to move to the Van Asselt building; they know they have to move, but Van Asselt is not currently licensed to accommodate their developmentally and physically disabled students so they're asking for more time. Now, Cascade parents are potentially getting shafted.
At a meeting on Wednesday, Banda proposed that the Cascade Parenting Program stay in Wilson-Pacific for six more months during the demolition and reconstruction of the space, giving the Northwest Center six more months in the North Queen Anne location that will become Cascade's permanent home.
As you an imagine, this went over like a ton of bricks.
Melissa Taft, a Cascade parent of two students, reached out to tell me how Cascade parents are taking this.
The majority of parents are opposed to the plan. My children go full-time, and all of their academic needs are met through the school. If this delay in the move is necessary to give the Northwest Center time, I would be okay with that even though I'm not excited about it, but there are other parents saying how difficult it would be for the kids to participate in that kind of environment, especially since some of our kids have sound and sensory issues. I really like Banda but he needs to communicate with the community more. He hasn’t been superintendent very long, but there's already been a lot of turnover at the district level. I'm not sure what’s going to happen, but my heart is in my throat for families at both schools.
This idea has been floated to Cascade parents and the superintendent is eager to hear their input, but they won't be able to influence the final decision made by Banda and Flip Herndon, assistant superintendent for capital, facilities and enrollment planning.
Ms. Taft told me that the superintendent called the meeting to hear what Cascade had to say about his idea, but he has still not met with or contacted the parents at the Northwest Center since they received their eviction notice. Banda also incorrectly said that a meeting this Sunday with Northwest Center parents and Representative Reuven Carlyle has been canceled—Banda declined to attend, but the meeting is still happening. When I asked Rep. Carlyle what he thought of Banda's proposed plan of action, he said:
The School District is struggling under the crush of overcrowding, and the Superintendent is working to find a win-win for Northwest Center and Cascade, two treasured programs that both need homes. I hope the City leadership will actively join in this effort so kids in both programs can have a safe place to learn. This has been very emotional for both communities and I hope the city can double down on efforts to find homes for both of these widely respected and valuable programs.
I asked Lesley Rogers, communication spokesperson for Seattle Public Schools, if constructing a new school around existing students is a regular practice.
It is not ideal to have students and staff in a building where construction is happening, although there have been cases in which we have been able to remodel buildings with little disruption (Nathan Hale).
Ms. Taft remains skeptical about Cascade kids staying in the school during construction.
This would not be a permanent solution for either program. I’m really hopeful that city council and district will work together and really cooperate to find a solution.