A stressful weekend has yielded a reported extension but parents at Capitol Hill daycare Mother’s Place have been in a scramble after 12th Ave property owner Seattle Academy’s sudden decision to close the facility.
In a letter to Mother’s Place families sent Thursday, the academy’s head of school Rob Phillips informed parents that the academy was preparing to shutter the daycare facility it has owned since buying the property and business in 2011.
“This decision was made by reviewing Seattle Academy’s mission, the desire to bring Seattle Academy programmatic elements together on one block, impact to our communities, responsibilities of day care ownership and our continued need to house Seattle Academy’s expanded programs,” Phillips wrote.
The letter said the academy would cease operations at the daycare at the end of June, a timeline families told CHS was too abrupt to allow them the time necessary to find a replacement source of care for their children and a schedule, many parents said, was unfair to the staff, some of whom have been part of Mother’s Place for more than 20 years.
According to a family member familiar with the discussions, the Seattle Academy agreed to a over the weekend to a one-year extension and plans to continue operating Mother’s Place until June 2020.
The academy acquired the Mother’s Place property and 1930-built daycare building in 2011 for $3 million and has operated the child care facility under the Cardinal Child Care, LLC since the acquisition.
The Seattle Academy has continued to be part of an ongoing wave of growth for Capitol Hill’s private schools. This year, it debuted its new $48 million “vertically-oriented middle school.” The five-story, 87,500-square-foot Cardinal Union building includes larger classrooms, a new gym, and Capitol Hill’s second rooftop playground/play field above, plus underground parking below. But even with the new building and the transition from space leased from Temple De Hirsch Sinai, the academy has further plans for branching out on 12th Ave where it will create a new classroom building by converting a 24,000 square-foot warehouse that neighbors the school. An academy representative tells CHS the Mother’s Place building is planned to be used as an “operations” facility.
Options for Capitol Hill parents and Central Seattle families with parents working downtown who have favored the 12th Ave center are relatively few but there are a couple choices. National chain Bright Horizons debuted its $1.7 million daycare center on the backside of Pike/Pine in 2015. This year, a new International Montessori Academy debuted on E Olive Way. And a daycare is planned to be one of the tenants when the Capitol Hill Station developments open along Broadway in coming years. Higher income parents can also choose in-home options and other private providers.
Options are also increasing for lower income parents in Central Seattle. In 2014, Seattle voters approved a tax increase to create a four-year pilot program to provide tuition-free pre-K for a quarter of Seattle’s three and four-year-olds and make subsidies available for the rest. There are roughly 12,300 preschool-aged kids in Seattle — a city analysis showed that between a quarter and a third are not enrolled in any type of formal preschool program and a “gap analysis” study released by the city showed poor children and children of color are vastly underserved. About 1,500 students were served by the current pilot program. In 2018, voters approved a new Seattle school levy that included a planned $341 million to expand the city’s preschool program to serve another 1,000 students.
For the Mother’s Place staff and the more than 70 families enrolled at the facility, however, the idea of moving on is difficult. “For 37 years, it’s been in the same location. The great majority of staff has been here 15-plus years. It’s not a job — it’s not just any school,” one longtime employee who cannot be identified because she was not authorized to speak with media told CHS.
The discussions have begun about a possible new start at a new location — an effort the group estimates will take at least 18 months to sort out. Parents are “still in a tight timeframe to pull something off to save” Mother’s Place, a parent tells us, “but we have a group of parents that are committed to figuring out some solution.”
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