While Seattle churns on earthquake retrofit plans, Capitol Hill school set for seismic upgrades

E Mercer’s Lowell Elementary is lined up for summer seismic work

Saturday afternoon around 3:35 PM, a magnitude 2.7 earthquake sent a little jolt of reminder rippling out of South Seattle. The city has some seismic work to do.

On Capitol Hill, the next round of work begins this summer as Lowell Elementary School is scheduled for major seismic updates this summer while the city tries to figure out what to do about other brick buildings around town. Continue reading

KUOW: District didn’t want us to visit this struggling Seattle school… on Capitol Hill

E Mercer’s Lowell Elementary (Image: CHS)

Everybody — including CHS — focused on the drama around the Lowell Elementary S Path was missing a larger, more pressing need for many students at the Capitol Hill elementary school: a place in the city to call home.

In a moving and frustrating report, KUOW documents the school’s astounding 20% homelessness rate for students and the reportedly shaky educational environment the budget-strapped school district has in place for the kids:

Lowell Elementary School sits across from million-dollar houses on a quiet street in Capitol Hill. But this school serves some of the poorest children in the city.

The percentage of homeless students in Seattle Public Schools has doubled in the past five years. As of spring, 7 percent of the student population lacked a permanent address. That number is much smaller at some schools, and much larger in others.

At Lowell, 20 percent of students were homeless at last count.

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Compromise reached in long debate to reopen short Capitol Hill path

(Image: CHS)

Describing the solution as a unique one-off — not precedent-setting — officials finally have a back-to-school plan to reopen the Lowell Elementary S Path — the short, curving pathway connecting Federal and 11th Ave E that has been fenced off since the start of last school year due to safety concerns over homeless camping and drug use.

“It’s a little bit of a special snowflake,” Seattle Department of Transportation’s Genesee Adkins tells CHS.

The path joins a South Seattle school playground that doubles as a public park and a West Seattle school’s daily closure of a neighborhood street to allow safer student movement among the few unique agreements forged by SDOT with Seattle Public Schools over restricting access to the public right of way.

Officials expect the path to be reopened in time for the start of the school year in September. No property is being acquired and no money will change hands. “There is no change to the right of way,” Adkins said. Continue reading

If it has the cash, Seattle Public Schools wants to buy Lowell Elementary S Path

Still closed

Still closed

Seattle Public Schools is preparing a proposal that would allow the district to purchase and presumably close the “S Path,” the winding, odd little stretch of City of Seattle right of way that connects Federal and 11th Ave E that has been fenced off since the start of the Lowell Elementary school year over concerns about drug use and homeless camping.

The path may be short — but the route to the planned purchase will be a long one. And neighbors who miss their shortcut through the block might be happy to know that, at least for the short term while any proposal makes its way through City Hall, the path would likely have to be reopened and the fences that have blocked it off in recent months, removed. Continue reading

Opposing sides of Capitol Hill path closure rant, collaborate to find solutions

The closure of a short public path near Lowell Elementary resulted in a split between parents and teachers supporting the closure and community members against it. People on both sides of the issue shared their thoughts, sometimes passionately, at a Tuesday meeting held by the Seattle Department of Transportation before brainstorming possible solutions.

Victoria Beach, playground monitor at Lowell, said she was offended by people who wanted to keep the path open and said they hadn’t seen any needles on the winding trail off E Roy between Federal and 11th. “One needle is enough. When kids show me dirty condoms, needles, clothing, a man they thought was dead, when I see the fright in them, I will walk around the world if that’s what it’s going to take,” Beach said. “Your sense of entitlement is sickening to me.”

Fifth grade teacher Laura Schulz also caused a bit of a stir presenting work from nine students who she said chose to draw pictures and write a few sentences supporting the closure. Schulz photocopied their comments and shared them at the meeting. Drawing kids into the debate didn’t sit well with many meeting attendees who showed up to voice their support for reopening the path. Continue reading

If you want the public path next to Lowell Elementary to reopen, you’ll want to go to this meeting

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Neighbors have said closing the public path will not address the root issues of homelessness and heroin use. (Image: CHS)

The sudden closure of a short, wooded public path near Lowell Elementary did not go over smoothly with Capitol Hill neighbors.

After Lowell parents called on Seattle Public Schools to address discarded needles and condoms in the area, the Seattle Department of Transportation fenced off the short trail near E Roy and Federal Ave on September 2nd. One person recently wrote “Over-reaction!” on the closure notice. Many more complaints were lodged here.

SDOT is now planning a series of public meetings to figure out what comes next. The first meeting will be October 25th from 4-6 PM in the Lowell cafeteria. Another meeting will be scheduled for the first week of November. City officials have also met with members of the school’s PTA and hope to have a long-term solution in place by the end of the year.

UPDATE 10/7/2016: SDOT has announced the details of its second planned meeting on the path:

  • October 254-6 pm Lowell Elementary School – Cafeteria – 1058 E Mercer St.
  • November 36-8 pm 12th Avenue Arts – Pike Pine Room – 1620 12th Ave.

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Public path closed near Lowell Elementary where used needles repeatedly found

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Fencing and no trespassing signs were installed on the path Friday morning. (Image: Alex Garland)

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A sleeping bag and needles found near the path by members of the Lowell PTA. (Image: Susanna Mak)

Parents of Lowell Elementary students say a wooded public pathway that cuts through the Capitol Hill school grounds has long been used as a place for people to camp and inject drugs.

After months of parents calling on Seattle Public Schools to address the issue, the Seattle Department of Transportation fenced off the short trail on Friday. Crews also cleared trees and shrubs along the path at E Roy between Federal and 11th.

“From our point of view, the right of way must be permanently closed,” said
Suzanna Mak of the Lowell Elementary PTA.

According to Mak, used needles, condoms, and human waste are a common site on the path that winds between the school building and its playground. While the PTA has documented needles found on the site as early as this week, one neighbor tells CHS there has not been an encampment in the area for several years. Seattle Public School students return to school September 7th.

UPDATE: SDOT spokesperson Norm Mah said that after the city received complaints from the school district and PTA, SDOT decided to temporarily close off the path due to the “ongoing public health hazard” posed by discarded needles.

Once the temporary closure is in place, we will assess the situation and explore a number of long-term remedies with the objective of ensuring the safety needs of the elementary school while preserving the mobility needs of the neighborhood. We will work with all essential stakeholders on the longer-term resolution.

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Seattle making plans for new downtown school

The new Northwest School building -- complete with rooftop sports field -- could be a model for a new downtown school at 2nd and Spring (Image: CHS)

The new Northwest School building — complete with rooftop sports field — could be a model for a new downtown school at 2nd and Spring (Image: CHS)

Monday night, Seattle Public Schools will host a meeting to discuss a proposal to create a downtown elementary school by taking over the former Federal Reserve building at 2nd and Spring. It’s not exactly Capitol Hill news except for the fact E Mercer’s Lowell Elementary currently serves as the district’s destination for downtown families. Continue reading