Tutu’s Pantry and the Backpack Brigade help keep Capitol Hill school kids fed

Can by can, donations help Tutu’s Pantry keep kids fed (Image: CHS)

Hundreds of students at local schools don’t have reliable access to food, particularly on weekends, and a network of volunteer-run organizations has stepped in to assist them.

There are a number of programs in place to help students from lower income families get meals during school. Most common is the free and reduced meals program administered by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. The federal government helps provide funding that gives children from families below a certain income threshold (this year in Seattle, for a family of four, it is an annual income of less than $46,435 for reduced price meals and $32,630 for free meals) access to breakfast and lunch every school day. Across the district, 34% of students qualify for the program.

Then the weekend comes, and that assistance dries up.

So Seattle schools have developed a patchwork of parent-run groups to help fill the gap. Typically, the programs provide needy students with a backpack full of food on Friday to help get them through the weekend, though the specifics can vary greatly by school.

At Stevens Elementary, which serves children in North Capitol Hill, the program is known as Tutu’s Pantry.  Tutu’s Pantry provide backpacks on Fridays and larger boxes of food in advance of longer breaks. They also try to accommodate dietary restrictions.

It might be difficult to imagine that a school flanked by multi-million dollar homes has children in it who are food-insecure. “A lot of the families that we serve are struggling,” said Lori Bugaj, who runs Stevens’ program.

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With John/Thomas corridor work underway, 2019 will bring $2.2M Safe Routes to School pedestrian improvements across Capitol Hill

Guess what? What’s safer for students will also be safer for everybody crossing 15th Ave E (Images: CHS)

Students walking to Capitol Hill’s Lowell Elementary and Meany Middle School should be greeted by a number of safety improvements on their way to school next year.

The Safe Routes to School program is administered by the Seattle Department of Transportation with an eye toward making it easier and safer for children to walk and bike to school. In a 2016 report, program officials touted 18 projects at schools around the city. Projects range from installing speed bumps to rebuilding or installing sidewalks and other pedestrian safety enhancements.

In the coming year, SDOT projects it will make improvements at 31 schools around Seattle. Capitol Hill will get in on the program with a grab-bag of safety measures on streets and at intersections around Lowell and Meany, which may begin construction in the summer of 2019. Continue reading

E Olive Way fostering two growing Capitol Hill industries — legal pot… and kids

The International Montessori Academy’s Yimin Chen

E Olive Way has a little something for everyone. For parents in search of a multilingual education for their young children, starting this month, the curving street is now home to a new International Montessori Academy.

Work has completed to transform a new-era but unsuccessful Chinese restaurant and the  Bellevue-based provider of Mandarin Chinese, French, or Spanish language immersion and Montessori education for elementary school-age children is set to fully open this month, school founder Yimin Chen tells CHS.

“The construction delay set us back a little bit,” Chen said. “Some families had to withdraw because of the delay.” But the typical City of Seattle permit issues and contractor scheduling challenges have not dampened demand. There has been a small group of day care kids putting the newly re-built out space through its spaces. Soon, daily classes will begin. Continue reading

Seattle has a school bus problem

Families around Seattle may soon see some relief from the persistent problem of late school buses. The public school district has announced it has found a second bus company to help deliver children to and from school, which will add 15 new buses, and drivers, into the mix.

Problems began last year. Labor troubles with First Student, the company which runs the bus system, began shortly after the beginning of the previous school year, with drivers going on a one-day strike in November 2017, followed by another strike in February that lasted eight days.

Even after the strikes ended, First Student struggled to find enough drivers. Some routes in the previous (2017-18) school year were so chronically late that district officials took to giving secondary school students ORCA cards, acknowledging that school buses simply couldn’t do the job. The issue has continued this year. Since the first day of school, some routes have run one or even two hours late, leaving parents worried and frustrated, and children milling around waiting for a bus to show up. There is no district policy on how, or whether, to provide supervision for children waiting for a delayed bus. Continue reading

Toughest problem on November’s ballot for Seattle voters? Maybe the new school levy

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King County Elections says that early ballot returns are on pace for a big turnout for the November 6th election — it received 60,000 ballots in the mail Wednesday morning, more than twice what it expected. That likely means at least a few Seattle voters have already sorted out one of the stickiest problems on this year’s ballot — what to do about the new school levy.

If approved, Seattle’s proposed Families and Education Levy would expand services for the city’s school-aged children. And in this case, the term school aged would mean people from preschool to college. The project would fund a laundry list of services within those grade levels, but some education activists are pushing back on the proposal.

Mayor Jenny Durkan has championed the levy as building “a school to opportunity pipeline.” “The increase comes from us doing the two things that we know are vital. Increasing pre-school so that more kids come to school ready to learn. And giving kids that opportunity to go to college,” the mayor said in April as she rolled out the proposal.

It will not come cheaply. The levy, proposed by the city, not the school district, would raise about $619 million over seven years. In 2019, it would mean a property tax rate of up to 36.5 cents per thousand dollars of assessed value. A citywide median home of $665,000 would pay $242 in taxes. Continue reading

A lesson in ‘Teaching for Black Lives’ from Garfield High

By Carolyn Bick

In the one high school honors class Jesse Hagopian was in, his mostly white peers laughed at him when he stumbled over some words as he read aloud to the rest of the class.

“Being one of the only students of color in the classroom, that pretty much shut down my attention or will to participate in that class,” Hagopian recalled. “School was a challenge to me. I never thought I’d ever be a teacher. I wanted to get away from school.”

Growing up, the Garfield High School ethnic studies teacher had very few teachers of color in his school career, and did not see any Black people reflected in his curriculum, until college. It was a “very alienating experience,” he said. It didn’t leave him any room to discuss or explore his identity as a Black and mixed race person, or help him appreciate the contributions Black people have made to society. Continue reading

Central District students walk out to say annual teacher reshuffling unfairly targets Seattle’s ‘marginalized’ schools

Seattle school kids led by students at E Cherry’s Nova High School marched on City Hall Tuesday afternoon to protest the district’s enrollment-driven teacher transfer process and its effect on schools with strong LGBTQ, and student of color populations.

“We are marching and walking down to Seattle City Hall just to show that we stand with our teachers as much as they stand with us,” senior Casey Thomas told CHS about the walkout and rally. Thomas and student organizers say the district’s transfer of teachers targets marginalized students. “Schools up north are not being targeted,” Thomas said. Continue reading

Nova High students plan walkout against annual Seattle Schools teacher reshuffling

(Image via @cmkshama)

District 3 rep Kshama Sawant has joined students at Nova to call for a midday walkout Tuesday in protest of the loss of teachers at the E Cherry alternative high school.

The eliminated positions are part of the annual reshuffling at Seattle Public Schools after the start of the school year based on student attendance at individual schools and across the SPS system. In a statement, SPS said no jobs were being eliminated as teachers are transferred around the district from under-enrolled schools to schools with more students than planned. Enrollment across the city is about 700 students short of the district’s projections.

Students calling for the Tuesday walkout and march to Seattle City Hall say 33 teachers face transfers this year.

New SPS superintendent Denise Juneau, meanwhile, will hold her Central Seattle stop on a “listening and learning” tour next month. “Ultimately, community discussions will become the foundation of a revised strategic plan that maps the district’s course for the coming years,” the announcement reads. “A summary of the Listening and Learning Tour findings will be published in November 2018.”

Tuesday, October 2, 5:30 – 8 p.m.

  • Town Hall for Students: 5:30 – 6:10 p.m.
  • Central Town Hall: 6:30 – 8 p.m.

Co-hosted with Seattle’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs
Location: Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center
104 17th Ave. S, Seattle, WA 98144

Macklemore, Michael Bennett team up with Garfield educator to put Teaching for Black Lives book in every school in Seattle

Hagopian, Bennett, and Macklemore (Image courtesy Rethinking Schools)

An all-star team including Macklemore and Garfield High educator and activist Jesse Hagopian has come together to make sure copies of Teaching for Black Lives — “a handbook for creating the sweeping reform of our education system and equitable teaching strategies for Black students”– are in every middle and high school in the Seattle Public School system. Continue reading

With one-year deal for teachers, new $600M+ Seattle education levy and next round of negotiations loom

This November, Seattle voters will vote on a new education levy hoped to open the “school to opportunity pipeline” with more than $600 million in local funding. It will be a crucial vote for spending and maintenance at Seattle Public Schools —  and it is likely to shape negotiations that are all but guaranteed to be contentious after the union representing Seattle’s public school educators voted Saturday to approve a new one-year contract.

Saturday’s vote followed the tentative agreement on a new deal based around a 10.5% raise and paid five days of family leave that averted a Seattle teacher strike last week. Continue reading