The Seattle School Board is scheduled to vote Wednesday night whether to take back 19 classrooms now used for preschool and before-and-after-school care.
The proposal is meant to create more homerooms for elementary students in the district, where enrollment is booming. Class size reductions from the state legislature also mean schools need more classrooms just to teach the same number of students.
For decades, the district has leased spare classrooms to child care providers. That allows many families to drop off and pick up their students at school outside of school hours for care. Child care providers are required to work with schools to support students' learning, with time for homework and through creative projects aligned with what students are learning in class. Providers also work as a liaison between families and the school.
Speaking before the school board on Jan. 6, Flip Herndon, the assistant superintendent for capital, facilities and enrollment planning, acknowledged the conflict.
"We do realize that it’s an incredibly important asset for many of our families and provides a lot of support for them," Herndon said. "But we’re also aware that we have to make sure that we have instructional space for our students first and foremost."
Herndon told the school board that the district is working with the city and parks department to look for other child care space -- but space is at a premium citywide.
The school district has not released a list of the child care centers that would be affected by the proposed reclamation and declined KUOW's request for an interview.
Andrea Dos Santos says it would be devastating if the district reclaimed her two children's classrooms at Kids Inc, a child care center at West Woodland Elementary.
"I mean, that would be ‘I think I need to quit my job’ kind of impact. And I know I’m not the only one in that situation," Dos Santos said. That’s because high-quality, affordable child care is hard to find in Seattle.
Dos Santos says she understands the district needs more classroom space. But she and child care providers are concerned that the district isn’t doing enough to find creative solutions, or giving them enough time to make other arrangements.