by: KIRO 7 STAFF Updated:
SEATTLE - The Seattle Public School Board is trying to figure out what to do with several people occupying the old Horace Mann School in the Central District.
At a jam-packed school board meeting Wednesday night, board members weighed and discussed the issues. The group known as AfricaTown Center for Education & Innovation wants to use the building for after-school and summer education programs for black students.
The group was originally allowed into the building by the Seattle Amistad School, which leased the facility from SPS. However, the district did not renew the lease so it could move forward with renovating Horace Mann for use as a new alternative high school in late 2014. Amistad left, but AfricaTown stayed -- literally barricading the school after the end of the lease on Aug. 15.
The district began working with AfricaTown to end the occupation because in September it began costing taxpayers a thousand dollars a day in construction delay fees. The school district is also still paying for power at the school.
Neighbors have complained about the behavior of some of the people occupying the building, calling them squatters. People at Horace Mann say they just want a chance to enrich their children, and describe themselves as volunteers with regular jobs.
Wednesday night, the school board was set to vote on whether to give AfricaTown some space for their activities: Horace Mann's two portable trailers and two rooms on district property two miles south.
Before the vote, board members questioned what took school Superintendent Jose Banda so long to deal with the issue. Banda said the district was in contact with Seattle police to discuss possible options if people stay after a settlement.
KIRO 7 is continuing to follow this story and will have updates from the school board.
Horace Mann school opened in 1902 and was last used as an elementary school in 1968. After being a music annex for two years, the space became home to an alternative high school.