• Special needs school scrambling after six-month deadline to vacate

    By: John Knicely

    Updated:

    SEATTLE - The clock is ticking for Northwest Center, a school for special needs children.  The building belongs to Seattle Public Schools which needs it back, and it’s clear both sides are in a tough spot. 

    Northwest Center has leased the old school building on Queen Anne from Seattle Public schools for nearly three decades.  Marti Louther's daughter Norah started attending when she was 4 months old after she was diagnosed with Down syndrome. 

    “Norah had a debilitating seizure disorder,” said Louther.  “And she had serious medical issues. And the staff just dealt with it beautifully.” 

    The lease agreement allows Seattle schools to take the building back with 6 months’ notice.  Northwest Center CEO Tom Everill says because of that he's repeatedly reached out to school officials over the past few years.  That way he’d know if he needed to start making other plans. 

    “Each time I was told there are no plans for the building,” said Everill. 

    Seattle Public Schools would not do an interview but released a statement to KIRO 7. 

    It said in part, “Seattle Public Schools is experiencing continued enrollment growth, requiring us to use our existing buildings as effectively as possible.” 

    As for the timing, officials said the board finalized adjusted school boundaries last fall.  “It was only after those boundaries were approved in late November that we were able to determine our needs for space,” according to the statement. 

    A home school program run by the school district will take over the Queen Anne building.  That program is losing its space to a new elementary school. 

    “We understand that they're under extreme pressure for space and we understand the program that's supposed to go in here also needs a home as well,” said Louther, who is also on the Northwest Center board.  “We want a seat at the table to talk about this.” 

    Seattle Schools has suggested the Van Asselt building south of downtown could be an option for Northwest Center. 

    “It's not really set up for us and in the time frame they've given us there's no way we can get in there,” said Louther. 

    “The licensing process alone is a six-month process,” said Everill.  “So even Van Asselt does not strike me as a reasonable option with a six-month clock.” 

    Everill's focus now is on stopping the six-month clock.  Several parents of children from Northwest Center have started a petition to take to the school board.

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