On Nov. 20, supporters of the Seattle World School (SWS) beat back an effort to relocate the school from its current Central Area location and to scrap plans for its permanent home.
In a narrow 4-to-3 vote, the School Board voted down a motion by School Board director Kay Smith-Blum to move SWS and to reserve T.T. Minor as a neighborhood elementary school, rather than the permanent home for SWS as was earlier promised. The motion included plans to use the building for the next several years as an interim location for Central Area middle school students, halting the district’s plans to develop the Seattle World School on the site.
In the past, the School Board and the public had approved levy funds to reopen T.T. Minor elementary School (at 17th Avenue and Union Street), as a permanent home for SWS, allowing the school to finally achieve some stability and plan for future growth as a full-fledged high school.
Since its founding in 1980, the Seattle World School has been moved six times, from one temporary location to another. SWS (formerly known as the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center) is one of only a few schools nationwide designed as a preliminary educational portal through which immigrant middle and high school students can learn English while they transition into the public schools. When the 12th-grade curriculum is added next year, students will have a supported path to graduation.
International Community Health Services has operated a school-based clinic at SWS since 2011.
SWS parents, teachers, students and volunteers were furious at the latest attempt to deny the SWS a permanent home within the reach of families living in all parts of the city. They came out in force — armed with hand-drawn signs — to speak out against this recent threat. After a long meeting that stretched into the night, the School Board finally voted down Smith-Blum’s motion, which was also strongly endorsed by board member Betty Patu.
School Board member Michael DeBell, speaking against Smith-Blum’s motion, said, “This is a slam-dunk. We have the plan, we have the staff, we have the money. Let’s go ahead and give Seattle World School a home.”
Board member Harium Martin-Morris, also opposing the motion, said the board needed to keep its promise to immigrants and refugees: “This is one of our most vulnerable communities. Let’s give them a home.”
Concie Pedroza, principal of Seattle World School, said, “I am thankful that the School Board and the school superintendent have decided to make it a priority to move forward to support planning for the Seattle World School and that my school community is finally going to have some stability for the next few years.”
Maria Ramirez, chair of Friends of Seattle World School, said she and other supporters of SWS were pleased with the School Board decision but cautioned that there is still much work ahead in designing and building the permanent home.
“We would have been very unhappy if the School Board had voted against us,” she said. “But we still have a long way to go to realize the vision.”