Seattle Public Schools may delay Whittier Developmental Preschool move by one year

Seattle Public Schools  announced on Wednesday that it may delay by one year the planned move of the Developmental Preschool at Whittier Elementary to Viewlands Elementary.

Last week we told you that some parents with children in the Developmental Preschool were upset that the district had made the decision to move the program in January, but didn’t tell them until mid-March. Some of the preschoolers have older siblings enrolled at Whittier specifically so the family could be at one school. By waiting to notify parents until after Open Enrollment had ended, those families didn’t have the option to move their older children to Viewlands as well.

The Developmental Preschool is located on the bottom floor of Whittier Elementary.

The school district says it made the initial decision in January, after determining that Whittier would likely need an extra classroom next year. Since there are no open classrooms right now, either the Developmental Preschool or the Whittier Kids before- and after-school program would need to move. The district determined that more families would be affected by the loss of the before- and after-school program.

The district has sent home a letter with all Whittier students, stating that it will wait until April 15 to determine if increased enrollment at the school will mean it needs the preschool room for an additional home room. The letter from Pegi McEvoy, Assistant Superintendent for Operations, says that if the latest enrollment data for Whittier does not show any increases for next year, then the Developmental Preschool will remain at Whittier for the 2012-13 school year, then move to Viewlands in 2013-14.

SPS Spokeswoman Teresa Wippel told me on Wednesday that the district has an exception process for siblings who want to transfer to Viewlands but missed the Open Enrollment period. The new District Ombudsman is helping affected families with that process.

Parents upset about Whittier’s Developmental Preschool moving to Viewlands next year with little notice

By Doree, from our sister site, Phinney Wood

Seattle Public Schools is moving the Developmental Preschool program at Whittier Elementary School in Ballard to Viewlands Elementary in North Greenwood/Crown Hill next year. But, some parents in the Developmental Preschool are upset because they weren’t involved in the decision-making process, and they were given very little notice.

The Developmental Preschool is located on the bottom floor of Whittier Elementary.

The district says it is moving the program because it anticipates higher enrollment at Whittier in the next few years, and may need an extra classroom.

Amy Thompson, whose 4-year-old daughter, Ava, has attended the Developmental Preschool for the last two years, says the district apparently made the decision in February, but didn’t notify parents until Monday. She said the district posted a letter on its website on Feb. 17 detailing various district-wide Special Education changes, and the preschool change consisted of one line in that document. But no one from the district or Whittier Elementary notified parents of that letter on the website.

“It was deeply buried,” Thompson says of the notice. “And who’s going to go looking for that if they don’t know to look for it?”

Thompson says she heard about the move last Thursday from Whittier Principal Linda Robinson. Preschool families received a notification letter on Monday, and that same letter was sent home with all Whittier students on Tuesday.

Here is an excerpt from the letter by Pegi McEvoy, Assistant Superintendent for Operations:

At this time, we have tentatively planned to maintain the same number of homerooms currently at Whittier; however, the situation is such that we need to be prepared to add a homeroom as additional Open Enrollment date becomes available. This type of decision obviously needs to be made in advance. In anticipation of potential space needs for an additional homeroom at Whittier next year, we have decided to relocate the Developmental Preschool to Viewlands Elementary beginning in the 2012-13 school year. Consideration was given to the addition of a portable; however it was determined to be unfeasible.

SPS also says it is studying the need for additional Development Preschools at other sites throughout the district, including North Seattle.

The Whittier PTA has formally opposed the move, arguing that Whittier’s enrollment figures do not necessitate another homeroom next year. On Monday, the PTA sent a letter to district officials (see end of this post for the full letter).

Thompson said her family’s reference school is Adams Elementary, but they chose to enroll their 6-year-old son, Campbell, in kindergarten at Whittier this year, so he and his sister could attend the same school. With the preschool moving to Whittier, they will be split up.

Thompson said she understands school capacity issues, but the real issue is with timely notification. Since the Open Enrollment period has passed, she no longer has the option of moving her son to Viewlands next year, to keep her children at the same school.

“If it is a foregone conclusion that the program is moving, at a minimum, just give us a year of transition to work these issues out,” she pleaded.

Thompson says routines and structure are especially important for children with developmental issues. Her daughter has significant development delays and requires intensive speech, occupational and physical therapy. When Ava started going to the Developmental Preschool program at the age of 3, she used a walker to get around. Today she walks independently, and Thompson attributes that to the teachers and intense therapy at the preschool.

“All of them require a special level of education services, so whether it comes in the form of cognitive therapy, learning or physical therapy, their routines are very structured that way,” she explains. “It takes a while to develop that routine with your educators.”

She’s worried about the same level of services being available at Viewlands, after the district informed parents that the new Developmental Preschool room at Viewlands is not equipped for physical therapy, as it is at Whittier.

“Not having those things in place is a pretty big setback to their progress and overall development plan,” she says.

Thompson says the preschool has done a great job of integrating with the regular education program at Whittier, even having 5th graders as learning buddies for the preschoolers.

“The great thing about it is that as a parent with two typically developing children and one atypically developing, is it integrates the learning environment. So our whole family can participate, instead of Ava being off to one side.”

Parents in the preschool program have started an online petition to ask the district to hold off on moving the program for one year.

We contacted Seattle Public Schools yesterday for more information on the decision-making process to close the preschool. We will update this post when we hear back.

(Disclosure: My son goes to Whittier, but has no connection to the Developmental Preschool.)

Here’s the letter from the Whittier PTA to the Seattle School Board, opposing the preschool’s move:

To: Seattle School Board
From: Lisa Melenyzer & April Brown, on behalf of the Whittier PTA General Membership
Date: March 19, 2012
RE: Relocation of Whittier Developmental Preschool

The following letter is written on behalf of the PTA families and supporters of the Whittier Elementary School Developmental Preschool program. The program has been a powerful tool in serving the developmental needs of area children, providing a high quality early education environment and helping each student to realize their full potential. The program and its students have been put at risk as the classroom has been slated to relocate to another school next year. The PTA is formally requesting a reversal of that decision, maintaining the program at Whittier Elementary.

There are four primary reasons to reverse this decision on behalf of the students, faculty and parents at Whittier Elementary:

1. Capacity is a Non-issue
• This migration decision was purportedly motivated by concerns about classroom capacity at Whittier Elementary, however, the District-projected enrollment provided with Whittier’s Budget Allocation indicate that Whittier is expecting a decrease in enrollment, down to 451 from the October 2011 headcount of 460 students.
• A letter written to the Whittier community in January of 2012 by Pegi McEvoy indicated that if “enrollment is not as high as anticipated, we will not add an additional homeroom.” With no increase in enrollment, and no additional staffing for another homeroom, there appear to be no plans for 2012-13 for the classroom currently housing the Developmental Preschool.

2. The Decision for Program Migration Lacks Thoughtful Planning
• Despite a posting of the program change on February 17, 2012, students and families have yet to receive formal notice about the change, thus they were not afforded the opportunity to make alternative plans for siblings during the Open Enrollment period.
• Students and families were not consulted during the decision making process.
• Program officials have yet to confirm availability of Intensive services (e.g. speech, occupational therapies) or provide any insight on staffing positions in the new classroom.
• With principal changes planned this year for Whittier and Viewlands schools, the best way to ensure stability in the Developmental Preschool program is to let it continue in its present form with the support of the Whittier community.

3. The Decision Does Not Consider the Best Interests of our Children
• Disruption to learning environment removes routines and consistency which are critical for children with developmental needs.
• The move will divide families with siblings attending Whittier Elementary across two schools increasing demands on resources (e.g. travel) and reducing parental involvement (e.g. two PTAs, teacher conferences).

4. The Decision Does Not Honor the Interests of our Educators and Whittier Elementary
• Educators, administrators and the Whittier Elementary community were not sufficiently involved in decision-making processes.
• Removing the Developmental Preschool program reduces diversity and makes the school less representative of the community it serves.
• The Whittier staff has a proven track record of working collaboratively with the Preschool team and sharing resources to improve the experience of both the preschool and K-5 populations.

Given the lack of thoughtful planning, negative impact to children, families, educators and Whittier Elementary, the PTA is formally requesting a reversal of the relocation decision. In absence of a rationale to the contrary, we feel that a move at this time is unjustified and unnecessarily destabilizes the preschool population. Please consult with the District and ensure that the children and families served by the Developmental Preschool are being served appropriately and protected from unnecessary tumult.

Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to your speedy response to this request.


Lisa Melenyzer and April Brown
Co-Presidents of the Whittier PTA
On behalf of the General Membership of the Whittier PTA

Chicken found crossing 8th Ave NW

Updated: While walking the dog around Whittier Heights we saw “LOST CHICKEN!” signs stapled to light posts and called the owner. Fingers crossed that this is their missing chicken! The chicken and owner have been reunited!

Earlier:Kiva tells us that her mom saw a chicken trying to cross the road – seriously – on 8th Avenue NW near the corner of NW 73rd Street today.

If it’s yours, please email Kiva at

Construction update for 85th St repaving project

Seattle Department of Transportation continues its nearly year-long paving project on N/NW 85th Street from Ballard to I-5.

Here’s what SDOT plans to work on this week (planned work hours are from 7 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.)

Phase 1 – 15th Ave NW to 8th Ave NW

  • Demolition, excavation and replacement of concrete roadway panels throughout the project area.
  • Removal and replacement of curbs, curb ramps and sidewalk at Mary Ave NW, 11th Ave NW, 10th Ave NW and 9th Ave NW intersections.
  • Installation of storm drain pipes and inlets on NW 85th St at 13th Ave NW (south side).
  • Access to/from NW 85th St at Mary Ave NW (north side) and 13th Ave NW (north and south sides) will be closed starting this week.

Side-streets can be closed for up to 30 days; closure days are not required to be consecutive.

Phase 2 – 8th Ave NW to Greenwood Ave N

  • Continue roadway demolition and excavation on the south side of NW 85th St between 8th Ave NW and 3rd Ave NW.

Residents and businesses will be notified in advance of impacts to driveways.

  • Access to/from NW 85th St at 6th Ave NW (south side) will continue to be closed for installation of storm drain pipes and concrete work.

Phase 3 – Greenwood Ave N to Aurora Ave N

  • Access to/from NW 85th St at Phinney Ave N (north side) will be closed beginning next week for installation of a stormwater detention pipe; this work will take approximately two to three weeks to complete.

Detention pipe work is allowed to be done out of sequence; Phase 3 roadway work on N 85th St is not anticipated to begin until spring/summer 2012.

Note: construction activities are weather dependent and are subject to change.

Upcoming Construction Activities (stay tuned for additional details):

  • Nighttime asphalt paving on NW 85th St is planned between 15th Ave NW and 8th Ave NW at night on Monday March 5; the roadway will be fully closed to traffic at night from Monday at 9 p.m. to Tuesday at 6 a.m.
  • Paving is weather dependent and could shift to the night of Tuesday, March 6
  • Weekend intersection reconstruction at N 85th St and Greenwood Ave is tentatively scheduled for the weekend of March 9 through 12; the intersection will be fully closed to traffic from Friday, March 9 at 7 p.m. through Monday, March 12 at 6 a.m.

Whittier Elementary looking for last-minute auction donations

If you own a Ballard-Phinney-Greenwood area business and would like to donate to Whittier Elementary School’s bi-annual auction, the deadline is tomorrow, February 29.

The auction is the main fundraiser for Whittier’s PTA, which pays for after-school tutoring, field trips, the school’s art teacher, annual events like the fall carnival, provides extra library funds, and more.

This year’s auction theme harkens waaaayyyy back – to the 1980s. “We Got the Beat” is set for Saturday, May 5, at The Canal in Ballard.

New this year, Whittier will auction off most items online, before the May 5 main auction and party. The online auction will launch on April 23. It will be divided into sections that close at different dates.

Auction coordinators say auctioning the majority of items online will make it much easier for volunteers, so they don’t have to set up hundreds of items at the May 5 main event. It also opens up bidding to everyone, whether they come to the May 5 party or not, and whether or not they have children at Whittier (i.e., grandparents who live in another state could bid on children’s books or experiences to give as gifts).

You can donate online. If you have questions, email the auction committee at

(Disclosure: Doree (the author) is on the Whittier auction committee.)

‘Pond Watchers’ will monitor amphibians at Carkeek Park

More than 50 volunteers with Woodland Park Zoo’s “pond watch” program will fan out at Carkeek Park this Saturday morning to survey amphibian egg masses in ponds and wetlands.

Oregon Spotted Frog. Photo by Dana Payne, Woodland Park Zoo.

The volunteers have already completed special training. They will be armed with hip waders, digital cameras, GPS units, and other monitoring tools.

Eight amphibian species will be monitored under the new regional program: western toad, Northwestern salamander, northern red-legged frog, Pacific tree frog, Oregon spotted frog, rough-skinned newt, long-toed salamander and American bullfrog. This project will provide critical population data, which over the long term can help determine if amphibian declines or fluctuations are occurring.

The ancient class of amphibians includes salamanders, newts, an obscure group of legless creatures known as caecilians and, of course, the icons, frogs and toads. Because their skin is so permeable, amphibians are known as sentinels of the planet, signaling an early warning when something is not right in the environment.

Intersection of 85th & 8th closed this weekend

The intersection of NW 85th Street and 8th Avenue NW will be closed again this weekend so Seattle Department of Transportation crews can rebuild it. Large signs sit by the side of the road, warning drivers from every direction as they approach the intersection.

The rebuilt intersection is part of SDOT’s nearly year-long repaving of N/NW 85th Street from Ballard to I-5. The intersection will be closed from 6 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday. Work will continue around the clock, but noisy work (such as jack-hammering) will be limited between 10 p.m. and 9 a.m.

Detour routes will be posted, and nearby businesses will be open, just a little harder to get to. Eastbound detours will remain in place on NW 85th St between 15th Ave NW and 8th Ave NW as part of the work on that stretch of road.

Metro bus routes 28 and 48 will be detoured. Check Metro’s Alerts Center for more information and to sign up for Transit Alerts.

Back to work on NW 85th after snow and ice

The major repaving project on NW 85th Street was put on hold for several days last week because of the snow and ice. Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) resumed work this week. Here’s an update on current work.

Work continues in Phase 1 between 15th Ave NW and 8th Ave NW. Work activities impacted by the snow are currently being rescheduled. We will continue to update you on how the weather delay may impact anticipated work activities over the next couple weeks.

Construction activities anticipated this week include:

  • Continued roadway removal and excavation between:
  1. Mary Ave NW and 14th Ave NW (north side)
  2. 14th Ave NW and 12th Ave NW (north side)
  3. 11th Ave NW and 10th Ave NW (north side)
  4. Dibble Ave NW and 8th Ave NW (south side)
  • Installation of drainage facilities at the intersection of 14th Ave NW and NW 85th St
  • Concrete paving throughout the project area (as weather allows)
  • Opening of 12th Ave NW and closing of 11th Ave NW — Side streets can be closed for up to 30 days total, however the days are not required to be consecutive. This means streets may be opened and closed as needed.
  • Closure of Dibble Avenue south of NW 85th St for installation of drainage facilities and roadway removal, excavation and concrete panel replacement.
  • Westbound traffic continues to be maintained through Phase 1 primarily on the south side of the street.

Whittier Elementary PTA opposes addition of Kindergarten class

Members of Whittier Elementary School’s PTA plan to attend Wednesday night’s Seattle School Board meeting to oppose a proposal to add a fourth kindergarten class next year. Whittier, which is at 13th Avenue NW and NW 75th Street in Ballard, currently has three kindergarten classes of 23 students each.

Whittier Elementary on a sunnier day

The School Board is dealing with capacity issues at north end schools, and the fourth kindergarten class is part of a larger proposal to deal with overcrowding.

If the Board votes to add a fourth kindergarten class, the school would lose its on-site childcare program or preschool program, so that the room could be turned into another kindergarten class.

The PTA sent a detailed letter to school families today, and now families are sending around a petition against adding the fourth class, unless the district comes up with better enrollment figures and a longer-term plan.

The letter from PTA Co-Presidents Lisa Melenyzer and April Brown states that 80 percent of this year’s kindergarteners live within the school’s attendance area, and that there was no waitlist for kindergarten at Whittier this year. The two say that there is room within the current three classes to add any anticipated population growth in the next few years.

The PTA also says school capacity data does not show a need for a fourth kindergarten class, and that there is no plan for how it would affect the three existing first-grade classes the following year and the higher grades after that.

The PTA is also worried about the strain another class would add on school resources, including the P.E. and music teachers, as well as the library, lunchroom and recess supervision.

From the PTA letter:

Please note that we are not suggesting that kids in the attendance area who are entitled to come to Whittier should be turned away. We also want the siblings of Whittier families to be served, and for Whittier to be a welcoming place to the community. We simply don’t want Whittier to be appointed a fourth kindergarten – with this lack of planning and foresight – merely to help serve a capacity problem in the rest of our service area.

You can write to all School Board members by emailing: The Seattle School Board meets from 6-9 p.m. Wednesday at the John Stanford Support Center, 2445 3rd Ave. S., in the first-floor auditorium.

Zoo tops 1 million visitors, raising admission price

The Woodland Park Zoo reports that attendance has topped 1,000,000 visitors for the eleventh year in a row. Last year the zoo had 1,094,514 visitors.

The zoo also raised $68.5 million of its $80 million goal in the “More Wonder More Wild” fundraising campaign.

The zoo will introduce two new species to its exhibits later this year – warthogs and Visayan warty pigs, which have mohawk-like manes.

Visayan warty pig; photo by Michael Durham, courtesy of Oregon Zoo.

“The exotic pigs will be showcased in two naturalistic exhibits evoking the endangered warty pigs’ fragile habitat in the Philippines and the warthogs’ arid savannas of East Africa,” according to a press release. The exhibits will open this summer.

Photo of warthog by Siri-Maura Giles, courtesy of Indianapolis Zoo.

Adult admission prices are going up 25 cents, effective immediately. Winter fees are now $11.75 for adults, and $8.50 for children ages 3 to 12. Beginning May 1, summer rates will go up to $17.75 for adults, and stay at $11.50 for children. Toddlers 2 and under are free.