Since I’ve started writing at Progressive Army I’ve written about local issues, from the city to state, and even a few stories including foreign policy implications. Today I’m writing about something personal, and about as local as it gets, outlining a specific issue at my son’s elementary school.
School Move, by and Large, Excludes the Community it Affects
My son attends Roxhill Elementary in Southwest Seattle, which is slated to move into E.C. Hughes’s building at the beginning of the 2018 school year. E.C. Hughes is designated a historical landmark, having been originally built in 1926. The school is slated to be renovated throughout, to include new electrical, plumbing, duct work, sprinklers, and new finishes. These are all well and good, but there is one glaring deficiency in the proposed move. Although you may think all is well in getting a retrofitted school, the process is in need of major improvement. One major flaw is that this proposed move, including the design team, didn’t include the community on a broad scale. Jenny Rose Ryan, spokesperson for Friends of Roxhill, tells Progressive Army her overarching thoughts of the situation:
I think the issue is really that people don’t see the way contemporary technologies can build social equity. Communities of color have been most impacted by the exploitive and oppressive practices of capitalism, so when schools like Roxhill are overlooked for opportunities like solar, it replicates the same structures. Also, they had a ‘design group’ that met twice and didn’t include Roxhill Families. Some of it is language. Some of it is laziness. Some of it is ‘this is how we do it and we don’t do it special for you.’ But the counter is, why not? You should. We’re different. We’re a global community
Other main aspects of the move include failing to plan for the lunchroom, which will be about half of what it is currently. This means lunch may have to start as early as 10 A.M. in order to rotate everyone through. Furthermore, there is no plan or design for a computer lab. Julian Gardner-Irving, a member of Friends of Roxhill, outlined a few of her frustrations:
Roxhill’s move to the E.C. Hughes building highlights the structural inequality within our district. Our school is being moved to a building that doesn’t quite fit our needs, our cafeteria is getting downsized considerably and it seems we currently have no dedicated space for a computer lab. Meanwhile, other schools that have far less economic need than ours get brand new, state of the art buildings such as Arbor Heights Elementary that doesn’t need the financial support that a school like Roxhill does. The distribution of funds from levies needs to be reassessed so Seattle’s educational system is more equitable thereby giving every student in Seattle Public Schools an equal opportunity to succeed.
All these issues occur while, as articulated by Ms. Gardner-Irving, a mile away students at Arbor Heights elementary are treated to state of the art accommodations including two computer rooms. Furthermore, Arbor Heights elementary will be installing solar panels, as well six other schools, with a total price tag of over 2 million dollars, yet Roxhill Elementary can’t get money allocated for a playground…
The most notable shortfalls have to do with anything existing outside of the school structure itself, such as the school playground. The school playground at E.C. Hughes is currently a concrete slab with no serviceable equipment. To bridge the budget shortfall the Seattle Public Schools is relying on the community to split the bill.
In order to meet the demands of this oversight/shortfall, parents and neighbors of Roxhill Elementary are in the process of forming a 501(c)3 named “Friends of Roxhill.” This group, replacing the previous PTA in a nonprofit structure, has taken on the responsibility of filling the gap where the school district fell short. Most of the shortfall will rely on a Seattle city grant called a “neighborhood matching fund.” Created in 1988, this fund grant awards up to $100,000 that includes a $50,000 match. According to Friends of Roxhill, the Seattle Public schools has committed to covering $30,000 of the match, leaving the community to come up with the remaining $20,000.
What You Can do to Help
To raise the cash needed to cover the match of the “neighborhood matching fund” grant, which Friends of Roxhill are currently in the process of writing, people can volunteer their time which will be calculated at $20/hr toward the match, or, by in-kind donations or actual cash donations.
Friends of Roxhill tells Progressive Army they are not currently set up to take cash donations, but ask that you make a pledge by emailing them: email@example.com
Follow Friends of Roxhill on Facebook for updates.
Beyond the playground, Friends of Roxhill have their sights set on organizing/fundraising towards building a permaculture garden, creating interactive natural play spaces and designated areas for children’s games, activities, and sports from all over the world.
Questions, concerns, suggestions? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: If there are issues and concerns in your school district, Progressive Army is interested. Email: email@example.com