District gives Seattle World School a permanent home

By Sue Misao
Northwest Asian Weekly

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Students, families, and supporters showed up in force at the Nov. 20 school board meeting that decided the fate of the Seattle World School (Photo courtesy of Seattle World School)

In its 33 years of existence, the Seattle World School has moved six times. Currently housed at Meany Middle School on Capitol Hill, students and their families were looking forward to its permanent home at the old T.T. Minor Elementary School. However, some school board members proposed the school instead be temporarily moved to Old Van Asselt Elementary School in southeast Seattle. That proposal included searching for a permanent site other than T.T. Minor.

But the Seattle World School community said no.

“The community was quite upset with the proposal to move us again temporarily to another site,” said former World School Principal Martin O’Callaghan, an advocate for the school and member of Friends of Seattle World School. “If this was a mainstream school, they wouldn’t treat it this way.”

At the Nov. 20 school board meeting, “members listened carefully,” said O’Callaghan, “and it was a 4-3 decision by the board to give it a permanent site.” School board members who voted in favor of the proposal to relocate the school to Van Asselt could not be reached for comment.

The new site will continue to be planned for T.T. Minor, about nine blocks from Meany Middle School.

O’Callaghan expressed some satisfaction with the location, saying it was a better outcome than what was being proposed.

“We did not want it at extreme ends — north or south,” he said, adding that the school draws from all points of the city. The proposed Van Asselt site would create a hardship for students and volunteers from central and north Seattle.

Formerly known as the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center, SWS is one of only a few schools nationwide designed as a preliminary educational portal through which immigrant and refugee middle and high school students can learn English, while they transition into the public schools. Starting next year, students will be able to graduate from high school at SWS.

Current enrollment is at 250 and expected to reach 450 to 550 in five years, according to International Community Health Services (ICHS), which operates a school-based clinic at the school.

“We’re extremely glad that the school board will keep its promise of over 10 years for a permanent home for Seattle World School,” said Teresita Batayola of ICHS, adding that it will help to create a “very stable environment for students to be healthy and stay healthy.” The clinic provides medical, dental, and behavioral health services to students.

On tap is the renovation of the T.T. Minor School to make it suitable for both middle school and high school students, with resources for academic enrichment programs, as well as room for health services and community meetings.

An allocation of $14 million was set aside for the school about 10 years ago, said O’Callaghan, and never used. “Only $8.5 million of that is for actual construction,” he said, adding there was some concern it might not be sufficient to update the elementary school to meet the requirements of high school students.

Thats the next push. said OCallaghan.

Construction is set to begin June 2015, with the goal of opening for the 2016-17 school year. (end)

Sue Misao can be reached at editor@nwasianweekly.com. 

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