University District church forcing preschool out to focus on helping the homeless
SEATTLE - A University District preschool that has served families for 53 years will close its doors this summer.
The executive director of The Children’s School said they’ve been lobbying to stay in the University Congregational United Church of Christ, located steps from the University of Washington campus, for two years. But, she said, the church wants to place a bigger focus on one of the biggest issues facing Seattle – homelessness.
“The church was focusing on homeless issues and initiative citywide and we really didn’t fit in to that mission,” said Executive Director Mary Lloyd. “We have in this city civically so many things to be responsible for and so many things to look out for.”
Though Lloyd wishes they could stay put, she said they’ll reopen in the fall inside a defunct church in the Green Lake neighborhood. She said they’re fortunate to have found the space, because over the last several years other North Seattle preschools have closed down.
“At least in our northeast corridor and north of the ship canal for the most part, we’ve definitely expanded our reach, they’re going away,” Lloyd said about their counterparts.
June Nho Ivers, the mom of a 2 ½-year-old at the U-District preschool, said when her eldest was born in 2012 she created a spreadsheet of part-day preschools in her zip code and the next one over.
“Going back to my list I made in 2012 to see that 10 or 11 schools in 98105 and 98115 have closed,” she said.
Lloyd said parents, in the past, sent their children to a traditional, part-day, preschool. But those types of schools are becoming harder to find, she added.
“The majority of our kids are from loving, solid, families. Families that are making huge sacrifices to even give them this opportunity on a regular basis,” she said.
Wendy Blight, interim administrator at University Congregational Church, said their block-long church will maintain a full-time daycare and a childcare drop-in program which offers a popular all-day daycare for families.
The Children’s Center’s move will allow the church to place these two facilities behind locked doors and dedicate more space to helping the people most at need, Blight said.
“Our faith tells us we need to try and help as many as we can who are vulnerable and have needs,” she said.
Blight said the church hasn’t fully decided which social cause to dedicate the space they’re freeing up to. She said the church is finally attended to issues plaguing people living homeless.
When asked whether the church is forced to choose between helping the homeless or assisting preschoolers she said. “it’s a tough choice.”
But for preschool directors across Northeast Seattle they’ve lost the battle for survival against another big Seattle issue – development.
Tristan Christophillis, who runs a daycare in the Bryant neighborhood, said the cost of rent is to blame for her recently closing a second daycare in the Wedgwood neighborhood.
Christophillis said she had operated Blossoming Buds, a drop-in childcare facility, in Wedgwood for eight years before being priced out. She said their rent was raised to $6,700 per month.
For Nicole Noone, a stay-at-home mom of two girls, the loss of so many part-time preschools is making her think twice about what to do with her youngest once she reaches preschool age.
“We also need to have options for people who want a shorter day, but also need to be able to afford it,” Noone said.
Noone, whose eldest daughter attends Lloyd’s school, said she doesn’t’ want to send her youngest to full-time daycare, but worries that will be the only option once her daughter reaches preschool age.
I’m a stay at home mom and this is part of it and this is part of it, is me bringing them to school and know that they’re taken care of, loved and learning,” she said.