Now that students are back in school buildings, the Edmonds School District is making a plea to the community and their pets to stay off district campuses during school hours.
When the schools closed last March as part of Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order, many people with dogs spent time outdoors on school athletic playfields. However, since students have begun returning to in-person learning this year, district staff say schools are having a recurring problem with people bringing their pets — many off leash — on campus while class is in session.
Director of Facilities Operations Matt Finch said it’s been a recurring issue made worse in the past year when visitors began using campus playfields for exercise during the stay-home order.
“The pandemic highlighted this issue,” he said. “Obviously, we had schools shut down for a little while so campuses were vacant and people were itching to get out so we understand that.”
While having dogs off leash on campuses is a districtwide issue, Finch clarified that it has been most prevalent at College Place Middle School in Lynnwood and the former Woodway Elementary School campus in Edmonds, where Scriber Lake High School and Edmonds Heights K-12 are co-located. Finch explained that both sites have a wide-open campus that is easy for residents walking their dogs to access.
Per district policy, community members and their dogs are not allowed on school campuses from 30 minutes before school begins and to 30 minutes after school has dismissed for the day. Additionally, no dogs are to be off leash on school grounds.
Finch said signs have been placed on campuses reminding the community about the policy, which he added has helped some but not enough.
Concerns have been raised by students, staff and community members who have experienced dogs without leashes running up to them. Aside from the risk of physical harm, like a potential dog bite, Finch said that it could also cause social-emotional trauma for those who are afraid of dogs.
Another issue with dogs on campuses, Finch added, is the matter of dog feces left behind by those who don’t clean up after their pets.
While no dog bites have been reported in recent years, Finch said there have been a few instances where a dog got too close for comfort. During the most recent encounter, a College Place Middle custodian was rushed by a dog after she approached the owner to ask them to leave. The custodian was unharmed, but Finch said it was a “traumatic” experience for her and highlighted the district’s concerns about dogs on campus.
“Having been out of school so long we want to bring kids back to a safe environment,” he said.
–Story and photos by Cody Sexton