School board Dec. 14 to discuss leasing property to provide housing for homeless students

Surplussing approximately 2.2 acres at Cedar Valley Elementary School and then leasing the property to Housing Hope for 75 years to provide affordable housing for homeless students and families is among the items before the Edmonds School Board of Directors during their Tuesday, Dec. 14 regular business meeting.

The remote meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. There is also an opportunity for public comment, and the complete agenda can be viewed here.

  1. I am very disappointed this plan is seriously being considered. Edmonds school district recently asked for $600 million to cover costs for upgrading current schools, which was rejected, then they asked for $180 million when the $600 million request was rejected by voters. Why isn’t sale of this “surplus” land being considered to help cover some of the costs associated with needed facility upgrades instead of locking it out of financial options until 2096?

    The school board has also since requested that the threshold for bonds approved by voters be changed from 60% to 50%. Between this and subsequent legislative decisions related to school bonds that have been made since the McCleary decision took effect. I’m finding it a lot harder to vote yes on any new bonds Edmonds school district is asking for.

    This effort falls under social services, not education, which should be the primary focus of our elected school board members. There has been a progressive creep in school administration towards social services, and I’m not clear on exactly where the board thinks this line should stop. I believe this one crosses the line. The homeless issue should be addressed by local city government. Social services should be addressed by local city governments.

  2. Hi David, I agree with you about many of your points about housing for homeless students but maybe not for the same reasons. Couple of points first. 1. One of the biggest costs of any housing is the land. In that area the land value is around $1m/acre. That would suggest the 2.2 acres would command a $2.2m price. By leasing at a much lower price for the project, the costs would be less. The trick is find cheap or no cost land and the projects simply cost less. I volunteered for 2 major ESD task forces in the last few years and learn a lot about the bond, levy and building word. The Enrollment task force showed the growth by area for all grade levels out to 2027. Kids need a chair and we will have more kids in school by 2027. The second task force was the team that went to every school and looked at the age and condition of each school. Many have past their useful life years ago. BUT, by looking at the current overcrowding and the projections, we came to the conclusion to build fewer buildings in the future, reduce the student count of many elem schools by adding a middle school, and moving to a 6-8 model from the current 7-8 model. That would have made our tax dollars go further and extend the life of some of our schools. I would guess that if all taxpayers could have seen what I saw over those 4 years of work the vote would have been above 60%.
    But the homeless housing issue demands some more careful thinking to find land that is better suited for this housing and is more creative on types of housing produced. A better place would be at the transportation center and housing designed for the student needs, possibly doom style and other family type accommodations. Public input and discussion could lead to other alternatives vs the one slated for action. The 60 vs 50% for passage is a whole discussion by itself. We can do that before Feb.

  3. Isn’t homelessness more the purview of Social Welfare agencies rather than school boards? Overreach and beyond legal responsibility of school boards??

  4. Don your point is valid but as a taxpayer we are paying the transportation costs for kids that are allowed to continue going to Edmonds schools when they move out of district to live with a relative or friend. Those transport fees often are $250-300,000 per year. If we can reduce those transport payments in some way, we would be saving money and helping kids. We are often not good at providing the support needed for our Socal Welfare agencies.

    1. Darrol, I was not aware that the taxpayers are paying for transportation costs for kids who move out of the district to continue going to the same school. When I was in school if you wanted to go to a school outside your district, your parents had to figure out how to get you to school. I normally got a ride to school with one of my parents and then I took public transportation and walked part way or walked home – about 1.5 miles. Why has that changed?

  5. Ms. Drennan, Darrol will answer your question better than I do but here goes anyway. The schools have a legal mandate to see that the homeless kids get an education just like any other kid with a home. We expect a lot from our schools and our school teachers in terms of an equal education for all, regardless of their circumstances. It’s deemed that if a kid becomes homeless while attending any District school that the District must see that he or she is transported back into the district so as not to interrupt the child’s educational process due to homelessness. So if a child ends up living with Uncle Joe in Arlington after Mom loses her home in Edmonds, Dist. 15 is obligated to pick up the tab for getting him or her back to the Edmond’s school. That’s it, right or wrong.

  6. Hi Tina, Clint has some good comments and here is the “rest of the story.” Yes you are right that in past years one could apply to go to a neighboring school district and provide their own transportation and in some case had to pay the delta between tax rates of the two districts. What I was referring to was the McKenny-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987, Reagan signed. Google it and the details are interesting. The premise is kids without a permanent place live are considered “homeless”.

    For ESD here is the categories and data for 2018:
    1. Doubled up is 402
    2. Hotel/Motel is 37
    3. Shelter is 108
    4. Unsheltered is 24
    Total 591
    Those in 1 can be living with a relative in a different school district and we are providing the transportation to and from ESD. They are often kids from a split home. It is not a mandate and little federal money is given to support the costs so individual districts pay the transport fees.

    My points to the School Board before leasing 2.2 acres to outside organization for 75 years, let’s have a complete conversation about the numbers and alternatives we can generate that help address these kids. When researching the issue earlier I did not have the age of the kids in each bracket nor where are they on any given night. Most would say we need to deal with the kids that do not have a permanent place to live, and we may need to dust off ideas used in the past to provide for these kids now. Group homes, dorm style living for older kids, and common kitchens and other ideas could reduce the cost of providing housing. This is a problem for all of us in the ESD to solve. Free land would help but most grants for free land are controlled by groups that want to preserve open space not build housing. While the ESD Board is working on this it may not be in the cards to gather more public input.

    Tina, hope that helps.

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