A proposal from the Edmonds School District to use a portion of the City of Edmonds’ American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars to fund student intervention coordinators at three local elementary schools received a positive response from the Edmonds City Council’s Finance Committee during a meeting Tuesday.
School Board President Nancy Katims and District Finance Director Lydia Sellie made their case for the funding during a virtual committee meeting Tuesday. Katims explained that as part of district budget cuts, the coordinator positions — also known as SInCs — were eliminated in the district’s smallest elementary schools, three of which are in the city of Edmonds: Chase Lake, Seaview and Edmonds.
Student intervention coordinators “help to mitigate situations where students in classrooms and elsewhere in the school setting need special intervention to address social/emotional behavioral needs,” Katims explained, adding that “many of our kids are still suffering from the isolation they experienced during remote learning,
“To have a person who can come in and help address the need of that individual student obviously helps all the kids in the school,” she continued, “because if a teacher has to interrupt the class to try to meet an individual child’s needs like that, the rest of the class suffers with the interruption.”
The district proposal requests two full-time equivalent positions, with one of them split between Seaview and Edmonds elementaries and the other assigned to Chase Lake.
Katims called it a “perfect match” for the district to use City of Edmonds ARPA funds, given the proposal provides direct support for students’ behavioral and social and emotional needs “that were caused and continuing to linger from the pandemic situation.”
The district’s $210,000 request would come from the city’s portion of ARPA funding that are now designated for job retraining. Katims acknowledged that the money was a short-term fix and stressed the district is working diligently to secure other funds for the positions — as well as to address other budget needs — beyond the 2023-24 school year.
Katims’ presentation Tuesday was facilitated by City Councilmember and Finance Committee member Susan Paine, herself a former Edmonds School Board Director. The idea received support not only from Paine but from Committee Chair Will Chen and Council President Neil Tibbott.
“Part of what our ARPA funds are for are to help mitigate the difficulties that resulted from the pandemic,” Tibbott said. “As I see it, these SInCs (student intervention coordinators) offer a resource to students who do have special needs.”
Paine said she would work with Tibbott to draft both a council resolution and an ordinance regarding the proposal, which would appear before council on either June 20 or 27.
Also during the finance committee meeting, councilmembers agreed to put on next week’s council consent agenda a proposal from Parks, Recreation and Human Services Director Angie Feser to lease a vacant building in Edmonds’ Lake Ballinger neighborhood to relieve overcrowding at the city’s current parks maintenance yard.
Feser noted that the parks maintenance division has added six full-time equivalent employees this year to support additional parks work, including the new landscaping along Highway 99 and maintenance of the Civic Center Playfield. Now that the staff has grown to 20, and there are additional vehicles, equipment and supplies associated with the increased work, they have outgrown their 53-year-old space at City Park. The facility has no locker room, showers or suitable place for staff meetings and safety training.
Feser said that a property formerly occupied by a landscaping company in the 24200 block of 76th Avenue West has become available for rent at $7,000 per month. The property would require “minimal tenant improvements” and is located near Highway 99 and the Interurban Trail, both of which require regular parks maintenance work, she said.
The city has proposed a one-year lease with two one-year extensions. The parks department has money in its budget to cover the lease for this year but would include next year’s rent as part of the 2024 budget process, Feser said.
Councilmember Chen asked if the city would consider purchasing the building rather than leasing it, but Feser said the owner has no interest in selling it. That means that long term, the parks maintenance group will need to explore other options for a new location, which could include looking at properties the city current owns — including the former public works facility across from the wastewater treatment plant and the Wade James Theater — that are now leased out to other groups. Another possibility could include converting a portion of an existing city park for that purpose, she said.
Councilmember Vivian Olson cautioned that it will be important for the city to review the inventory of what it owns now — including buildings that are currently underutilized — before considering the purchase of additional buildings. Councilmember Paine noted that the city will undertake that exercise as part of its 2024 Comprehensive Plan Update.
Among the highlights of other committee meetings Tuesday night:
The Public Safety-Planning-Human Services-Personnel Committee agreed to place on the next council consent agenda a contract with Walls Law Firm to provide prosecuting attorney services for the city. According to City Attorney Sharon Cates of the Lighthouse Law Group, the city’s current contracted prosecuting attorney — Zachor, Stock & Krepps — announced in March it was ending its contract with Edmonds, giving 120 days notice. The city issued an request for proposals for a new firm and received one response — from the Walls Law Firm. Even though Walls was the only candidate, the law firm is highly recommended and its selection was supported by both the Edmonds Municipal Court and police, Cates said. The contract calls for a $25,000 monthly fee.
The committee also considered a proposal from Councilmember Chen regarding the addition of an internship position for the city council. It was agreed that Councilmembers Chen and Olson would work with Human Resources Director Jessica Neill Hoyson to further explore the parameters for such as position and bring it back to the committee for future consideration.
The Parks and Public Works Committee discussed a few items of interest. Among them was a draft letter from the council to the Washington State Department of Transportation indicating the council’s intent to request a meeting with the governor to discuss the Unocal property and the Edmonds Marsh. Committee Chair Dave Teitzel and committee member Diane Buckshnis agreed to refer the letter to the full council for discussion.
The committee also had a lengthy discussion with Parks Director Angie Feser about a proposal from Teitzel to use volunteers to assist with realignment work of Shell Creek in Edmonds’ Yost Park. The goal, Teitzel said, would be to address erosion and silting in the creek that could disrupt salmon spawning season, which starts in September. Such an effort would require an emergency permit from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. Feser, however, expressed concerns about the effort, noting that “permitting is very challenging” given that the location is a critical area with a salmon-bearing stream. Teitzel and Buckshnis agreed to talk more about the idea before further pursuing it.
Finally, the committee heard from Edmonds Boys and. Girls Club officials about the latest design for their new $6 million facility, which will replace the Edmonds Boys and Girls Club building now at Civic Center Park. Fundraising is underway for the project, and 50% of the money has been raised. The council will hold a public hearing on the project at its June 20 meeting, with approval set for June 27.
— By Teresa Wippel