I have lived in the Central District near Bailey-Gatzert Elementary School on East Yesler Way since 2003.
From research, I learned that the school faces many challenges in meeting the educational needs of its very diverse student population—student progress, test scores, equity overview, low income students (79% are low income), students with disabilities, and homeless students.
I believe the staff and teachers are doing their best but there is a new challenge for the school.
The Seattle School District and now the City of Seattle must immediately examine their support and assistance for Bailey-Gatzert Elementary School.
My reason for mentioning the City of Seattle is this. Recent unauthorized encampments have emerged next to the playing field of the school on its south border.
As we know, ‘sweeps’ of unauthorized tent encampments have been paused by the City to prevent the spread of Covid-19. However, this action does not address the problem of a Covid-19 and the general public health problem for the school and the surrounding neighborhood.
The most serious aspect is the threat of a biohazard not only to the school children and staff, but to surrounding neighbors at Wisteria View Manor, unsheltered services, food bank providers, as well as small independent businesses.
Needles and human waste as well as general, accumulated garbage are unfortunately a byproduct of this unauthorized encampment. So is witnessed drug dealing and drug use.
I belong to a Facebook community group called “16 S and S Main” which particularly advocates for our community between Jackson Street, Yesler, 14th and 18th Avenues.
This neighborhood includes social services for the unsheltered, low income and senior housing, and the food insecure in our city, perhaps more than other more advantaged parts of our City.
I am grateful that our part of the City has stepped up to the plate, so to speak, in terms of support
That said, we need help as we turn to advocating for one of the City’s poorest and most diverse student bodies at Bailey-Gatzert Elementary School.
It is alarming that this city elementary school with all its attendant challenges might not be receiving the attention, protection and support it needs and deserves from the City and the Seattle School District.
This, and any other unauthorized, unregulated tent encampments must not be allowed near Bailey-Gatzert of any other public school which is still being used during the pandemic
I ask that the safety of Bailey Gatzert Elementary School’s students and staff receive immediate attention from the City of Seattle and the school district with regard to the public health challenge this unauthorized encampment on its south side presents—now and in the future.
If not the future’s children, then whom do we protect, and when?