Nonprofit That Helps Children With Disabilities Needs More Time To Find A New Home

Feb 3, 2014

Northwest Center Kids in Queen Anne has rented the same building from Seattle Public Schools for decades. But the district says it’s short on space and needs the facility back in the next six months.

The program's location is hard to spot from the street. It’s tucked in near a city park on the downhill slope of north Queen Anne. Inside, toddlers with Down syndrome and preschoolers with feeding tubes play side by side with typically developing children.

Inclusion was the goal of the program’s founders back in 1965. They had kids with special needs, and instead of institutionalizing them, they started their own school.

Stefanie Eilers, a program director with the school, says the founding parents didn’t stop there.

“They went to the state government and demanded that their children go to the public schools," Eilers said.

The founders pushed the state to pass a law requiring public schools in Washington to educate all students. This meant Northwest Center Kids could transition to a daycare and a before- and after-school care program for students with disabilities.

Now everything is in limbo, because Seattle Public Schools needs the building back. District spokeswoman Teresa Wippel says more students are projected to enroll over the next five years and space is limited.

“We used to have a lot of empty space. Now, because of our enrollment increases — we are now at 51,000 kids, we just don’t have that kind of flexibility.”

Seattle Public Schools says Northwest Center Kids can move into Van Asselt Elementary in Beacon Hill. Tom Everill, Northwest Center’s executive director, says if the program isn’t given more time, it could come to an end.

“We need them to stop the clock on the six-month eviction notice. Because whether it’s Van Asselt or any other alternative, it can’t be done in six months," Everill said.

But the district says it's tied to the six-month deadline due to growing enrollment numbers and a need to shuffle around school programs to accommodate construction projects.

Everill is meeting with Seattle Superintendent Jose Banda this week to discuss the issue.

Saba Beyene’s 3-year-old son Jordan has been going to Northwest Center Kids since he was an infant. He has a feeding tube and is in a wheelchair. Beyene is hoping the nonprofit lands on its feet.

“For the kids who have special needs where would they go? I don’t know," she said.

Beyene says Northwest Center Kids allows her to work full-time and was the only daycare she could find that was equipped to take care of her son.