Edmonds School Board approves plan to rebuild Oak Heights Elementary

Meeting a day after the school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, the Edmonds School District Board of Directors at its March 28 meeting heard from parents concerned about safety. The board also approved a plan to rebuild Oak Heights Elementary and received a report from staff and students at Madrona K-8 School.

During the board meeting, two public commenters urged the board to consider reinstating school resource officers in the district’s high schools.  

“While a security officer can’t be in every place all the time and can’t prevent accidents or harm from happening, I think that their presence is a deterrent,” said Sandra Higgins, a friend of an Alderwood Middle School paraeducator recently attacked and severely injured by a student. One man asked the board if it would prefer a panicked school employee or a uniformed officer present, should the unspeakable happen. 

“I think it goes more above just bringing police officers on campus,” replied Elizabeth Lopez, one of the board’s student advisers. “The root of it will be – what action are we, as a society, taking to stop this from occurring? Like, to stop us from even having to put these preventions into place.. Lopez also spoke about her experience with a patrol officer in school, stating that while a lot of people liked that officer, some were uncomfortable around him. 

Xandra Esko pleads with the board to set aside funding for credit recovery programs.

On another topic, teacher Xandra Esko was in tears as she stated that Lynnwood High School’s administration was considering removing an elective class with 64 students, psychology, to come up with the .2 faculty hours it needed to continue the school’s credit recovery program. Esko stated that she had been teaching the credit retrieval program since 1998 and that staffing prior to 2010 was adequate to ensure that students could take advantage of electives beyond  basic education. Since then, Esko said, schools have cut or reduced elective programs to compensate for credit recovery programs, as the district didn’t provide additional funding for them. Esko stated that the Edmonds School District needed to properly fund credit recovery programs to preserve a range of electives for students. 

Outside of public comment, the board listened to a presentation from Madrona K-8 School students and Principal Fabian Castilleja. Eighth graders Reina Hall and Sadie Rennick spoke about one of Madrona’s school improvement plan goals – improving a sense of belonging. They explained Syayə (a Lushootseed word meaning family), a monthly program that connects the school’s youngest and oldest students in a shared lesson. Syayə, Hall said, creates a sense of community as middle schoolers teach younger students about a range of topics such as positive character attributes, being environmentally aware and learning about newly implemented holidays such as Juneteenth. 

Madrona Student Body President Reina Hall and Communications Director Sadie Renick

Castilleja followed with a presentation on Madrona’s second school improvement plan goal to improve math performance. Castilleja detailed the initiatives that the school is undertaking for mathematics education, such as placing high-performing students in higher-difficulty classes if they could benefit from them and providing extra assistance for struggling students. These and other programs have already improved iReady assessments used to evaluate ability. He also talked briefly about the success of Madrona’s deaf and hard of hearing program. 

A graph showing significant improvements in Madrona’s mathematics.

Board Vice President Deborah Kilgore announced that the district was now stocking EpiPens. While the board has not yet voted on a procedure to distribute and manage them, the district received an undisclosed quantity of EpiPens gifted from BioRidge Pharma. Students from families unable to afford EpiPens frequently miss the opportunity to go to school if their medical needs are not met. Providing EpiPens in schools may save hundreds of instructional hours for these students.

Director Kilgore said she and other members of the board had been pushing for health services in schools.

According to district spokesperson Harmony Weinberg, the school board is expected to approve an updated policy and new procedure that includes the use of in-stock EpiPens in schools during an upcoming meeting. The district expects to receive the EpiPens sometime this spring.

Finally, the board approved a plan to rebuild Oak Heights Elementary School. The work includes constructing new administration, commons, gym, library, music, central plant and classrooms, significant site improvements and other facilities. Funding comes from a 2021 levy approved by voters and construction will begin in summer 2025. Directors thanked voters for their help, saying that it will make a difference to students whose education will be enriched. 

— By Jasmine Contreras-Lewis

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