School board hears parents’ concerns about budget cuts, police officer

With reports of deep budget cuts looming, the Edmonds School Board meeting on Tuesday, April 23 was flooded with parents, teachers and students who came before the board of directors to speak on concerns for the upcoming 2019-20 school year. More than 20 citizens signed up to speak during the public comments portion of the meeting.

Also among those commenting were parents and students of Edmonds Heights K-12, who stated their opposition to the proposed hiring of a police officer, known as a school resource officer or SRO, for the 2019-20 school year.

Under an interlocal agreement with the City of Edmonds, the officer would serve Scriber Lake High School, which is co-located with Edmonds Heights at the former Woodway High School campus off 100th Avenue West in Edmonds.

Jennifer Cail, a parent with three children at Edmonds Heights, said having an armed officer on campus would be traumatizing for the school’s high number of special-needs students and students of color

“A lot of us are very fearful about how this interaction could go,” she said.

Alanna Milan, an Edmonds Heights parent, said because the school’s policy requires parental supervision for K-8 students while they are on campus, the additional presence of parents makes an SRO unnecessary. She said in the event of an emergency, several of the parents are constantly undergoing active shooter response training, known as ALICE.

“I feel that’s more important than one officer who may or may not do anything,” she said.

Edmonds Heights seventh-grader Corrina Desrochers said she would not feel safe or be able to express herself with an SRO on campus.

“School should be a place where I can go and focus on learning, not a place where I feel upset,” she said.

School Board Director Carin Chase said there was a disconnect between the predominantly white school board and the parents, teachers and students of color who have come before the board about past resolutions appointing SROs to school campuses.

“I don’t think a boilerplate resolution necessarily addresses or centers the concerns of our marginalized population,” she said

(Look for more coverage on the School Resource Officer issue in a related story coming soon.)

Jeevan Southwick, a Meadowdale High School sophomore, spoke to the Edmonds School Board about the school’s performing arts program.

Also giving public testimony at the April 23 board meeting were several students, teachers and parents on behalf of the Meadowdale High School performing arts department, which may experience budget cuts in the new school year. Through the high school’s career and technical education (CTE) program, students who are interested in a career in the performing arts are able to learn technical skills related to theater. These skills are a starting point to prepare them for college, said Kateara Utley, a Meadowdale High School graduate. Utley, who is studying musical theater at Cornish College of the Arts, said the tech classes are a fundamental part of understanding theater

“It is those moments of learning that will make the shows great,” she said.

In addition to learning about the technical skills of theater like lighting, design and video production, students have found a sense of community. Jeevan Southwick, a Meadowdale High School sophomore, said he and his classmates learned important lessons in teamwork and perseverance.

“I’ve never been part of something like that — a family outside of home,” he said.

In other business, the school board voted to approve renovations to the Lynnwood High School athletic fields. The scope of the project includes resurfacing the artificial turf on the multi-purpose fields, football field and track with crumb rubber infill. The school’s baseball field infield will also be converted to artificial turf using crumb rubber. The vote to award the project bid to Coast to Coast Turf was 4-1, with School Board Director Chase voting against the use of crumb rubber.

“I definitely support this project, but I would support the project with a ‘yes’ vote if we considered an alternative infill material,” she said.

The City of Edmonds has had a moratorium banning crumb rubber on public playfields in Edmonds since 2017, pending results of health and environmental studies. As a result, in February, the school board approved the use of the alternative cork infill for an Edmonds-Woodway High School field renovation project — the first district project using alternative infill.

The Lynwood turf project was included in the 2016 Levy and is expect to cost $2.4 million. Renovations are expected to begin at the end of April, with the majority of the project’s work being completed by the end of August. The use of cork infill for the project would require an increase of $115,651 for the three athletic fields.

School Board President Diana White said with no scientific evidence to support the claims that crumb rubber is a hazardous material, the board could not justify the increase for cork infill. White said the board should also consider the cost of future field improvement projects.

“If we keep doing this, we’re going to be looking quickly at a million dollars,” she said. “I just can’t justify that.”

The school board also heard a presentation from the sixth-grade students of Terrace Park Elementary School’s Challenge Program. The program teaches students about digital citizenship, team building, social and emotional lessons, and art and technology, said Terrace Park teacher Kristina Brown. The students used coding, 3D design, conductivity and robotics to create dioramas and educational games like a math game that presents the answers to math equations in a true or false format.

Lilia Pearson-Maas, a sixth-grader, said her favorite part of the exercise — in addition to using art supplies — was the satisfaction of seeing the project work after writing a complex code

“When we actually got it to work it was really fun,” she said.

The Challenge Program will present what they have learned at Edmonds School District Digital Learning Fair on Saturday, May 4.

–Story and photos by Cody Sexton

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