In an agreement announced Monday, officials from the city of Seattle and Seattle Public Schools committed to working together to find ways to build more schools and rebuild Memorial Stadium.
Seattle Public Schools and the city of Seattle plan to work together to build a new Memorial Stadium at Seattle Center, consider locating a school at or near there, too, and look into possible sites for other new schools throughout the city.
In an agreement announced Monday, city and school-district officials said they want to collaborate in ways that will help them accommodate a growing district and growing city.
Along with a new stadium and a new school at Seattle Center, officials also raised the possibility that the city would help find affordable land for a new elementary school in downtown Seattle and other schools elsewhere. They also said the city has agreed to include the district in the planning for what happens to surplus Army land at Fort Lawton.
The city and the district haven’t made any formal promises for when — or if — any new schools will open, but said the partnership is the first step to solidify the city’s intention to help the district with what School Board members called a “capacity crisis.” Since 2010 the district has grown by 8,000 students, and that trend doesn’t show any signs of stopping.
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Plans were already underway for the district and city to collaborate on replacing the deteriorating, 70-year-old Memorial Stadium — which is owned by the district — and adding a new high school at or near Seattle Center. Monday’s announcement added the city’s intention for the district to become part of the city’s plan to redevelop land at Fort Lawton and look for new school sites.
District Superintendent Larry Nyland and Seattle School Board members have said it’s nearly impossible to find property for new schools that the district can afford. Three years ago, the district did apply to buy the former Federal Reserve building in downtown Seattle, thinking it could turn that building into an elementary school. The board ultimately rejected the option, with members saying the district didn’t have the funds, estimated around $50 million, required to remodel the building, and wanted more time to hear from the public.
Despite the lack of specifics in the agreement, Mayor Tim Burgess expressed enthusiasm about what the new partnership could accomplish.
“With this agreement we are making a huge leap toward a wonderful future in which we’ll have a new stadium and school facilities at Seattle Center fully integrated with the broader Seattle Center campus,” he said at Monday’s news conference on the Memorial Stadium field. “… It’s about the future, the future of Seattle’s children. They deserve a strong, healthy, fair start and the best possible education any city can provide.”
Burgess called Memorial Stadium, built as a memorial to former Seattle students who died in World War II, an asset to the district and to the community. Any renovation, officials said, would preserve Memorial Wall, which is engraved with 762 names.
The School Board and the City Council plan to hold a joint meeting in January to work out details of the agreement and hear from community members.
As part of the agreement, officials stressed the need for a school in downtown Seattle, one of the city’s fastest-growing neighborhoods. About 3,200 school-age children live in the downtown area, said James Sido, spokesman for the Downtown Seattle Association. The association has pushed for a range of school options in the area.
“We believe a family-friendly downtown is key to the longterm success of Seattle,” he said. “And schools are a crucial community amenity for families in our urban core.”