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Originally published February 13, 2014 at 4:45 PM | Page modified February 13, 2014 at 5:23 PM

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Editorial: Northwest Center Kids deserves more time to find new home

The Seattle Public Schools should give Northwest Center Kids, a program that serves children with and without developmental disabilities, more time to move out of the building it has occupied for 28 years.

Seattle Times Editorial

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SEATTLE Public Schools should slow way down on its planned July eviction of the Northwest Center Kids program from the old North Queen Anne Elementary.

The school district owns the building, where the program has nurtured children with and without developmental disabilities for 28 years. While the district has the right to reclaim the building for district growth, the six-month notice is unreasonable considering the nature of the program and its students’ needs.

Northwest Center Kids is an oasis of support and understanding for families seeking a rich learning experience for their special-needs children. In Seattle, it is unique.

The district’s action comes with a large dollop of irony since Northwest Center Kids is rooted in the district’s refusal to enroll students with developmental disabilities in the 1960s. Yes, that used to be legal.

A group of Seattle parents, who chose not to institutionalize their loved ones, formed a school including children with disabilities as well as typically developing peers. The results were impressive: Those with special needs learned from those without, who learned mentoring skills along with their ABCs.

Later, those parents lobbied then-Gov. Dan Evans and the Legislature to enact the Education for All Act in 1971. The law guaranteed special-needs children would get an education in their own school districts, making Washington a leader. The similarly named federal law followed in 1974.

All these years later, Seattle Public Schools continues to benefit from the work of Northwest Center, which serves as before- and after-school care for students enrolled in the district’s developmental preschool and K-6 programs. Talk about high-quality day care: Northwest Center Kids rounds out the children’s days with a rich curriculum tailored to their abilities.

Northwest Center Kids has asked the district for two years to find a new, permanent home that would best serve its 112 children. Seattle schools Superintendent José Banda said Wednesday he’s open to exploring possibilities but the six-month notice stands.

Moving this program to a temporary location for months only to move it again is more than inconvenient. It threatens a vital program and is unnecessarily disruptive to many children likely to have difficulty tolerating the upheaval.

The school district can do better by Northwest Center kids and families.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

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