The Schmitz family of West Seattle, who donated the land where Schmitz Park Elementary resides today (at left), is hoping the Seattle School District won't move the school to the Genessee Hill site (right)in 2015
West Seattle’s Schmitz family fights to keep their namesake school at Schmitz Park
The Schmitz family sold over seven acres of land east of Schmitz Park to Seattle Public Schools for $1 over 50 years ago, and today family members are lobbying the school board to reconsider plans to move Schmitz Park Elementary (on that land) to a new facility at the Genessee Hill site (5012 S.W. Genessee St.) in 2015.
SPS has not detailed what would happen with the current Schmitz Park building at 5000 S.W. Spokane St.
As the Seattle Public School board nears their final decision on the project list for BEX IV and Operations Levies on Nov. 7, the public was given a chance to voice their opinions at SPS SODO Headquarters on Oct. 24, and Vicki Schmitz Block gave testimony as a family representative.
“I’m sure it came as a quite a shock to many of the school district staff to realize there are actually living Schmitz family members still residing in West Seattle and I don’t fault you for that because many of you were probably not born in 1962 … when Schmitz Park School opened,” she said.
Schmitz Block (married to Jack Block of Jack Block Park’s namesake) said SPS’s proposed move of the school to the Genessee site came as a surprise to her family.
“We always get asked, ‘So what is the Schmitz family members’ bottom line on all this?’ I’m here just to say that we encourage the school district to continue on their course of what they are doing because obviously it is working – enrollment is increasing here - but we very much encourage the school district to keep Schmitz Park Elementary in some form, whether it is K-1 or K-2 or whatever you need to do.”
Schmitz Block closed her remarks with a reminder her father-in-law, Dietrich Schmitz, served on the Seattle School Board from 1928-61, a 33-year tenure, making him the longest serving board member.
The family also sent a letter to the school board earlier in October that said, in part, “The intent of this generous ‘gift’ (the land sold for $1) was for there to be a public elementary school on that land in perpetuity – and the Schmitz family requests that this ‘gift’ be honored and respected by you as today’s elected School Board members.”
“Schmitz Park School sits adjacent to the only piece of old growth forest remaining in the city of Seattle - Schmitz Park/Preserve, about 100 acres,” the letter continues. “Students at Schmitz Park School participate regularly in observing, monitoring and maintaining Schmitz Park's unique native forest habitat in their ‘100 acre laboratory.’ A member of the Schmitz family speaks at the opening day of school for the flag raising ceremony and opening day events since the school opened more than 50 years ago, a wonderful and unique tradition.”
The letter closes with a clear plea: “The Schmitz Family and the One Voice coalition (West Seattle PTA group) strongly agree that other solutions exist for solving overcapacity/enrollment issues rather than the closing of Schmitz Park School. We urge the Seattle School District to choose another option.”
According to SPS history, the actual 38-acre Schmitz Park (located south of Alki) was donated to the city in 1908 and 1912 by Ferdinand Schmitz, former Seattle Parks Commissioner, and his wife Emma. The 7 acres where Schmitz Park School is located was originally an all-portable facility in the 1950s, created to ease overcrowding issues at Genessee Hill and Lafayette. The permanent building was constructed in 1962.
There will be one last chance for public comment on SPS’s Levy project list prior to the final school board vote on Nov. 7. Comments can also be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seattle voters will vote on school levies in February. The BEX IV Levy is used to raise money for school improvements, restoration and new construction.