November 24, 2008 · Updated 7:07 PM
The Boys and Girls Club’s bid to build a teen facility and field house on school district land near the high school has reached a critical point. The School Board is poised to decide whether or not to grant a 50-year lease of school land to the non-profit organization.
Deciding whether or not to support the proposal has been a conundrum for many since it was first put forth in late 2005. On one hand, how can anyone object to a plan that offers a place (built with private money) for young people to hang out that is safe and beneficial? And the fact that this “surplus” land is near the high school — home to the precise clientele they wish to serve — makes it seem like a perfect fit.
On the other hand, the project seems too big and will generate congestion in an already busy neighborhood. It is not clear that the building will truly benefit the school district that really needs more classroom space and flexibility. The School District pledged $1 million toward the project. What exactly will they get in return?
Many Islanders support the concept but would prefer the building to remain at its present site. But the East Seattle site may no longer be an option. According to the Club, the sale of the East Seattle land to Islander businessman Michael O’Brien, “is happening.”
The School Board is taking their role in this very seriously. For them to dismiss the proposal out of hand from the beginning would have been irresponsible. But is participating in this project part of their mission? Their most important “end” or goal is to provide an exceptional education to children on this Island — now and in the future. But we demand a great deal more — we depend on the schools to protect and nurture our children from birth through high school and shape them into good citizens and responsible adults. PEAK offers something that they cannot — a safe place for teens to gather after the school day ends.
If the School Board votes yes, the Club must continue to work with neighbors to minimize the impact of the facility on the neighborhood.