Mom starts petition against plan to cut playground space at elementary school

SEATTLE -- The Seattle school district is in the midst of a big expansion and modernization plan to deal with a growing population. But parents aren’t happy about plans to add more classrooms where playground space now exists.

Parents of children attending Loyal Heights Elementary School in north Seattle have started an online petition to let the school district know their opposition.

After sitting for hours inside a classroom, kids need to run around and play. At least that’s what Katie Kaku, a mother of two, believes.

“I think raising boys is a bit like raising dogs,” she said Wednesday. “You just have to take them outside and run them every once and a while.”

Kaku said it’s not just necessary after school. She also believes in a break during school.

“Especially at the elementary school level, recess is just so important to learning. Our kindergarteners are just expected to sit still in the classroom and learn more and more, the expectations are higher and higher, there’s more and more testing. I don’t think they can do that without giving a space to play for recess.”

Mary Sroufe agrees.

“My kid is a boy, and he runs around. I’ve talked to his teachers about the days they have rainy day recess and they have to be inside. He is a handful on those days.”

That’s why these parents are concerned about the school district’s plan to build more classrooms at Loyal Heights. They say it would eliminate much of the outdoor space kids currently enjoy.

“With the proposal, they’re going to take up basically half of the playground,” said Sroufe. “And we are already pretty crowded.”

“Over 30% more kids will be coming here, and they’ll reduce it about half the size of a soccer field,” added Kaku.

The district says Loyal Heights was built  in 1932, and voters approved the plan to expand and modernize it in 2013. But Kaku said they didn’t approve this particular plan.

“I appreciate that the district is trying to maximize learning, I appreciate that they’re looking and thinking about the building they’re building. I just want them to think about the outside as well as the inside. Recess is such an important part of elementary school.”

Sroufe said a lot of learning happens outside. She hopes the district remembers that.

“Let’s not shortchange our playground, let’s make sure our playground is a big enough area that our kids can actually play.”

This project is still in the design phase, so nothing’s been decided yet. Parents will have a chance to weigh in at a public meeting scheduled for March 12.

If you want to sign the petition, click here.