Seattle Public Schools are starting to return to in-person learning this month, and parents are concerned about it - not because of COVID-19, but because two school campuses are now the sites of up to 40-tent homeless camps.
Fox News’ Lawrence Jones recently traveled to Seattle to speak to parents and residents on the issue of Edmond S Meany Middle School and Broadview Thomson K-8 now sharing their playgrounds and outdoor facilities with homeless people.
During his visit to the schools, Jones said he found drugs, needles, and other paraphernalia as he walked through the tent encampments, some of which were even using outdoor playground equipment as part of their lean-to structures.
“Just in the last three weeks there has already been four incidents with homeless individuals and children, and residents are reaching a breaking point,” Jones reported.
One Seattle parent told Jones that their teenage child has been “distressed” about the situation.
"I would like to see more leadership on the part of the city and I do have a teenager. He’s just really distressed about the situation," the parent said.
The Seattle School district released a statement on the issue, explaining that schools will reopen as currently planned, but the district did not commit to removing the camps prior to the students' return.
“We are working in partnership with the City of Seattle to support community members residing at the encampment near Meany Middle School. SPS will be identifying the area of the encampment that is close to the school, supporting City contracted outreach partners to identify solutions to challenges, and making clear the boundaries between city property and district grounds," the district said in a written statement, according to KOMO News.
"The pandemic has deepened inequities, including access to housing," the school system continued. "This is not a problem with easy solutions, but we are committed to working in partnership to address it together and do so in a compassionate way."
The district added that despite the ongoing homeless problem, schools "will reopen in a phased approach as planned," saying that "Middle School students enrolled in special education intensive service pathways will return next Monday, April 5. All other middle school students will return April 19th.”
"Encampment removals have been limited over the last year due to COVID-19, but as the City opens new shelter spaces like at Executive Pacific Hotel and Kings Inn, we hope we can address encampments on sidewalks, playfields, and parks," Rachel Schulkin, public information officer for Seattle Parks and Recreation, said in a statement.
Seattle's homeless problem is certainly complicated as the city's homeless rate currently sits at 6%, double the U.S. average. But young students' return to in-person learning after over a year of being forced to stay home should take priority over nearly any issue - including where adults set up temporary shelters.