Parents and Care Providers Race to Find New Location for Mother’s Place

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Parents and Care Providers Race to Find New Location for Mother’s Place

Jack Derby, Staff Reporter

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Mother’s Place, a Capitol Hill daycare center that has been providing quality daycare within the neighborhood for over 30 years, is set to close in June 2020. The close comes after a series of recent developments by the owners of the building— the Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences (SAAS)—which is planning to move some of their operations to the space that is currently occupied by Mother’s Place.

The anticipated change has Mother’s Place teachers, community members and parents scrambling for a replacement child care job or service.

Following the 12th Ave expansion of the Academy’s middle school, SAAS decided that the space would be used for other purposes, leading to an announcement on Nov. 29, 2018 that the daycare would be closing in June 2019. In a written statement sent to The Spectator on May 31, the SAAS Communications team explained what the space might be used for following the close of Mother’s Place.


JAMES HILL • THE SPECTATOR

Main entrance to Mother’s Place Daycare, just across 12th Street from the SU bookstore.


“Seattle Academy will be using the space for programmatic and/or administrative needs to support the students attending SAAS,” they wrote.

SAAS Communications also said that as of June 2019, the Academy will have satisfied their contractual obligation that was made at the time of purchase, requiring them to keep Mother’s Place operating in its 12th Ave location for an unspecified period of time.

In the Nov. 29 letter, Head of School at SAAS Rob Phillips, explained that the decision was made in alignment with the school’s mission, and is intended to bring the facilities and offices of the school closer together.

“This decision was made by reviewing Seattle Academy’s mission, the desire to bring Seattle Academy programmatic elements together on one block, impact to our communities, responsibilities of day care ownership and our continued need to house Seattle Academy’s expanded programs,” Phillips wrote.

“The problem is, it takes about a year to cite and license a daycare, so if we don’t get something sorted out really quickly, there’s nothing that can be done to keep it going.”

The announcement led Mother’s Place families to fear that they would be unable to find an alternative daycare center by June, as Seattle University Communications Department Chair and Mother’s Place parent Christopher Paul expressed.

“Parents at Mother’s Place daycare got very concerned, and we organized and have since been told that they are going to close in June 2020 rather than 2019,” Paul said.

Despite the closing date postponement to June 2020, the short timeframe to find an alternative daycare is still a concern weighing on Mother’s Place families.

The families who have children enrolled at Mother’s Place organized a plan to try and come up with an alternative location for Mother’s Place. Mother’s Place families seem to prefer to keep the current staff of Mothers Place and to resume operations in a new building in the area. The Mother’s Place Parent Steering Committee, formed by Mother’s Place parents and families who have children enrolled, of which Paul is a member, have taken it upon themselves to find a new place for the daycare to operate.

“The Parent Steering Committee got set up to work with staff to try to find other options for Mother’s Place, and we’re currently in that process,” Paul said. “We are looking at trying to find another location and another ownership structure for the teachers to be able to continue working with kids.”

According to the SAAS Communications team, the Seattle Academy has assisted the committee in the search process, taking part in weekly conference calls to discuss possible new locations, and to provide information about organizations that might be interested in taking over Mother’s Place away from 12th Ave.

Although Mother’s Place will be leaving the 12th Ave building complex that it has been operating in for 38 years, there is still hope among Mother’s Place families and parents—as well as among the daycare’s teachers and staff—that a new location can be found nearby that can provide a natural transition for Mother’s Place families and staff. Mother’s Place teacher of 22 years Kari Kohler expressed hope that Mother’s Place could find a new home, but also acknowledged the expensive nature of rent in Capitol Hill.

“I know that the community is working on it. You know how real estate is really expensive here,” she said.

Rent is not the only obstacle in the search for a new site for Mother’s Place. Paul explained that though the committee has a year to find a new location, it still may not be enough time unless they find one soon.

“The problem is, it takes about a year to cite and license a daycare, so if we don’t get something sorted out really quickly, there’s nothing that can be done to keep it going,” he said.

As difficult as it may be to find a new building and new owners to shoulder the cost for Mother’s Place, the tight time frame applies an additional pressure that makes it all the more difficult for the committee to save Mother’s Place and provide a timely transition. If a move is not established soon, parents like Paul hope that the Seattle Academy will work with the committee to allow everything to be readied for the arrival of Mother’s Place to a new location.

“There’s a crisis for child care spots in the community, particularly with all of the infant spots going away.”

“If we don’t get to a point where we have an answer within the time frame, but we have an answer outside the timeframe, I’d surely hope that SASS would work with the community, because I firmly believe that a daycare and child care are far more important than administrative offices,” he said.

Despite its necessity, there is undoubtedly a shortage of childcare services in Capitol Hill, largely due to the area’s skyrocketing rent and the relative unprofitability of the service. A branch of the child care provider, Bright Horizons, opened in Capitol Hill in 2015, softening the blow of the Mother’s Place close for some families with young children in the area.

However, the waitlist for many child care centers can be extensive and can face parents with a wait that can be extremely difficult to plan around, as Paul explained.

“There’s not enough child care in the city. When we first looked for child care for our eldest child, we were told we would be facing a year and change waitlist to get a spot. So, to get a spot in the infants room, you have to be in the list, basically, as soon as you’re pregnant,” he said.

Mother’s Place teacher, Lauren Hester, echoed Paul’s concerns and acknowledged the difficulty of finding openings in the infant rooms of daycares in the area.

“There’s a crisis for child care spots in the community, particularly with all of the infant spots going away,” Hester said. “It’s going to be really hard to fill for families that are struggling to find a place to put their little ones.”

If the Mother’s Place Parent Steering Committee is able to find another site for Mother’s Place, it would not only significantly aid the 70 families with children enrolled at the daycare, but would save the jobs of many of the teachers and staff at the daycare, many of whom will be facing unemployment if Mother’s Place does not find a new location.

Although the SAAS Communications team did inform The Spectator that they have offered retention in some form to some Mother’s Place employees and transition bonuses to financially support others after the daycare closes, it would devastate many of the teachers if they were unable to continue the work that they have enjoyed doing for many years. Kohler talked about how important Mother’s place is to her, and how saddened she would be to see Mother’s Place closed forever.

“It’s my life, you know. I’m in my mid-40s. I started here in my early twenties. I love the community, I love the kids,” Kohler said. “I can’t even face it yet. It’s devastating.”

Mother’s Place is renowned for its dedicated and caring teachers, and many have worked at the daycare for decades, like Kohler, as Hester explained.

“I’ve worked here for five years. A lot of people have been here a lot longer, and there are some staff members that have been here for over 30,” she said.

With all of the success that Mother’s Place has achieved in childcare for Seattle’s communities over the years, it is disappointing to many families that the daycare will be shutting down. Kohler expressed her disappointment that the work of so many passionate and experienced employees may come to an end in a little over a year.

“It’s kind of a shame. It’s been here for almost 40 years, and something working so well doesn’t seem like it can just be shut down,” she said.

The annexation of Mother’s Place is not the only controversial expansion of the Seattle Academy’s facilities to be announced recently. The Academy is partnering with Seattle Parks and Recreation to appropriate South Park fields and surrounding facilities for the Academy’s use, although they will be required to open the fields to the public during community drop-in hours.

“It’s my life, you know. I’m in my mid-40s. I started here in my early twenties. I love the community, I love the kids. It’s devastating.”

The rapid expansion of the Seattle Academy throughout Capitol Hill, brings up certain ethical concerns regarding increasing gentrification in the area, but in the case of Mother’s Place, the Academy remains adamant that it will help them further their mission. They said that they carefully considered and planned for their decision beforehand, as the Communications team at the Academy explained.

“Our Administration and Board did not take this decision lightly and are committed to a respectful transition for the staff and an open line of communication and support to the Parent Steering Committee,” they wrote.

As for the Mother’s Place families and staff, the daycare will continue to operate as usual as teachers and care providers like Kohler hope for a new benefactor to take up their cause and find them a new site to operate in. “We just do our job and love the kids, and hope that that continues.”

Jack may be reached at
[email protected]