Providing education to disadvantaged students at the tuition-free private school is made even harder when doing so in a weathered 91-year-old building.

“It didn’t come a moment too soon,” said board president Dawn Mason. 

“We have some old galvanized pipes,” Mason said. “These things happen, and we got open; it’s all good.”

Friends of First Place Scholars has a 2016-17 plan for renovating the building, which is also the location for First Place’s housing program for families facing trauma. 

Friends of First Place Scholars asked for $82,000, but received the $100,000 maximum amount available through the Neighborhood Matching Fund. Perkins said there’s plenty of work to be done with it. 

“This is what poor kids in rich Seattle get, this is the kind of school that they’re subjected to,” he said. “We need to get this building beautified, so they have a place that they can call, ‘This is ours,’ and feel safe.”

“A lot of them are former city inspectors,” he said. “We have a couple of them that used to be Seattle or county building inspectors. … There were some questionable things about some previous contractors. We thought we would just move forward.”

First Place Scholars became the first charter school in Washington in September 2014. When the state Supreme Court struck down the charter-school law as unconstitutional in late 2015, First Place went back to a tuition-free private school.

KOMO reported in early September that parents of about 90 First Place students received a voicemail from the school, notifying them that second through fifth grades would no longer be taught there. 

Seattle Public Schools spokesman Luke Duecy said the district reached out to the affected students, providing them with school and enrollment resources.

“So, what we are is like a vaccination,” Mason said. “Instead of trying to close the gap, we’re trying to prevent the gap.”

“It’s our every attempt to add a grade for next year, a second grade,” she said.