Designing a new school: Notes on the Genesee Hill site plan

December 26, 2012 at 10:30 am | In Genesee Hill, West Seattle news, West Seattle schools | 10 Comments

If you’re not on the Genesee-Schmitz Neighborhood Council e-mail list – or otherwise involved in the process, you might not know they’re sharing early updates from discussions about the new school to be built on the Genesee Hill Elementary site and opened in fall 2015 (assuming funding is approved by voters in the February vote on the Seattle Public Schools BEX IV levy). This morning’s GSNC update includes notes from a meeting earlier this month, outlining how the current site will be used:

On Dec. 15 (which happened to be the day after the Newtown, CT, school tragedy), the School Design Advisory Team (SDAT) met to explore possible layouts for the new elementary school to be built on the Genesee Hill site. A variety of possibilities were explored, and the design was narrowed down to one for the architects to further explore and assess from a feasibility and cost standpoint.

Here is a summary of what was included in this design (apologies that it is a text description, but no drawings or plans are currently available):

- The building itself would be located mainly on the upside down L-shaped upper area of the site (as viewed from SW Genesee St.; i.e., the levels where the current bldg. and portables are located). It is possible that some classrooms would “step down” one or both of the slopes to the lower field; this would be more expensive upfront but could result in heating savings later.

- The preferred design would have half the classrooms where the southernmost portables are now, overlooking or partially stepping down the slope; these would be connected to a central core area at the corner of the L to include the library–optimally located for the view of Rainier–and administrative offices. The long leg of the L (on the western part of the site) would include more classrooms (again either on top of the slope or partially stepping down it) and the gym/multipurpose/performance and Hiawatha spaces.

- The building’s elements would include an office/administrative area (preferred to be located where it will see all visitors entering the main entrance off of SW Dakota St.), 6 clusters of classrooms, with 4 classrooms, restrooms, and other shared spaces in each cluster. There would also be a library, gym, multipurpose room (cafeteria), occupational/speech/physical therapy spaces, and a smaller performance space. In addition, there would be space for the Hiawatha before-and-after school child care program to operate, custodial spaces, etc. The design team dealt only with the major spaces, not the more minor ones, and even then, the architectural team will have to make the final call.

- The large trees on the site are currently being assessed as to their location and condition; obviously, any buildings on the slopes would necessitate removal of trees and also native plants on the west side. It is important to school staff to have visibility through the site for safety purposes. The design advisory team members were split with regard to keeping the trees, with some folks (such as GSNC) in favor of keeping them, and others not at all concerned if they were cut.

- Parent/general parking would likely be onsite along the SW Dakota St. side, and staff parking would be located near the corner of 51st and Genesee; bus dropoff and loading would be along 51st Ave. SW. There would also need to be a service drive, perhaps off of SW Dakota St. There are very few access points on the property where the street level and the site level match, which makes this a challenge.

- The main play areas would be located at the NE corner of the lower field, nestled below the building, with a switchbacked ramp from the building down to the field. There would be a smaller asphalt area (perhaps 1/4 to 1/3 of the overall area), with the remainder left in grass. The school would also like to have a small vegetable garden for the students. In addition, there would be a covered play area of some kind, and a covered outdoor learning area/pavilion.

- There would be stairs added at the NE and SW corners of the grassy field to the upper level; these could be used as people come and go from the site. (There would be no public passthrough at the corner of the L.)

- There would be an entrance gate, perhaps with art, at the SE corner of the property. This would allow community access across the site to the NE stairs and SW Dakota St. during nonschool hours; GSNC is working with the district in hopes of getting some assurance that this access will be protected.

Remember that none of this is set in stone, though major changes to the general layout are probably unlikely. The architectural team continues to take comments even during the holidays, so we welcome your feedback to our e-mail address and will pass it on to them.

The public will have an opportunity to comment on a more finalized version of this plan during the week of Jan. 22-25 when the architects will be available daily during school hours at Schmitz Park School. There will also be a public meeting around that time (date to be announced).

In addition, GSNC is working with the district and the architects to finalize the date of the next GSNC meeting when the architects can present their vision for the new design (with cost and feasibility taken into account). We will let you know as soon as we have more information on this meeting.

10 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for keeping the updates coming…

    Comment by 44th Neighbor — 1:06 pm December 26, 2012 #

  2. Building a library in 2015 with outdated books an information…oh wait thank god it’s got a view of Mt. Rainier, yeah that sounds just like Seattle public schools total waste of resources.
    Here’s an idea scrap the library and give all students an iPad or equivalent modern technology on which to learn from. You know since they don’t teach cursive anymore.
    Looks like I just saved SPS a million plus dollars.

    Comment by DakotaResident — 4:22 pm December 26, 2012 #

  3. include the library–optimally located for the view of Rainier ? Are they going to build this school a couple stories high so they can look over all the new apartments and condos going in which will be 4-7 stories high down Californa ave. and soon 35th ? Good luck with that Rainier View. They better just plan on a water view. I think somebody better inform the School Design Advisory Team (SDAT) where there at and whats going on around here. And I wonder why are taxes keep going up and the school district is broke. By the way what is Hiawatha spaces ? Have alot of new people around here that are always changing or comming up with new names for things and places. Funny how West Seattle High School had to change its name because it said Indian.

    Comment by wetone — 8:59 pm December 26, 2012 #

  4. Can anyone tell me how much money this will cost each of us? What are the per family tax implications? I have been looking for details on where the dollars and cents are coming from and who is accountable and I can not find any specifics of If yes, than X$ per family, if no, than -X$ per household…

    Comment by Genesee hill — 10:12 am December 27, 2012 #

  5. I think it would be great to have new schools but conversations on aesthetics and how wonderful the world will be with an additional $600 MILLION dollars does not present any concrete information with which we can make decisions. Has the SPS proven they can make solid financial decisions with the money they are given? Is there a fact based plan to allocate and spend those dollars in the best interests of those footing the bill? I don’t have a room with a view of Rainier, because I can’t afford it…

    Comment by WS Taxpayer — 10:19 am December 27, 2012 #

  6. Well seattle schools have built several schools in the past years. Why not take the plans that are already drawn up and use one of them. This alone would save at least half a mill alone.

    Comment by boy — 10:22 am December 27, 2012 #

  7. There are no specific breakouts per project. BEX IV is all or nothing – either you approve the whole levy, or you reject the whole levy, in February. Regarding the entire levy:
    .
    There is probably a newer version somewhere but in a March work session – see the last page of this (sorry for the URL shortener but the original one is way too long – this will take you to a PDF from the Seattle Public Schools website):
    .
    http://is.gd/S63zuC
    .
    That cited figures for $600 million and $750 million versions. The final version last month was $695 million. Roughly, using the same numbers, in 2014 it will cost a little more than $1 per year per $1,000 of property value.
    .
    TR

    Comment by WSB — 10:26 am December 27, 2012 #

  8. In addition to the building levy they will be adding the Operations levy. Bringing the total levy to over $1 billion.

    The School Board also unanimously approved placing a $551.9 million Operations Levy on the ballot to replace the expiring Operations Levy, which was approved by voters in 2010

    The Seattle School Board on Nov. 7 voted 6-0 to approve the $694.9 million Building Excellence IV (BEX IV) Capital Levy ballot measure, which is a replacement for the expiring capital levy.

    Comment by Trying! — 10:49 am December 27, 2012 #

  9. We are on 50th and Edmunds in the weird 4-block radius off of Hudson/Jacobsen that were re-routed to Alki Elementary as a neighborhood school 3 years ago instead of Schmitz Park. Now that this newly opened school will be just 3 blocks from us, how do we find out if they will be changing the neighborhood school boundaries again?

    Comment by CSG — 11:11 pm January 9, 2013 #

  10. There WILL be boundary changes around the district for 2014, they have said. But no specifics yet.

    Comment by WSB — 11:12 pm January 9, 2013 #

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