West Seattle schools: Reopened, expanded E.C. Hughes might be Roxhill Elementary’s new home

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

After our report on Monday night’s Seattle Public Schools levy briefing in West Seattle, a commenter asked a key question: Since the district is saying it plans to reopen E.C. Hughes Elementary (7740 34th SW), in part with money from one of those levies, why isn’t it shown in the district boundaries that are now drawn up through 2020?

Today, we got the answer: “We are considering moving the Roxhill Elementary School program to the E.C. Hughes building,” district spokesperson Tom Redman told WSB today.

This has been suggested before, but it raised capacity questions, as Hughes – closed by SPS in 1989, used as an interim/emergency building until Westside School (WSB sponsor) occupied it as a tenant for the past five years – was built to hold about 300 students. Roxhill’s most-recent enrollment estimate is approaching 400. But if the levy plan – augmented with a state grant – goes forward, the idea is to not just reopen Hughes but also to expand it to a capacity of 550.

The Roxhill building is in poor shape, to say the least, and there was a proposal just three years ago to get the “program” out of the building. At that time, the proposal was to merge it with Arbor Heights Elementary in the expanded AHES that’s now under construction. When that was floated during early discussions of the BEX IV levy, both schools’ principals were taken by surprise. But then-Roxhill principal Carmela Dellino said at the time that she had been talking with School Board member Marty McLaren about a different idea – moving Roxhill to Hughes.

Various discussions ensued but in the end, the Roxhill-AH idea went nowhere, and some were surprised that Roxhill didn’t make the preliminary project list for this new BTA IV levy. The idea of moving its program to an expanded, reopened Hughes apparently is the explanation for why it didn’t.

So what would happen to Roxhill’s campus at 30th/Roxbury? “The future use of the Roxhill building has yet to be determined,” Redman told us.

At the Monday night briefing, district officials said the target date for reopening Hughes is fall 2018; so far, no set date for this to come before the board, aside from the BTA IV levy language needing to be finalized, and that’s likely where more details would emerge. If you have a comment or question, Redman says you can e-mail him, tlredman@seattleschools.gov. We’ll be following up on all this in the days ahead.

19 Replies to "West Seattle schools: Reopened, expanded E.C. Hughes might be Roxhill Elementary's new home"

  • Watchdog September 30, 2015 (4:21 pm)

    That EC Hughes building is in bad shape too. I think insaw somewhere it ranked as being the lowest of quality in the district. Hope they spend money to fix it.

  • Bonnie September 30, 2015 (4:47 pm)

    I am pretty sure it is in better shape than Roxhill.

  • AmandaKH September 30, 2015 (5:28 pm)

    Roxhill Elementary currently has 340 students. Let me get this right – a 1926 school building is better than a 1955 school building. And we can’t build a new elementary school at the old Denny site because?

  • Sunny.206 September 30, 2015 (5:52 pm)

    I would have to think EC Hugh’s needs a lot of earthquake retro fitting, I thought it was closed because it wasn’t up to cod, that’s why the portables were being used in the parking lot. The alternative would be to look for a place on a busier street so they can bring the kids out to the busy street (not the side street) and load the bus’s there like they do at Roxhill.

  • Gina September 30, 2015 (6:06 pm)

    If the school district can’t maintain current buildings this cycle will continue endlessly.

  • AmandaKH September 30, 2015 (7:14 pm)

    When Denny Middle School was torn down, the blueprints for the park had on it clearly – future elementary school. I’m just shocked that this is the solution.

  • Rod Clark September 30, 2015 (7:28 pm)

    Amanda, the Denny site was a middle school site for 50 years, and is located right next to the athletic fields needed for that use.

    The old Denny was a one story school, and housed 950 students. If rebuilt as a two story school, it could handle the future larger middle school student enrollment, when Sealth needs to expand into the Denny portion of the current Sealth/Denny campus.

    The projected tennis building, if it is built there, would have to be torn down at that time to make more room on the campus. It’s proposed to go right where one of the old Denny portables was, and that space would be needed for the new, larger Denny.

    The middle school population probably won’t increase enough to need this until sometime after the school district’s current 2020-2021 long-term planning horizon, but I think it won’t be very many years away.

  • Lynn September 30, 2015 (7:53 pm)

    This is interesting. I thought that in the request for the distressed schools grant funds, the district referred to reopening E.C. Hughes as a project that would increase capacity. Is it really increasing capacity if it’s replacing seats at Roxhill?

    • WSB September 30, 2015 (8:11 pm)

      Yes, since, as mentioned in our story, Roxhill has about 400 students (estimated at 374 for this year as of the newest document I could find) and Hughes would be expanded to capacity of 550.

  • Josh Sutton September 30, 2015 (8:04 pm)

    As an EC Hughes Alum, it’s always good to hear potential uses for the old building.

    Sunny206: the portables were placed on the Hughes property by Westside School when they moved there. And the WS YMCA Preschool moved into 2 of them over the summer, thanks to an agreement and support from Westside and the SPS. The Y has about 60 preschoolers / day onsite. Y Families are happy to be at Hughes, and hope to continue to be there even as the district sorts out what’s needed next for kids in the Westwood / Roxhill / Sunrise Heights area.

    So the portables aren’t a result of the building meeting code or not. The Hughes building was last used by Seattle Public Schools in the later 1990s when Concord Elementary was being rebuilt. They did upgrades to the building prior to that, however it is still a very old building and needs a lot of work.

    Amanda KH is correct, the old Denny location wording was “future elementary school”. Whether that comes to fruition is up to board and planning. My guess is a whole new elementary school is significantly more than a retrofit, expansion of Hughes, or perhaps even Roxhill. Although Roxhill’s site is the smallest.

    The revamped/expanded/new Fairmount Park Elementary is a good example of a expansion/remodel that can work.

    It would be good to understand how the district sees the growth and movement of elementary age kids in the school area. There is a lot of population walking to Roxhill that would require good transportation if moved to Hughes location.

    At the same time, there’s a veritable baby boom on every block around me, and I live between the two sites.

    Regardless, now is the time to ask questions of Board Candidates and district staff as to their real plans for proper, updated school buildings for West Seattle students now and in the future.

  • Kimmy September 30, 2015 (8:21 pm)

    I love the idea of having a school in that EC Hughes building again, and there is obvious work to do, like new pipes to be able to use the drinking fountains.
    .
    There is a huge need for traffic mitigation with a school going back in there. Are street improvements for the surrounding block or two part of the budget and retrofit plan? Kenyon between 35th and 34th has become quite the scene and causes issues on 35th, and the city informed me upon inquiry that there is no plans to fix the traffic flow because the street is up to their width standards. Two of the 4 corners of the school property are also uncontrolled intersections, very few crosswalks, and no school-zone lights and limited school-zone signage. I’m not familiar with how this works, as I don’t have a child in pubilc schools, but I hope traffic and walkability would be a consideration for a school to move back in.
    .
    Josh, the difference between students walking might be offset by moving the location of the school from the very south of the boundary to the very north of it. Some who were out of a walking distance are now closer by.

  • Trickycoolj October 1, 2015 (8:23 am)

    I would venture to guess a 1920s building might have better bones to work with than a 1950s building. I bet the cost of reno/expansion is cheaper than a full tear down and rebuild, especially considering the site review challenges that delayed the current tear down and rebuild of Arbor Heights(?). I’m sure safety concerns with crosswalks and walk zones will be well addressed and part of the budget if it happens. Architecturally Hughes is a much nicer building to keep around in our current Tetris block style of building trends. Also always cool to think that if I have kids some day they could go to the same school my mom went to in the 60s.

  • polly aldrich October 1, 2015 (11:24 am)

    I thought they closed ECHughes in 89 because it was not earth quake safe…has it been upgraded to make it safe?

  • Melissa Westbrook October 1, 2015 (1:18 pm)

    “When Denny Middle School was torn down, the blueprints for the park had on it clearly – future elementary school.”

    I also saw this and it’s an example of the district saying one thing and then turning around and doing something else.

    The district does try to renovate due to costs of a total teardown but it would seem that they need the space so maybe go big or go home.

    Redoing Hughes, they would have to bring it up to seismic code. How much they would need to do for that would depend on exactly what they do to the building.

    As for Denny and Sealth, I don’t know this issue well enough but I can say that many of use knew that this joint building stuff was unlikely to work out. But building a new Denny at old Denny would cost a heck of a lot of money.

    And now I hear there is talk (and this is straight from Capital staff) that they want to build a high school at Memorial Stadium. I’m all for that but where’s the money coming from for that?

    Lastly, one person here made a good point that I want to echo. Maintenance – basic maintenance – falls under the General Fund. (Major maintenance like HVAC, roofs, water lines, etc. falls to BTA to cover.)

    But as every homeowner knows, you let the basic maintenance go and you will pay more later. The district – by its own admission – is doing little to no basic maintenance (beyond groundskeeping). They ONLY do emergency maintenance.

    So whether it’s the nearly $100M new high school buildings or old buildings like Roxhill and Montlake that they constantly try to shore up, they are NOT maintaining these buildings.

    You have to ask yourself why not and why should voters give them more money as they continue to fall further and further behind in their backlogged maintenance? They have NEVER explained why more General Fund money can’t go to basic maintenance.

    • WSB October 1, 2015 (2:11 pm)

      About the “future elementary school,” we covered that as well, but it never had a date, or a time, or any other specifics. It was mentioned repeatedly, at meetings like this one: http://westseattleblog.com/2008/10/denny-school-sites-future-the-meeting-that-almost-wasnt – and you can even see “future school site” on this 2011 rendering: http://westseattleblog.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/finallayoutpdfdenny.pdf – but there was never, ever a date, as acknowledged toward the end of this 2011 story http://westseattleblog.com/2011/06/details-of-dennys-transformation-into-park-with-no-name – as I wrote, “And in the very long run, about that possible new elementary school – Nothing on the schedule, no timeline, no budgeted money, it’s just land being held in reserve (like the district’s vacant school buildings at Boren, Genesee Hill, and Fairmount Park, though as we reported here recently, the latter may be reopened as soon as fall 2012).” (Checking back on those three – of course, FP has since been reopened and expanded; GH is the site of the new Schmitz Park, which reminds me that it’s time to check in on the current SP’s future; and Boren is now permanent home to Louisa Boren K-8 STEM and interim home till school year’s end to Arbor Heights.) – TR

  • AmandaKH October 1, 2015 (2:17 pm)

    This is the email I received this morning in my response to if they are in fact moving the school, and why they are not building a new school. I also asked for the specific list of renovation planned:
    *
    “Dear Ms. Helmick: our current plans are to move the Roxhill Elementary program into the E.C. Hughes building.
    The cost of the construction of a new building would be far greater than a renovation of the E.C. Hughes building.
    Earthquake safety and ADA improvements have been made to the building and we will make all appropriate upgrades to provide a safe, secure and enhanced learning environment.
    Best Regards,
    Tom Redman”
    *
    I have friends who have kids at Westside, and while they though EC Hughes was a nice old building, they thought it an old building with lots of challenges. The kids at Roxhill are already in a building that has no fire suppression system, original boiler, cast iron pipes and have rats on the playground (that they can’t run on because the blacktop is so messed up. That’s right they are Not Allowed To Run at recess).
    *
    Is it because we have a high percentage of reduced/free lunch kids at our school? Lots of immigrant families where english is not their first language? Does the District feels like, who cares? They should be grateful for whatever we give them?
    *
    EC Hughes is Outside the Roxhill boundary. So this means that the boundaries are going to change. Again. I really want to keep my son in public schools, but at this point, I am considering that is not what SPS wants me to do.

  • dcn October 1, 2015 (6:21 pm)

    I think EC Hughes is a beautiful school, at least on the outside. It has huge and plentiful windows for lots of light, and it is more attractive (I think) than the Boren building, which is the new permanent home for STEM.
    .
    If it can be seismically retrofitted (if it hasn’t been already), and upgraded with plumbing, technology, etc., then I do not see a problem with moving Roxhill to this location. It is no more inconveniently located than the current Roxhill site–one is on the SW corner of the attendance area; the other is near the NW corner.
    .
    My only concern is if it will be big enough for the number of students they want to place there. It is not a big campus, and I have a hard time envisioning how they expect to remodel it to hold 250 more students than it was built for.
    .
    SPS might yet decide to build a brand new elementary on the old Denny site if EC Hughes’ limitations can’t be overcome. Although I would personally hate to see the new park go. It’s become a community spot for playing games, dog walking, and even for viewing events like fireworks and the lunar eclipse.

  • Robert October 1, 2015 (11:10 pm)

    I live across the street from hughes, the building was retrofitted with computers[outside pipes] ventilation and heating right after the shut-down. it is fenced all around and paved with a playground around back..with a little COMMON SENSE maintenance, it should last another 80 or so years..

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