By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
We first reported on what was described as a possible move almost a year and a half ago, after following up on a commenter’s question about why the district was pursuing plans to renovate the school but hadn’t given it distinct attendance boundaries on the longterm maps.
Since then, there’s been no pivotal hearing, no major discussion. An internal School Design Advisory Team, including Roxhill’s former principal, met a few times (four dates in March and April 2016, according to this document we found half a year later). That was a contrast to high-profile discussions about school changes and closures last decade. But the decision to make the move in fall 2018 has been made, and renovation work will start this spring.
And members of the Roxhill community seem ready to make the best of it.
Following up on a briefing last fall, this month’s PTSA meeting was moved to EC Hughes, pre-renovations, one week ago tonight, for a briefing and tour with reps from Seattle Public Schools and architects DLR Group.
“This is going to be our school,” declared PTSA president Amanda Kay Helmick.
She told the ~30 people on hand that the PTSA is working on grants for the Hughes playground – one thing they’ll miss about Roxhill is being next to a park, and they also want to talk with the students to see what they want the new school’s playground to include. (Appropriate enough, given that the school’s history began with the site being acquired for a community playground.)
SPS’s Paul Wight started the pre-tour briefing about what’s in the works for EC Hughes, after what he described as a year and a half of planning and design work. The school is a city landmark now, built in 1926 with a south-end addition in 1949.
The project (previewed here last October) is out to bid right now, with $9 million budgeted, and work expected to begin in early May. (What’s being done right now – covered here last month – is separate from the renovations.) After one year of work, it’ll be on target to open as Roxhill’s new home in fall 2018.
Project manager Ariel Mieling from DLR Group pointed out that since the landmark designation for the school protects its exterior, that won’t look much different. The cafetorium, where the meeting/tour began, also is protected.
She discussed the changes planned for the area just beyond the school’s entryway, saying that Roxhill’s “community feel” near the entrance was important to those who met in the design-team gatherings, so the changes there will emphasize that.
Instead of facing “a big wall” when you enter, you’ll see spaces including a room for families, space for the Roxhill health clinic, a reception area, spaces for specialists to work with students, and more. There will be a lot of glass replacing that wall.
The building has 14 classrooms, and eight more in the portables purchased from Westside School (WSB sponsor), which moved out after building its own permanent campus in Arbor Heights. “They’re a lot nicer than the ones the school district buys,” Wight said with a smile. They have plumbing and restrooms, for example.
The Hughes classrooms will retain their size and shape, including their high (14-foot) ceilings, and wood floors, which will be refinished. Modern features will be added – teaching walls, projectors, outlets for the classrooms – and upgrades are planned for the basics, such as hydronic heating, all-new restroom fixtures, and LED lighting. Some additions will be low-tech, like ceiling fans to keep the air moving when it gets warm. And others will be high-tech, including security features. One more safety addition: More seismic upgrades, though the building went through one earlier in the decade. Its “unreinforced clay-block tile” walls will be demolished and replaced (those are largely in corridors).
The entire school will be ADA-accessible, Mieling added. Overall, she described it as a “beautiful building with good bones,” saying they hope everything they’re doing will be clear improvements.
Before heading off for a look at a few of the rooms in the school, Mieling and Wight answered a few questions:
What will the school be called? Roxhill at Hughes, or … ? Wight did not have the answer and suggested checking with top-level district management. (Which we’ll be doing.)
What will happen to the murals painted at Roxhill? They can’t be relocated to the historical/protected parts of Hughes, said Wight, but maybe there would be room in the addition, which is not protected.
What will become of the historic wood trim in the classrooms, and how will storage for students be handled? It’ll be kept – no cubbies, but there will be nooks. The existing lockers are staying, Wight added.
After a few questions, it was time to head off for a closer look at those classrooms, and a few more questions came up while the tour was under way.
Standing in the first one, principal Patrick enthused, “I’m really excited about the opportunity – for the kids and for the teachers.”
The group trooped down the flights of stairs to the gym, which isn’t expected to change much – aside from Roxhill’s climbing wall being added when the move is made in summer 2018, and the upgrade of its lighting.
Wight was asked about hazardous materials; those would be removed during demolition before the renovations, he said, particularly the asbestos that’s mostly in pipe insulation.
Next stop, the library, which will “expand a bit,” tour participants were told.
And then it was back toward the door. We’d seen more during our tour last October, but this was the first chance for Roxhill families to take a look inside and start thinking about the future. It’s still more than a full school year away, but never too soon to start planning, especially those playground possibilities mentioned at the meeting’s start.
OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS: Toward the start of the meeting, Roxhill principal Tarra Patrick spoke for a few minutes about what’s coming up at school – this week’s midwinter break, an upcoming clothing exchange, and some tests. In particular, at testing time, she reminded parents, it’s vital to ensure their children are well-rested and well-fed, and also that they’re not overly stressed about the tests – “This is not defining (their) life,” as it did not define the lives of her kids, now 17, 19, and 22, she said. She also mentioned that work is coming up on SW Roxbury alongside the school and it will mean some temporary changes; we subsequently checked on that and will have details in an upcoming report – it’s the project to build two blocks of missing sidewalks along the south side of Roxbury, between 28th and 30th SW.
(Editor’s note: Spelling of Paul Wight’s name corrected, 7:10 am Tuesday)