West Seattle, Washington
Just announced by Seattle Public Schools: After the school year ends, Gatewood Elementary principal Constance Aleman will be moving across the peninsula to take the newly created position of assistant principal at West Seattle’s most populous elementary school, Genesee Hill. She has been principal at Gatewood for four years. Letters have gone out to both schools’ communities – here’s what Aleman said in her announcement:
It is with mixed emotions I am writing to inform you this will be my last year at Gatewood Elementary School.
After four amazing years and careful consideration, I have decided it is the right time for me to pursue a new leadership opportunity. I have accepted a role at Genesee Hill Elementary; I am excited to stay within the West Seattle community and to work more closely in the areas of Special Education, social-emotional learning, and family engagement. As difficult as this is for me, I feel confident I am leaving this school in great shape and ready to continue the amazing work of providing academic excellence for each student.
While seeking new opportunities brings some excitement, I want you to know this was not an easy decision for me. I’m indebted to so many incredible friends and colleagues who have made my experience here a lifelong memory. At Gatewood there are positive, innovative, and hardworking staff, and a supportive and positive group of families. I cherish the brilliant, caring, and committed students. It has been an honor serving all of you the past four years. As much as I will miss this community, I will cherish the memories and reflect fondly upon them as I move forward in both my professional and personal life.
As we wrap up the year, I am hopeful you continue on the path we have laid together. Together we have worked toward the mission of fostering a school climate of compassion, academic excellence, problem solving, creativity, and cultural awareness. It inspires me to see the school, families, and the community working together for the social, emotional, physical, and intellectual development of each student. This mission lives with you. Your relentless commitment, drive, and compassion for our students will ensure that our mission of excellence continues on!
I will finish out the school year at Gatewood and my first day with Genesee Hill will be July 1. The formal search process for hiring a new principal is underway as we look forward to the next school year. The process will include an opportunity for Gatewood staff and the community to provide input. Executive Director of Schools, Helen Joung, will communicate updates to the staff and community.
Thank you all for your kindness and support. I have appreciated it more than you can imagine. And thank you all for your continued commitment and dedication to our school, staff and students. It is because of you that I know Gatewood will continue to be the very best school ever!
Constance Aleman, Principal
Gatewood Elementary School
You can read the message sent by Genesee Hill principal Gerrit Kischner to his community here.
Congratulations to the lone West Seattle team to make it into the finals of this year’s Seattle Public Library Global Reading Challenge – the Literature Lions from Genesee Hill Elementary! The finals are at the Central Library downtown, one week from tonight, Tuesday, March 21st. The LLs’ semi-final-winning session was one week ago, but we’ve been waiting for the official list of citywide finalists from SPL following the eight rounds of semi-finals, and just got it:
Reading Rock Star Pandas
Readers and Roarers
Who Are We Again?
Leschi Boom Readers
To compete in the GRC, described as a “Battle of the Books” for fourth- and fifth-graders, they read books from a specified list (here are this year’s books) and answer questions about them. After on-campus and regional competition, the finalists emerge. Here’s the list of all schools citywide that participated in the GRC this year. If you want to go cheer for Genesee Hill in the finals, it’s open to spectators, no admission charge, 7 pm next Tuesday; the downtown library is at 1000 4th Ave.
Major milestone for the Urban Homestead Foundation, community volunteers pursuing a dream for the former City Light substation on Genesee Hill. And you have three chances in the next eight days to stop by, find out more, and have fun, starting tomorrow morning.
First, the milestone: Katie Stemp from the UHF says the organization has finally been granted 501(c)(3) nonprofit status “after a year of working on the application and waiting to hear from the IRS! Now we are qualified to apply for several more grants than before! It’s a big step and we are very excited!”
Now, the backstory, since we haven’t mentioned the UHF in a while (here’s what we wrote about it last year) – it’s a community effort that first needs to raise money to buy the vacant city-owned land across from Genesee Hill Elementary, a former Seattle City Light substation, to turn it “into a valuable community asset for West Seattle and beyond.”
Next, the events
Tomorrow (Wednesday) morning and March 7th, you’ll see a coffee cart at the site, where you’re invited to enjoy a cup of coffee (donated by Admiral Bird tomorrow, C & P Coffee Company [WSB sponsor] on March 7th) and find out more about getting involved with the project, including “a sneak peek at the future and hopeful home of the Dakota Homestead – a place for the community to gather, learn, play and grow together!” Look for the canopy at the corner of SW Dakota and 50th SW. Coffee’s free; donations will be accepted.
And next Sunday – March 5th – the Urban Homestead Foundation is hosting a Block Party on SW Dakota between 49th and 50th SW, 2-3:30 pm, “bringing neighbors together to celebrate the potential of what this vacant piece of land could be for our community. All are welcome! We’ve gotten a street permit along Dakota and we’re working on getting donated food and beer.”
Aside from events, the UHF team is working not only to seek grants but also to “connect with people from the area who are interested in helping fund or connect funders to the project, who are excited about positively impacting thousands of students through workshops that teach life skills (kitchen skills, growing food, finance, etiquette, etc.) and the opportunity to create a model, organic food garden for the community that all can enjoy. When we, as a community of invested adults, are able to influence youth in a positive way that builds self-confidence and resiliency, it changes the path their lives take and impacts the people they come into contact with. The ripple effect of helping youth is exponential and we want to bring that positive guidance into their lives.”
If you can’t make it to any of the events, connect with the UHF via its website.
You don’t expect to hear “Happy Birthday” at the dedication of a new school. If you were at this afternoon’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Genesee Hill Elementary, that’s exactly what you heard, at the behest of School Board rep Leslie Harris, in honor of principal Gerrit Kischner and some of the students who joined in the ceremony.
School Board rep Leslie Harris leads crowd in Happy B'day for principal, some students. Her daughter (contd).., pic.twitter.com/XVRVCNnRhY
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) September 6, 2016
Kischner joked that the new school is a “91,000-square-foot birthday present.” His parents were there to help celebrate.
For Harris, there also was a personal connection, as her daughter attended Pathfinder K-8 in the old Genesee Hill Elementary on the same site.
The principal, staff, and students moved from Schmitz Park Elementary, which they had long since outgrown (as proven by a plethora of portables there), but the ties to the Schmitz family, who gave the SPES site to the district long ago, remain strong. At today’s GHES ceremony, family representative Vicki Schmitz Block was given the last flag to fly over SPE before the end of last school year:
(As announced last week, SPE will not be vacant – it will host after-school programs for about 100 students.)
The GH ceremony was outdoors, while the Arbor Heights Elementary dedication two hours earlier was indoors, but both were followed by tours (here’s our original look inside GH) and both shared several dignitaries who took to the podium, including third-year Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland, who declared, “These really are awesome schools.”
(Both GH and AH were funded by the BEX IV levy passed by Seattle voters three and a half years ago.) Again, tomorrow’s the first day of school; GH is opening with about 700 students, already past official capacity, but it’s been configured so that portables will not be needed.
It’s move-in week for Shiloh Henderson and her teacher colleagues at brand-new Genesee Hill Elementary, where the September 6th dedication day is now less than four weeks away. The new school housing what had been the Schmitz Park Elementary program could have more than 700 students by the time classes start on September 7th, principal Gerrit Kischner tells WSB.
History will be honored at that spot in the spacious entrance area – the bricks are from the old Genesee Hill school, demolished to make way for this one, and the squares will hold tiles from Schmitz Park. A plaque here will honor the history of what led to the new campus, which, we noticed while visiting, is full of light:
That’s the library, where books from Schmitz Park were awaiting unpacking, with additions on the way. Also in the library: Read More
4:34 PM: Schmitz Park Elementary principal Gerrit Kischner will be principal of Genesee Hill Elementary as of this September. That’s the name chosen, Kischner announced this afternoon, for the new school that’s being built for his students and staff, on the site of a school that carried that same name, Genesee Hill Elementary. He says the ribboncutting is set for 1 pm September 6th. The Schmitz family name will stay with the current Schmitz Park building, he says; we’re checking with the district on the current plan for its future use (once described as potentially an early-learning center, but it’s been a while since we’ve heard that mentioned). Meantime, Kischner says students in the new building will have a special way to learn about their school’s history: “We are writing a historical plaque that will be in the new building tracing this joint history.” Funding for the new school is from the BEX IV levy.
6:08 PM: The principal’s announcement in this week’s school newsletter, sent out this afternoon, also notes that more than half the respondents in last year’s survey wanted this name. The mascot will remain the fox, however. The newsletter also notes that the new school currently is projected to open with about 663 students, 19 more than this year’s Schmitz Park enrollment; it’s being built to ~650 capacity. And one more note since our first report – SPS says the future use of the current Schmitz Park building has not yet been decided.
(WSB photo of under-construction school, earlier this month)
The construction of both new West Seattle elementary campuses – for Schmitz Park at Genesee Hill (above) and Arbor Heights – is on schedule for their planned openings this fall, Seattle Public Schools tells us. And if you will have a kindergartener going into Schmitz Park this fall, principal Gerrit Kischner invites you to their upcoming tours – 9 am tomorrow (Tuesday, January 26th) and Wednesday, February 10th:
We are still hosting tours this year because we want families to start getting excited about our program. Next year, it will be the same great teachers and the same great community in a brand new, beautiful space! We will showcase our five Kindergarten classrooms, give parents an opportunity to observe upper-grade classrooms as well, and share pictures and ideas for how our program will maximize the advantages of our new space. Whether families choose to tour or not, please remember that Kindergarten registration is now open for attendance-area schools, and the sooner families register their youngsters, the better we will be equipped to plan for their coming!
Kischner adds that the new school’s name hasn’t been finalized yet but so far they’re calling it “Schmitz Park at Genesee Hill.” But be sure you go to the CURRENT campus for the upcoming tours – 50th SW/SW Spokane.
(Image captured this morning from construction-site webcam)
Remember the call for suggestions about what to call the new school being built on Genesee Hil, for the program currently housed (and overflowing) at Schmitz Park Elementary? A letter has just gone out listing four finalists, and launching a vote. The finalists are:
*Genesee Hill Elementary School: Genesee Hill is the name of the original building, which opened in 1949.
*Genesee-Schmitz Elementary School: Genesee-Schmitz recognizes the shared identity and history of the neighborhood and the two schools.
*Dietrich Schmitz Elementary School: Dietrich Schmitz was the longest-serving member of the Seattle School Board in history, serving 32 years and multiple times as President.
*Thelma DeWitty Elementary School: Thelma DeWitty was the first African-American teacher in Seattle, working first in West Seattle at the Cooper School.
The four potential names are not the only points of interest in the letter from Schmitz Park principal Gerrit Kischner. It’s been pointed out that the new school, with capacity around 650, might be not be big enough to hold SPE’s continuing-to-swell population, and Kischner’s letter includes this mention of one way that might be addressed:
… Please note that while we would like to move forward to finalize the naming of the new building, we are also continuing to watch enrollment numbers that could affect the long-term plans for both our current and future school sites.
The Building Leadership Team made a point of requesting that we ensure that the Schmitz Family legacy, which has inspired Schmitz Park Elementary School to be a flagship elementary program in the Seattle School District, will continue to be recognized and honored. If enrollment trends continue to the point that our program could be needed to operate at both sites, we will recommend to the Superintendent that the new building be opened as Schmitz Park School at Genesee Hill.
Regardless, we will not change the name of the school building we currently occupy, which is officially named by the School Board as “Schmitz Park School.” This is a promise made by the District to the Schmitz Family, who donated the land for the Schmitz Park Preserve and school site. Important Schmitz Park traditions and our fox mascot and logo will continue at the new building. …
We’re following up with the district regarding the “both sites” possibility; meantime, you can read the entire letter here.
Now, back to the name poll: Make your choice online here; if you’d like to vote another way, the letter mentions you can postal-mail or drop off your choice to/at SPES (5000 SW Spokane, Seattle 98116). Deadline is April 26th – one week from this Sunday.
(Rendering envisioning the new school’s interior)
As construction continues on the new elementary school at the site of the former Genesee Hill Elementary, the process of deciding what to call it has just expanded to include you! Here’s the announcement:
The West Seattle community, along with Schmitz Park Elementary families, staff and Genesee Hill School alumni, are being invited to submit suggestions for the name of the new school building being constructed to replace the old building on the Genesee Hill school site.
This Seattle Public Schools Building Excellence IV (BEX IV) project was approved by Seattle voters in February 2013. The Schmitz Park Elementary program is scheduled to move into the new building at the Genesee Hill site in September, 2016.
“We hope to select a name that honors our legacy as Schmitz Park Elementary, while building a new tradition, in a new location, on Genesee Hill,” said Gerrit Kischner, Principal, Schmitz Park Elementary.
If you wish to nominate a name, including the current Genesee Hill School name, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. All nominations need to be received by March 31, 2015. Please include the criteria for why the name should be selected. Seattle Public Schools’ School Board naming procedure states that the naming of new buildings should be selected based upon: (a) geographical location or local community name; or (b) distinguished individuals who have served the local community, state, or nation, whether in education or other fields.
Once names have been received, a committee that includes a representative from the Southwest Seattle Historical Society will compile the names. The community will then be asked to vote for their preferred name. The results of the poll, along with other submitted information, will be used to make a recommendation that will be sent to the Seattle Public Schools superintendent for review and consideration. The superintendent would then make a recommendation to the School Board for approval. For more information, please visit schmitzparkpta.org.
(View from the new camera as of a few minutes before we published this)
If you want to check in on the progress of the new elementary school on Genesee Hill, you don’t have to walk/bike/run/drive/send your drone over … a live webcam is now up and running on the site. See it here. The school’s now projected to open in fall of 2016 as the new home of the current Schmitz Park Elementary program (what then happens to THAT campus is apparently back to being “undecided”); construction has been under way for more than three months now – demolition of the old GH Elementary started in early September.
Alert for Genesee Hill residents – cleanup work starts tomorrow at the former Dakota Substation. This is one of the “surplus” ex-substation sites whose fate has yet to be decided. Here’s the official announcement we received:
Seattle City Light will start work this week to cleanup the former substation located at 4918 SW Dakota Street. The work is expected to take approximately 2-3 weeks to complete. Planned work will remove soil, debris and some vegetation due to contamination. Pesticide contamination at the site is many times higher than the state’s required cleanup level. This work will not involve planned electrical outages.
Removal of soils in treed areas of the property is necessary; however, City Light plans to preserve the trees in these areas. To protect tree roots, City Light will use vactor trucks to remove the contaminated soil. The vactoring technique has been successful at each of the sites in which City Light has used it, including the Fauntleroy site in West Seattle. The utility has received recognition and thanks from community members for the successful protection of the trees on the Fauntleroy site.
Work will include operation of heavy equipment such as backhoes, dump trucks and vactor trucks. This vactor soil removal process will result in louder noise levels than conventional methods of excavation. Noise studies have been performed on this type of work and have indicated that sound levels are considered safe for residents near the work site.
A communications rep for the project tells WSB that notices have been circulated to neighbors already via e-mail, and that door-hanger notification is under way too. The Seattle Green Spaces Coalition, which began as a West Seattle-based group but has expanded to a citywide focus, has been working to find ways to keep sites like this one saved as open space.
Went out this morning to check on the three largest demolition sites working in West Seattle:
ARBOR HEIGHTS ELEMENTARY: At the Arbor Heights site, the buildings are now all gone. Teardown work here started the Friday before Labor Day, but didn’t really rev up for another week. Seattle Public Schools says work will stop down for much of the winter before the second phase, construction, begins. A decision is also pending on whether the new $42 million school will be built to 500 or 650 capacity. During the two-year construction period, AHES is sharing the Boren Building with K-5 STEM.
Now to the district’s other big WS project:
ON GENESEE HILL: The future home of the Schmitz Park Elementary program is now five weeks into the demolition phase. As shown in our photo, just a bit of the main building of the former Genesee Hill Elementary is still standing, toward the east side of the site. This school will be built for 650 students.
And on the private-development front:
‘THE WHITTAKER’ SITE UPDATE: Back on Wednesday, we reported on the start of abatement and demolition work at the site of West Seattle’s biggest current project, The Whittaker (4755 Fauntleroy Way SW). The work has focused so far on the middle section of the site, between 40th (above) and Fauntleroy – yesterday, that included the wooden building that was the original home of West Seattle Produce (which has long since moved across the street):
A project spokesperson tells us the major demolition work is likely still more than a week away. The site also holds a former auto dealership, former used-car lot, former gas station, and former funeral home. The mural on the side of the dealership is to be digitally re-created on a wall of the new development, which will have almost 400 apartments over street-level retail, plus almost 600 off-street parking spaces.
(UPDATED Wednesday morning with two more views of Arbor Heights)
ORIGINAL REPORT, 10:50 PM TUESDAY: If you’ve been meaning to go take a look at what’s left of the former Genesee Hill and/or Arbor Heights elementary schools before they’re completely demolished, you’re running out of time. As of this afternoon, main-building teardown is under way at both sites – above, our photo from GH; below, Tim Eannarino shared the photo from AH this morning:
(Also, a few closeup views caught Robin Adams‘ eye.) The new schools to be built on these sites are both scheduled to open in 2016.
ADDED 9:04 AM WEDNESDAY: Thanks to Mike for sharing these next two Arbor Heights photos:
We checked again with the school district and they still don’t expect to settle on the new AHES’s final size until next spring (they could build it for 500 students or 650; the current school, temporarily housed at the Boren Building, is adding a third kindergarten class, so growth is continuing).
Two updates on West Seattle demolition sites:
GENESEE HILL SCHOOL: After a tip last Friday, we noted that some deconstruction was under way at the former Genesee Hill Elementary campus, where the current Schmitz Park Elementary program will move in 2016. Today, building teardown is under way in a big way, starting with the classrooms north/northeast of the main structure. That’s about one day behind the start of a similar phase at Arbor Heights Elementary, where Seattle Public Schools is also tearing down an old school to build a new one.
4535 44TH SW: While in The Junction a short time ago, we noticed the backhoe has arrived at 4535 44th SW, future home of a four-story, 36+-unit, no-offstreet-parking apartment building; we’d noted last week that its demolition permit was granted.
While it was described as “microapartments” when we first reported on the plan early last year, this is NOT microhousing – the units will be full-fledged studios with kitchens. (We’ll check back in a bit to see if the backhoe has started work yet.)
Thanks to Fiona for the tip: Demolition has begun at the other new-elementary-school site in West Seattle, on Genesee Hill. No backhoe-biting-into-building activity yet, as of our visit – as you can see in the photo, some bricks have been removed from the front of the school along SW Genesee, and we noted backhoes on the back side (north). This is the future home of the program currently at Schmitz Park Elementary; Seattle Public Schools has said that building will become an “early-learning center” once the new elementary opens. According to this history page from the district website, Genesee Hill Elementary was open 1948-1988 before its first closure; the building was reopened in 1994 for the alternative school that became Pathfinder K-8, which was housed there until GH was closed one final time in 2009.
One month after we reported on an appeal hearing set for aspects of the Genesee Hill Elementary School project, the decision has just been made public: The appeal has been rejected. Appellants included a half-dozen area residents and school-district watchdog Chris Jackins, challenging/questioning project components including the zoning exception for the school’s height, where the bulk of its building will be placed on the site, plans for on-street school-bus loading, and the amount of on-site off-street parking. We were not able to cover the appeal hearing held downtown eight days ago, but its points and the Hearing Examiner’s findings are recapped in the decision document – see it here. Next, we’ll be checking with Seattle Public Schools regarding their timetable for starting work on the new school.
Today’s Land Use Information Bulletin from the city brings the formal notice of an appeal hearing for the new school to be built on the five-years-closed Genesee Hill Elementary site. The appellants, including district watchdog Chris Jackins and more than half a dozen local residents, are not challenging the entire project; they object to aspects including the zoning exception for the school’s height, where the bulk of its building will be placed on the site, plans for on-street school-bus loading, and the amount of parking (71 spaces might not be enough, they say). The appeal hearing is set for 9 am August 5th in the Hearing Examiner‘s chambers on the 40th floor of the Municipal Tower downtown; it’s open to the public (for observation but not comment). Some preparation work already has been done on the site, but demolition is still to come.
(Rendering of new elementary at Genesee Hill site)
After several inquiries about the status/timeline for demolition at Genesee Hill Elementary – to be replaced by an all-new school – we checked with Seattle Public Schools. Tom Redman, who handles communications for SPS projects like this, says they’re not ready to set the date for demolition to begin yet, because they’re still finalizing permits:
The hazardous materials abatement and the archaeological survey have been completed. The building bid package was completed and advertised, followed by the pre-bid conference. The Master Use Permit (MUP) is being reviewed by the City of Seattle Department of Planning and Development. The contractor is scheduled to begin work this summer, pending appropriate permit approval by the city.
One neighbor reported that it looks like demolition is near at the old Genesee Hill Elementary – slated for replacement with a brand-new school – but it’s not happening yet, according to Seattle Public Schools‘ Tom Redman. He explained what IS happening right now:
We are not beginning demolition yet. We are currently abating/removing hazardous material from the existing building. We are also doing an archeological survey, based on the State Dept. of Archeological and Historical Preservation maps.
Also, per City of Seattle Department of Planning and Development, we are doing required testing for pin pile foundation load test, which means we are driving a test pile into the soil and checking subsurface load capacity. This will give us an idea of what the planned foundation pilings can support beyond standard loads.
Background information about the new school is here. The old building has been closed for almost five years.
Admiring the fall colors this weekend? A visit to the past-and-future school site on Genesee Hill (50th SW/SW Genesee) might be in order – to pay your respects to that American Elm honored as a “Best in City” tree in PlantAmnesty‘s Heritage Tree program. Karen Lyons shares the photo and the news:
I belong to a group that is trying to save some of the fine trees on the school’s 6.2 acres. I’m the group’s botanist so I volunteered to take a tree survey last year and found a magnificent American Elm! The majority of American Elms in the US were wiped out by Dutch Elm disease. Somehow this tree is either immune (making it valuable for research) or has escaped the disease. I later contacted the Heritage Tree committee and they sent a group of 6 investigators to measure and take samples of the Elm. That was a few months ago. On October 1st I received this letter naming this tree and awarding it as “Best In The City”. It will be spared!
District documentation verifies that the tree will not be taken out during the construction of the new school – from last month’s summary of the newest design changes: “The steep hillside on the site will be fully protected, as will the significant and exceptional trees on the hillside (including the old elm near the center of the site).” The district expects to start construction next spring; the current Schmitz Park school program is expected to move into the new school at mid-year 2015-2016, while the district proposes to turn the current Schmitz Park building into an early-learning center.
Heads up – more portable classrooms are being moved, early tomorrow and early Thursday. From Tom Redman at Seattle Public Schools:
The last of our portable moves from Genesee Hill are scheduled as follows:
8/28/13 before 6 am- 1 single from Genesee Hill to Jane Addams
8/29/13 before 6 am- 1 single from Genesee Hill to Jane Addams
SPS and its contractors are following the SDOT requirement for these structures to be moved off-site in the early morning hours in order to comply with SDOT’s requirement to be off the road by SDOT’s 6am truck traffic restriction hour. This results in the entire to and from transport needing to be completed by 6 am.
On Sunday, we previewed three neighborhood-council meetings happening this week and next – North Delridge Neighborhood Council (under way right now), Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council (tomorrow night), and the second meeting of the revived Junction Neighborhood Council (August 20th). Tonight, another one to add to the list: This Thursday, the Genesee-Schmitz Neighborhood Council meets, with two major items on the agenda: The future of the 50th/Dakota substation site (one of six West Seattle sites the city is reviewing), and the small-lot-development issue that’s affected neighborhoods including Benchview (which recently saw both a court victory and a re-filing). You are welcome to attend the GSNC meeting at 7 pm Thursday (August 15th) at West Side Presbyterian Church (3601 California SW).