West Seattle schools: Genesee Hill Elementary teachers move in

(WSB photos)

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:


Little nooks like that one await the youngest readers. Around the school, everything’s been designed to be age- and intent-specific … the tables in the cafeteria, for example, will be round, to facilitate conversation – no more shouting down a rectangular row:


The cafeteria is adjacent to the gym and the stage, and each area can be separated from the rest:



The school has so many distinct areas, it doesn’t have the “huge school” feel some worried it might have:


That’s the covered play area, which has skylights to let in some brightness even on a rainy day. The new (uncovered) play equipment isn’t far away:


That all opens onto a courtyard which also includes the 59-step staircase down to the staff parking lot:


You might have noticed the trees in that view – the site retained many of them, including a huge old elm. It keeps the new school from feeling stark. Lots of warm touches inside, too:


The fox, you probably know, is the Schmitz Park, and now Genesee Hill, mascot. It’s also featured in some of the forest murals on inside walls. And we spotted another friendly creature in a classroom:


Furnishings make a big difference. Also being set up, autism inclusion classrooms:


Right outside is a turfed half-circle area that will be a sensory-focused play area. The school has three distinct areas, but all have common touches such as the big windows we’ve mentioned – here’s the nurse’s office:


The entry area:


And if you’re waiting to, say, meet with the principal, you might end up in this seating area:


The classrooms are in a three-story tower, two grades per level. Lots of setup for teachers to do – Julie Pietsch was getting some help:


The classrooms are clustered in pods, four around an area where they can gather for shared lessons.





Science and art classrooms will have rotating uses – there’s even a kiln:


When school starts on September 7th, Genesee Hill will have five classes in each grade from kindergarten through 3rd, four classes in 4th grade, and three in 5th. Principal Kischner says the bus and dropoff zone is on 51st, but they’re not expecting many buses, because so many of the students are in the walk zone and not eligible for yellow-bus transportation.

Meantime, the moving-in will continue over the next few weeks. You can get a firsthand look inside the new space at an open house that will follow the ribbon-cutting ceremony on September 6th – many more details to come.

19 Replies to "West Seattle schools: Genesee Hill Elementary teachers move in"

  • Neighbor August 11, 2016 (10:18 pm)

    I was aghast that the big field was paved over for parking and the kids have a relatively small area which will be planted with grass by next year. Did they provide parking for every single employee on site? 

    • WSB August 11, 2016 (10:33 pm)

      I don’t know the total number of staff (will research it on the SPS site). The design shows 55 parking spaces in that lot; there are a few visitor, disabled, etc. spaces on the north side. (The group that filed an appeal of the project, the archives remind us, thought this might be too LITTLE parking.) This also shows the field space:


      Adding a little more backstory to the end of the photo gallery above, for anyone else with questions. – TR

  • dale August 11, 2016 (10:41 pm)

    Im very impressed by the accomodations. Good luck to the children, staff and parents. My. The changes will make lasting impressions on all. Thank you for passing the bond issue, whenever that was. 

  • Disillusioned August 11, 2016 (11:12 pm)

    I can’t see how the single play structure is going to accommodate 200+ children at a time.  Does anyone know for sure if the field next to the play structure isn’t going to be planted for a year?  That seems beyond ridiculous.  The kids will have no green space at all! 

    • WSB August 11, 2016 (11:39 pm)

      I’m checking with the principal. He pointed it out and that it was yet to be planted but I don’t recall a timetable and can’t find it in the official online project updates the district posted. As for 200 kids on a play structure at a time … the play zones include a variety of areas including the covered court, the gym, the sensory area, etc. Plus there’s a play structure for the youngest kids on the northwest side of the school. Anybody interested in how design decisions were made, there’s lots of documentation on the project site – http://bex.seattleschools.org/bex-iv/genesee-hill-site/school-design-advisory-team/ – TR

  • Ofcourse August 12, 2016 (12:43 am)

    A few lucky kids get to go to a school that not only has a shiny new building but also offers much higher quality education than my kids, who lost life’s lottery a stone’s throw away – but by all means, let’s lose sleep over whether their new (and also vastly superior) playground is good enough for them. 

  • Mar August 12, 2016 (3:14 am)

    No green space?! Oh, the poor poor children! It’s an amazing school we’ve got. The kids are all super excited. I think they’ll be ok. Hey, they might even get creative and use their imaginations to play games and run around and be silly. Great job to all who contributed to pulling off this major project.

  • Mark47n August 12, 2016 (8:06 am)

    I must  say that I grumble a bit about this new building for Schmitz Park. This building housed Pathfinder for years. The school board promised them, for years, a new building. Instead, they made Pathfinder reviled as they closed down and displaced Cooper Elementary and moved Pathfinder there, contrary to what had been promised.

    I recognize that there have been numerous superintendents for this district with different agendas and that Goodloe-Johnson had a bone to pick with alternative education and that Pathfinder was lucky that it was allowed to continue to exist at all,  but it rankles nonetheless.

    It also vexes me that the district was unable to foresee that there would be a need for a school that would be able to house more children than the old facility. The school is just now opening and will require portables. At least it was the last time I read about it. This is an excellent example of the myopic planning abilities of SPS.

    • WSB August 12, 2016 (8:23 am)

      No, they are not getting portables; I asked principal Kischner about that, specifically, when we talked to him while visiting on Wednesday. The building still has some flexible space, even with what he expects to be ~700 students on opening day – TR

      • WSB August 12, 2016 (8:30 am)

        And re: the grass field, mentioned upthread, Kischner replied to my question this morning, explaining that the issue is apparently with the sod supplier – the sod is not yet rooted the way the district requires (so as to avoid netting), but they’re hoping it will be deliverable within a few weeks; that means it’ll still be a “few months” before the field is ready for students to use.

    • Jon Wright August 12, 2016 (11:43 am)

      It also vexes me that the district was unable to foresee that there would be a need for a school that would be able to house more children than the old facility. The school is just now opening and will require portables. At least it was the last time I read about it. This is an excellent example of the myopic planning abilities of SPS.

      And if they had built a school that turned out to be too big, people would probably be whinging about SPS wasting money. I’m sure all the armchair planners here have a superior track record predicting demographic trends and economic cycles.

      • WSB August 12, 2016 (11:52 am)

        The school-closure process(es) last decade were pretty traumatic. We covered them fairly extensively; the background paragraph in blue in the middle of this 2008 story is an example of how convoluted things got.

  • Gina August 12, 2016 (5:12 pm)

     Be sure to stop by the Lafayette school playground and look at their greenspace. Dried out grass with lots of holes. At recess adults can be heard scolding children, telling them to get off the grass. Waste of 25% of the playground  since kids are not allowed to use it.

    Don’t be in too big of a rush to plant grass. 

  • Ferrywalker August 13, 2016 (9:45 am)

    700 kids is too many. It should be half that. 

    • stopcomplaining August 13, 2016 (4:19 pm)

      700 was too many for a building that was meant for 250 (Schmitz building.  Genesee is still a a very large school, but now  (even though all of the flexible classrooms are in use) that there is enough room, it will be a welcome change for students and staff. 

      Gone are the days that Seattle schools house less than 400 kids. Seattle is a booming city, schools are becoming bigger and bigger each year. There are schools around the country that have 1000 + kids in them.  The community is  so lucky to have this beautiful school with new furniture, enough bathrooms for students and staff, big cafeteria and a lovely recess area.

      It seem that no matter what the scenario, people still find room to complain.

  • fulana August 15, 2016 (10:18 am)

    Appalled at all the complaining.  Let’s be happy that 700 kiddos get to learn and play is such a lovely space.  Of course every child in Seattle should have this very same privilege and SPS is working hard to make sure they do.

  • James Streit September 1, 2016 (1:56 pm)

        Not so strange that one of the most important classroom was left out of all the pictures, THE GYM.  

    • WSB September 1, 2016 (2:07 pm)

      I did mention the gym and I had the photo uploaded for this – guess I just failed to add! Fixed.

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