‘This is going to be our school’: Roxhill families tour EC Hughes

(EC Hughes entryway, WSB photo from 2016)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

There hasn’t been much of a public process around the plan to move the Roxhill Elementary School program to EC Hughes Elementary, a mile and a half north.

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)

24 Replies to "'This is going to be our school': Roxhill families tour EC Hughes"

  • clark5080 February 20, 2017 (11:13 pm)

    So Roxhill is not getting rebuilt?

    • WSB February 20, 2017 (11:32 pm)

      Not in any current plan, though at some point it will have to either be renovated or rebuilt.

  • WestCake February 20, 2017 (11:29 pm)

    That’s great they will get a nice new school. 

    • AmandaK(H) February 21, 2017 (7:28 am)

      Let’s be clear, this is not a “new” school.  We will make the best of it, but we are not being treated the same as other school communities in West Seattle.  

  • Josh February 20, 2017 (11:35 pm)

    Does anyone know what will happen to the current Roxhill school site?

    • WSB February 20, 2017 (11:39 pm)

      No officially public plan. But we keep asking periodically. For our October story, linked in this one, we wrote about a district official saying at the time that:

      …the possibilities for Roxhill could include centralizing programs that are currently ‘scattered around South Seattle, West Seattle’ – testing and special education were mentioned – ‘maybe consolidate some things into (the Roxhill building)’.

      • C February 21, 2017 (7:51 am)

        To say the Sped programs are “scattered” as apposed to located throughout West Seattle says a lot.  As if there is no discussion to be had about providing students with least restrictive environments. opportunities for inclusion, or the benefit of having one’s chid go to his or her neighborhood school.   As if there is currently no reasoning as to the current location of Sped programs.  Is there?  Is SPS going to talk about this publicly or simply sweep their “scattered” programs into the old Roxhill building one day? 

        I get it that it takes resources to engage with neighborhoods and it is interesting to see where and with whom SPS wants to hear from.


        • AmandaK(H) February 21, 2017 (10:38 am)

          Yes, consolidating our most vulnerable students at one of the WORST school buildings in the district on a busy street in a great idea.

          • C February 21, 2017 (10:06 pm)

            While I agree with you in that the Roxhill site is dangerous for  students I’m not clear on what part of my statement you’re agreeing with?  

            My point is that Sped student populations should not be corralled into one building not matter how safe.  It’s a form of segregation and if the district is going to do so they should discuss this with families and teachers.   

  • dyhapa@aol.com February 21, 2017 (6:32 am)

    Just a thought. Maybe, instead of spending millions on a design team you should just talk to the person who takes care of the place.

  • JRR February 21, 2017 (8:22 am)

    Glad it won’t have asbestos, yet seems unfair to watch our neighbors — most recently, arbor heights — get all the bells and whistles while the poorest kids in the area make do, again. I hope we ptsa parents can make great things happen with the garden/playground. 

    • Alki Resident February 21, 2017 (8:28 am)

      You clearly aren’t aware what the age of Arbor Heights school was nor the fact it had many issues that potentially caused health issues. The “poorest kids” are not all contained into one school which you claim to be Roxhill. 

      • WSB February 21, 2017 (9:10 am)

        Before we get too far down the road of who got a new school and when … in case anyone is wondering … here’s a quick thumbnail list of semi-recent public-school projects. Yes, both Arbor Heights and Genesee Hill, with all-new schools opening last fall, are in western West Seattle (AH was not scheduled for a rebuild until 2019 at one point, despite the dire condition of its campus, and fought hard to get that moved up, as we chronicled along the way). Before that, the new-school-building was concentrated in eastern West Seattle. The all-new Denny opened in 2011. All-new High Point (now West Seattle) Elementary opened in 2000. All-new Cooper Elementary (now Pathfinder), 1999. All-new Highland Park Elementary, 1999.

        Renovation-wise, both local high schools underwent renovations, not rebuilds. WSHS is in a historic building, renovated around the turn of the millennium, as is Madison MS, which was renovated in the mid-2000s. Chief Sealth’s renovation was done concurrent with the construction of the new, adjacent Denny IMS.

        As for Roxhill, the district contends that since it couldn’t be renovated or rebuilt without moving the school out for a couple years anyway, Hughes is going first, because it can be renovated while it’s still empty, and then the possible second-phase expansion could be done while school continues.

        Just some history. Many more issues, questions, concerns beyond the dates of who got what when – both in this current issue and elsewhere – but for the big picture … a bit of background. The next pot of money for school building/renovation is in the BEX 5 levy and district discussion of what will be in it is under way. – TR

      • JRR February 21, 2017 (9:19 am)

        Not saying AH didn’t need a new school. Just saying it kind of sucks that we’re getting leftovers. 

      • AmandaK(H) February 21, 2017 (10:34 am)

        Alki – on the district’s scale AH was rated a 3.2, Roxhill is a 3.1.  With 89% POC and 80% on reduced / free lunch – plus a boundary that puts the kids directly across the street from Roxhill at Arbor Heights (the median income on the AH side is $70k, on the Roxhill side it is $50k) I would say segregating the “poor kids” has been within SPS’s wheelhouse for a while.

        Alki Elementary is in DIRE need of a new building.  When I checked last they were at (or very near) the top of the list for “schools falling apart”.

        We are frustrated that they didn’t really include us in the discussions – aside from a few parents at 2 meetings.  They also conveniently  moved the school boundary to include EC Hughes when they proposed this idea, so now it’s on the opposite side of the boundary.  They are moving the community and it’s not very fair IMO.  In what other school community would that be allowed?

  • DLB February 21, 2017 (10:56 am)

    Please understand that I’m not trying to minimize anyone’s feelings; just trying to lend another perspective. EC Hughes is an historic building and while it may not have all of the modern “bells and whistles”, the building has history and many beautiful characteristics that modern facilities cannot duplicate. My point though, is that elementary school is such a short time in your child’s academic career. I know it all seems very important now, but your kids will learn from people, experiences, peers and community. The school is a building; a shell. Please don’t make it a bigger deal than it is. Inequality, social injustice, blatant misuse of funds or discrimination – these are real issues – not my point. Just try not to take negativity from a venue change. Your school has so much heart and soul; I know you’ll take it with you wherever you go! And by the time you really love it (or hate it) – they’ll move on to middle school. Best of luck – I look forward to the sound of kids playing in the neighborhood again. 

    • AmandaK(H) February 21, 2017 (11:31 am)

      With all due respect DLB – starting out a post with “I’m not trying to minimize anyone’s feelings”, and then proceeding to minimize feelings is not okay.

      While the building is pretty and has historic charm, it’s not charming not for small children in a learning environment.  The smallest kids will be outside in portables, and because the cafeteria / auditorium is historically designated – the lunches will have to start very early to accommodate all the kids.

      And while yes, my son will come and go – I won’t be remembered for not standing up for the kids coming up behind my son.

  • JRR February 21, 2017 (12:23 pm)

    It’s about equity for all, not just my kid. (I can’t believe I have to type that out.) I’m also concerned about what will happen to Roxhill Park without the school community nearby and the resultant foot traffic. Kids and neighbors (and the community) using parks make parks safer, and we all know what challenges have been under way in the past few years at Roxhill Park. We’re going to have to do a bang-up job on the playground/garden to make up the difference in environmental learning opportunities, too.

  • dcn February 21, 2017 (1:35 pm)

    I think the location of EC Hughes is more centrally located in the community than Roxhill. Roxhill is located in the very SW corner of the elementary boundary, literally on the city boundary and the Arbor Heights elementary boundary. While EC Hughes is near the western edge of the boundary, at least it’s more centrally located from a North-South perspective.

    I also think there is value in a historic building. I attended elementary school in a beautiful old brick building, and I loved the character of it. I was sad to see it torn down and replaced by a modern building that seems soulless by comparison. 

    It is unfortunate that there is less play space at EC Hughes, although at least it is not adjacent to a park known for crime and drug issues. Nor is it on a busy street. Overall, I think  it’s a significant improvement over the Roxhill location.

  • DLB February 21, 2017 (1:37 pm)

    Amanda, I meant what I said – my goal was just to add perspective. I’m sorry if I offended you. I was just trying to offer a positive perspective. Everything doesn’t have to be a fight. Legacy is important, we can agree on that. 

    Best of luck. 

  • Jissy February 21, 2017 (1:41 pm)

    Excellent comment, DLB!   And AmandaK(H), sounds like you’re ready to run for the school board, GO FOR IT!

  • heylady February 22, 2017 (6:41 am)

    Buildings don’t make quality schools. Teachers do. Invest in smaller class sizes, not shiny objects. 

  • Trickycoolj February 22, 2017 (8:37 am)

    Would be neat to tour the schoop my mom went to 50 years ago. 

    • Trickycoolj February 22, 2017 (8:39 am)

      School* thanks auto correct. Very helpful. 

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