Alki Elementary School meeting shares new information and exposes anger
The public meeting regarding plans for the makeover of the Alki Elementary School held at the school May 22 shared some new information and showed just how much anger still bubbles in the neighborhood about the district's plans. The meeting was a formality in any case since the plans to move ahead are already in motion.
The existing school building will be removed and a new school building will be constructed on the same site. The existing gym will not be torn down. It will be modernized. Alki Elementary will move to an interim location during construction. That move is set to start in June or July.
Public School Development Advisory Committee Design Departure Recommendations are here
The construction program is set to start this summer.
The project page on the SPS website states:
A multi-story 75,000 square foot replacement school will be constructed and the existing gymnasium will remain and be modernized. The existing Seattle Parks department community center will remain.
Designed for current and future students
The new Alki will provide an equitable learning environment for up to 500 K-5 students with inclusive spaces to support its diverse community of students and families. The facility will be constructed of materials and systems that will stand the test of time and last 75 years or more.
The new building will meet district educational standards for elementary schools, tuned to the site-specific needs of the Alki community. Input gathered from the School Design Advisory Team (SDAT) — an advisory group consisting of school leaders, students, parents, and community members — ensures that the design reflects and honors the school personality, identity, and society
The design puts a priority on being easy to navigate for students, staff, and parents. It includes an inviting “front porch” at the new entrance facing the park boulevard, which will enhance connections to the community and park.
Safety and security
Visitors will enter through a secure main entrance that invites you into the administrative office for check-in before entering the school. All other doors will be locked during the school day.
The new Alki Elementary is being designed to work toward the district’s goals for clean energy and renewable resources and includes the installation of solar panels.
The project will have:
- Daylight in all classrooms and learning spaces
- Highly efficient heating and fresh air ventilation
Construction materials include cross-laminated timber (CLT), a material that reduces the carbon footprint of the whole project.
The Energy Use Index (EUI) for the project is pending with a goal of 15-18.
Alki Elementary School will relocate to the Schmitz Park School interim site for the 2023-24 and the 2024-25 school year.
Tina Riss Christiansen, Communications Specialist for Seattle Public Schools and Richard Best, Director of Capital Projects helmed the meeting that walked through new interior images of the school showing the new north facing entrance to the school, the gymnasium with a treasured mural preserved, showed how the project will affect neighborhood views, illustrated why they eliminated all parking on site, and illustrated the spirit of encouragement and inclusion the design of the building hopes to reflect.
The presentation took up most of the scheduled two hours but the Q&A session, that was meant to be read from attendees written questions quickly devolved into anger regarding traffic, access, safety and more. Some people walked out.
Steve Saxlund and his wife Terri who live next to the attached Alki Community Center were not happy. Steve said, "They are not listening to the parking problem and traffic. I grabbed a gal that was part of the school project and took her outside and pointed out that if they remove the parking strip from the back of the school to the front it would provide a very sizable parking for buses and car drop off. they just keep repeating the same old line. A few people got up and walked out because they were so disgusted, I had to go out and take a breather,"
Another neighbor Jackie Szikszoy Ramels who has followed the project from the beginning said, "IMO it was a lot of pretty words in service to a broken system. I am not sure I would put my kids in public school after watching this process. I did like the principal, what little I saw of him...The bureaucrats, though.? ...I think they are all divorced from reality."
She and another neighbor Donald Brubeck filed appeals earlier in the day but it's not likely to have much effect.
Director Best and Christiansen showed how other plans were considered to bring the school up to modern standards. They showed a comparison of other district elementary schools who also have little or no parking.
Some of the closest neighbors to the school have previously noted that since the new building will be substantially taller, with the inclusion of the "mechanical penthouse" it will impact their views and therefore the value of their properties. SPS and Mahlum took pains to illustrate just what kind of impact the project would have by showing both a mockup of the school outline and the angles of the sight lines.
Despite the fact that the Seattle Public Schools have been seeing declining enrollment in the last few years, this project is being built to educate 540 students. That's up from the 309 now attending. Part of the expansion is to allow for more shared learning spaces the audience in the meeting was told.
Earlier this month Westside Seattle spoke to SPS Superintendent Brent Jones about it and he said, "We have to think in terms of 75 years. The entire city is going to grow and we have to build schools based on that growth."
Some of the angriest comments came regarding the limited access the school has right now. Both roads that lead to the school are essentially one lane roads now. That means parents would be even less able to drive their child to school since there would likely be no place to pull over or park. Emergency vehicle access might also be restricted since there would be no way to get past vehicles already on the road. One neighbor pointed out that during the recent shooting death at Whale Tale Park EMT's were unable to get to the site since there was too much traffic. The district said it had conducted a traffic study over the last 2 years that showed this would not be an issue. That was met with doubt since they questioned when the study was actually done noting that the pandemic reduced traffic. Best responded by saying they had used projected numbers to make their calculations regarding traffic impacts. That study was not provided during the meeting.
In any case, the questions raised and answers the district said, will be published on the project web page.