Long-time principal John Miner was just glowing with happiness. He expressed his gratitude, over and over, to Seattle voters for the dollars for their new building. He also had all the teachers and staff raise their hands for a round of applause.
It's not a fancy building - solid blocks of brick, but light and airy inside. It has a playground, a covered playarea and they saved a small playarea that was built as a memorial. They also have a playfield with a baseball diamond and that's not something you see much at an elementary school.
I noted at least two water fountains have bottle refill parts.
They have a large music room and two art rooms. Yes, I know - it's something other schools can only dream of.
My concerns for this building are:
- I really hate white walls and light wood in a school building. It looks good for a year and then you really see the wear and tear. I predict the stairs to the stage will not look very good in five years.
- The cafeteria area is pretty small. It is between the gym and the stage with the serving area squished off to one corner. I was told that the area in front of the music room would be an overflow area but for all-school events, I have no idea where everyone would go. But the sound was good from the microphone.
- They have a side play area with some logs (that the kids really seem to love) but also two gravel paths that I predict will have to go. The gravel is already spilling out to the sidewalk. I think they are for kids to garden in the area(?) but it seems like mulch would not move as much.
- instead of cubbies, they have...lockers. I'm thinking these are just for 4/5th but I suspect it will be a lot noisier than cubbies.
And now for something totally different. This building has one solid side (to Pinehurst) with no outside access. Multiple levels inside and out. (I did not go to the ribbon-cutting so I did not hear any remarks.)
Like Thornton Creek, it feels light and airy. Like Thornton Creek, there's a lot of white but they also put in more splashes of color. The comfy chairs in the open spaces between classrooms are a great dark turquoise. The stairwell seems to have math equations on one side and layers of the earth on the other.
They have a great area with a large wolf howling and someone made cute wooden plaques with grade numbers on them and the kids were using it as a photo booth. What a great first day of school photo to have.
The outside is not very appealing. A lot of solid ground and concrete. They had very little land to work with and so there isn't much landscaping. For some reason, there is one sunken area with some planets and some rocks in concrete. I'm not sure what they were going for there. There is a covered playspace with some basketball hoops.
Very large gym with a nice scoreboard. Again, like Thornton Creek, the sound was good from the microphone.
My concerns for this building are:
- there are several railings that I predict skateboarders will go after (they did this right away at Roosevelt and every outside railing has been churned down.) I was told there is a fence around the entire school but I have to wonder if it will be locked all the time.
- the most interesting thing is an area with a long green slope. The top and the entire slope is that very spongy playground material. It's a climbing hill but I predict kids will be rolling themselves to the bottom. And, if anyone gets pushed, it's a fair amount of falling (much further than your basic slide.) While it is spongy, I think someone is going to get hurt.
- nice use of glass tile around water fountains but I only saw a bottle filler in the cafeteria and not at any water fountain
- I found the finish work in the building much more sloppy than at Thorton Creek. One girls' bathroom's tile grouting was messy at the top of the ceiling and, in a couple of places, the seam on stairways gaped from the wall while the rest of it was right up next to the wall.
- the "living wall" - only in an architect's dream is this a good idea at a school. One, your first instinct is to touch the wall (and sure enough, several kids came right up to it and did so despite signs.) Two, who is going to maintain this thing? It's not succulents like you see in some living walls which need little upkeep - these are all plants. It's lovely but not so practical.
- I met their music teacher/director. Great guy who is going to teach band, orchestra and choir. Whew! But also, that is the heaviest door to his room I have ever tried to open (I'm guessing that is for sound but good luck to some second grader trying to get in.)