New Thornton Creek and Hazel Wolf K-8

Boy, I saw a lot of happy and excited people today at both these new buildings.  At both ribbon-cuttings, they had the 15+ ribbon-cutters (SPS staff, Board members and legislators) cut bits of ribbon to give to students who were there as souvenirs.  (I didn't have time to take a tour in either building so I didn't get to ask about a couple of things in each building.  I also didn't find the library in either building.)
Thornton Creek
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. 

Hazel Wolf K-8
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.)


Darlene Alderson said…
Hazel Wolf Library's on the second floor. It has a patio. I saw you near the wall where students stood against for photo taking, by the stairs at one end of the building. Classrooms are larger than those in the John Marshall building.

The views of the surroundings are fresh to me (I live within two blocks of the school), lots of green. I guess there's not much of a parking lot for the staff but it's close to a supermarket and a coffee place, and the community p-patch is right across the street.
Rebecca said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebecca said…
Hi Melissa,

Just to explain a bit more about the landscaping at Hazel Wolf K-8 --- that central area with the sunken planting areas and the squishy ramp - is an outdoor classroom. Apparently the ramp & space above it are for science & engineering classes, and not for play structures. Of course, everyone is tempted by them and I was joking that we'll need a speaking hologram of one of the teachers that's triggered whenever someone steps over a line to remind people it's not for recreation. The plantings are to mimic different types of garden/landscape - rain garden, etc - around here. That concept was one we talked about back when we were in the Jane Addams building before the BEX IV levy was even on the horizon.

The equations on the wall are apparently part of some of the architect's plans for the building.

I didn't look too closely at the finishes - was focusing more on figuring out where my kids' rooms etc will be - but I hope it's not shabby because of being rushed at the end. Compared to the uncertainty of whether or not the program would survive, just 4 years ago, and the stuffed-under-the-freeway location of John Marshall, where kids were literally tripping over each other because the rooms were far too small for the number of students, this feels wonderful, and as a school community, we're pretty supportive of each other and will work to overcome or work around any negative aspects of the new location and space.

It's a very imposing building from the main road; looking at it now, seeing it (as someone who was involved from the beginning of the BEX levy to save the program), I think they did a great job, given the constraints of the site, and let's be honest: there were a lot of constraints, major road on one side, only 4.5 acres for a 750 seat school, desire for green building.

As for the photo booth - someone came up with that idea last year and it was super popular, so I'm glad we're doing it again, even though one of mine refused to participate and the other did so under duress. Really fun! I hope other schools copy it if they think it sounds like a fun idea.
Patrick said…
The math on the wall of the hallway in Hazel Wolf is the engineer's calculations of the building's structure in an earthquake.

Agree that the Pinehurst side of Hazel Wolf is pretty blank, but the side street sides looked pretty friendly to me.

I'm glad they had Sharon Peaslee talk. Her name wasn't in the program, but during her term on the board she was a huge help to Hazel Wolf.
Harium Martin-Morris spoke at Thornton Creek as his kids went there and he was very involved at the school.
HWK8 Parent said…
I'd also add that the outdoor landscaping is not complete yet at Hazel Wolf. There will be a small grass field that was just seeded in the last couple of days, and a playstructure that will get put in a week or two from now on the south end of the property. A lot of other plants are brand new and will fill out significantly.

The living wall is something that was funded by the school community over the last two years (along with solar panels which will also be added in the next month or two), and there is an ongoing maintenance plan being supported by that funding as well. It will be an interactive part of the ESTEM curriculum.

There are for sure a lot of guidelines to develop about how to use the spaces, indoors and out, and a lot of training kids and families about all that (like the spongy hill being a learning space not a playspace for example), and they started that at the orientations tonight but it will take some time! The community celebration today was incredibly positive and excited though, both at the actual ribbon cutting and then during the several hours of tours, orientations, celebrations and food- it's great to see everyone so pumped about the space and ready to get settled in.
Anonymous said…
The white walls at Thornton Creek are on special panels that the students will create murals on to help create an authentic space.

TC staff
SPS Mom said…
As a parent, I was also concerned about the low railings in the courtyard at the new HWK8 building until I heard that there were still benches and potted plants that were still to be installed which would discourage skateboarders. Also, the school norms, as were starting to be eatablished in the middle school orientations today, would mean that courtyard traffic would be minimized during the school day. Those areas are classrooms (albiet outside classrooms.). It will take some time for the community to figure out how to live harmoniously at their new building, but it will happen.

I'm sorry, Melissa, that you weren't able to stay for the comments and the tours. You would have gotten a much more full picture of the community.

For a community which had been through much upheaval and transition, it was lovely to feel that we were finely home. I only hope that other school communities that have struggled with transitions and uncertainty will feel the same in the next few years.

Joe Wolf said…
44 photos from the Thornton Creek ribbon cutting:|

29 photos from Hazel Wolf.
Anonymous said…
The Thornton Creek library is on the first floor and to the right of the main entry way doors at the end of the hallway. It is large, beautiful, and easily accessible. - TC Parent
I will add that one Hazel Wolf teacher expressed to me concern over the spongy area; she didn't know it was not a play area, either.
Joe Wolf said…
TCES library, exterior view.

Here, the kindergarten/early learning rooms open onto an interior courtyard.

And here, the gymnasium.

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