A $25 million modernizing project slated for Tacoma’s Washington-Hoyt Elementary School could reunite all the school’s approximately 400 students on a single campus, ending the current model that splits students between two buildings located blocks apart in the city’s Proctor neighborhood.
Under a preliminary plan presented Thursday to the Tacoma School Board, a remodeled Washington campus in the heart of the Proctor District would gain amenities that students didn’t dare dream about in 1906 when the red-brick school made its appearance.
Equipment such as elevators and restrooms that make schools accessible for all kids are now standard fare in schools. A modernized Washington also would have a covered playground – something it now lacks. Redesigned glass-wall additions would keep the historic part of the building visible, and the main entrance would move from North 26th Street around the corner to Adams Street.
Currently, kindergartners and some first-graders are housed at Hoyt, which is located near the intersection of North 28th Street and Union Avenue. The rest of the students through fifth grade attend school in the Washington building, at 3701 N. 26th St. Washington is listed on city, state and national historic registers, according to Historic Tacoma, which published a booklet on the city’s historic schools in 2010.
Washington, a school that from the outside approaches the classic little red schoolhouse, is a beloved part of its neighborhood. But because of its age, it has significant internal problems that architects will have to overcome to bring the school up to current standards.
Satellite school Hoyt, named for preschool pioneer Nell Hoyt of Tacoma, opened in 1959. At the time it was noted for its domed roof, large windows and plywood construction.
Lee Fenton, senior principal with BLRB Architects of Tacoma, told board members Thursday that the firm could also design the project to keep the two campuses. But he said the school community preferred a single campus – a sentiment that was seconded with applause from Washington supporters in the audience.
School board members also indicated that they liked the single-campus plan, with one caveat.
Board member Karen Vialle asked for assurance that a larger, single-campus school could stay within its budget. She said she likes the single-campus plan, but she also pointed out that makeovers of older buildings often encounter unforeseen problems that can quickly turn costly.
“Where does the additional money come from?” she wanted to know.
School district operations officer Sam Bell said several factors could work in the district’s favor.
“In the current bid market, you may easily come in under $25 million,” he said. He also said other recent district building projects, such as Baker Middle School, have come in under budget. That could provide a cushion for the Washington project, he said.
He promised to deliver to the board a fine-tuned project budget that includes dollars for contingencies.
Architects consulted with students and other members of the Washington-Hoyt community, with businesses in the Proctor District and with neighborhood representatives to come up with the plan to compress two school campuses into one. What happens to the Hoyt building if the single campus plan is adopted would be up to the school district. But historic preservationists also have their eye on Hoyt, primarily because of its unusual design and construction.
Funding for Washington-Hoyt modernization was approved by voters in a capital levy in 2010.
The school district would like to begin construction next summer. Washington students would shift to the former Hunt Middle School campus for the 2013-14 school year, then move into a renovated Washington at the beginning of the school year in September 2014.