Reborn Washington Elementary should open in fall

Staff writerApril 16, 2014 

A major rebuilding of Washington Elementary School in North Tacoma marries new construction, such as the library-to-be at left, with the century old building.

PETER HALEY — Staff photographer Buy Photo

The new Washington Elementary School under construction in Tacoma’s Proctor neighborhood should be ready for academic business this fall, according to school district officials.

Washington, with an estimated price tag of $28 million, is the first of 14 major school construction projects to be developed as a result of the $500 million school bond measure approved by Tacoma voters in 2013.

The Washington site at 3701 N. 26th St. is bustling with activity as crews move into the final phase of construction on the project, says Stephen Murakami, director of planning and construction for Tacoma Public Schools.

Washington students have been housed this year at the old Hunt Middle School at 6501 S. 10th St. during reconstruction of their historic 1906 building.

One feature of the new Washington will be glass walls connecting new additions that will house the school commons, gym and library. The glass is designed to allow a view through to the iconic red-brick building that has been a neighborhood landmark for more than a century.

The main entrance of the building will move from its current location on North 26th Street to its historic location on North Adams Street.

Murakami recently updated the Tacoma School Board on several other bond-financed projects, either already underway or in the planning stages:

  • Wilson High School, where a multipurpose athletic field is being created. Other improvements will include a new 28,000-square-foot, two-story classroom building to replace aging classroom space, a new 9,000-square-foot music building between the cafeteria and auditorium, and improvements to the school gym, pool and cafeteria. Work at Wilson, with an estimated total cost of $40 million, is to be completed by September 2017.
  • Small projects throughout the school district that will get underway this summer, with a total cost estimate of $8.6 million. They include new fields, a new track, new restrooms and a new, more secure visitor entrance at Foss High School, a new playground surface at Lowell Elementary School and energy conservation projects around the district.
  • Projects in the planning stages include modernization of McCarver Elementary School, built in 1924, and at Stewart Middle School, which dates from the same era. The district also plans to build a new campus for the Science and Math Institute (SAMI), which will remain in Point Defiance Park. A new location within the park hasn’t been finalized.

Murakami said one location under consideration for a new SAMI is at the old Camp 6, located in the park. The exhibit, which told the story of early Northwest logging camps, is closed.

The school district and Metro Parks have looked at Camp 6 as a possible primary SAMI location, with the possibility of satellite locations scattered throughout the park, Murakami said.

Planning sessions for all the school projects on deck have included architects, staff members and students, he said. Students and community members at Stewart and McCarver have been invited to share their ideas by leaving messages on specially designed whiteboard “share walls” at their schools.

Murakami said one theme that’s emerged is that schools need to be built with flexibility — and with as-yet unknown future needs — in mind. Designers are being urged to break away from the “cells and bells” model of 100 years ago, and create spaces that can allow students to have real-life experiences at school, he said.

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635

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