Magnolia Elementary principal Katie Cryan Leary shares school updates with parents on Tuesday, June 11.
Magnolia Elementary principal Katie Cryan Leary shares school updates with parents on Tuesday, June 11.

Magnolia Elementary parents showed up on Tuesday to help shape the school’s family engagement plan and learn more about what to expect when doors open in September.

The school was constructed in 1927, undergoing several expansions up through the late ‘60s, before its closure in 1984. It was repurposed to serve as an auxiliary building when other schools were undergoing renovations.

Facing growing capacity issues and a need to satisfy the McCleary Decision, Seattle Public Schools is modernizing and expanding Magnolia Elementary to serve its original purpose, using $26 million in Buildings, Technology and Academics (BTA) IV levy funding to reopen the 46,000-square-foot school this fall. The capital project is also adding four classrooms and a gymnasium. A number of Magnolia Elementary’s original features are being preserved, as the structure is a designated historical landmark.

Magnolia Elementary will open for 250 students this fall, but is expected to eventually accommodate 500. Principal Katie Cryan Leary said SPS is holding area schools to their assigned student numbers.

Houses on the west side of 30th Avenue West are assigned to Catharine Blaine K-8, and those on the east will go to Magnolia Elementary. The Seattle School Board in January approved allowing students entering fifth grade to stay at Lawton Elementary, as well as Catharine Blaine students in grades 4-7, and their siblings.

Leary tells Queen Anne News that Magnolia Elementary should be cleared for occupancy by the end of the month, and then furniture and technology will go inside in July. Leary will receive the keys to the school on July 29, and kindergartners will be invited in for Jump Start on Aug. 19.

“If you haven’t been up there lately, it looks amazing,” said Oliver Weisert, vice president for the new Magnolia Elementary School PTA, during the June 11 family information night at Catharine Blaine.

Weisert expects the PTA to be certified as a 501(C)3 nonprofit later this year, and the organization has opened a charitable account with Alliance for Education to begin taking donations. The Magnolia PTA received $10,000 in startup funds from PTAs from Lawton, Blaine and Queen Anne Elementary.

“That’s getting us started, but money goes quickly when you start a brand-new school,” Weisert said.

The PTA has had a good volunteer response, he said, but has a huge budget gap to fill. Most parent-teacher associations raise funds for the following year, but the Magnolia PTA is attempting to cover some expenses this year while also building reserves.

Tuesday night was the start of Magnolia PTA’s Let’s Launch! Campaign, which seeks to raise $300,000 to address current funding needs, additional startup costs and establish reserves. Leading the fundraising effort are Lindsey McReynolds and Magill Dickerson-Lange.

“As the school grows, the needs will change,” Dickerson-Lange tells Queen Anne News, adding the PTA’s current top priority is funding a part-time school counselor.

The first thing the PTA funded for Magnolia Elementary was positive-discipline training for all teachers and instructional assistants, McReynolds said. The PTA surveyed parents at the June 11 info session for insight into what their funding priorities were, such as recess/lunch supervision, assemblies, assisting families in need, classroom materials and learning subscriptions.

Leary said there is funding for a physical education and art specialist for the upcoming school year, with plans to bring on a music instructor once the school adds eight more teachers.

Dickerson-Lange said there will be no large fundraising events in the upcoming school year, and this summer will be the big push for donations, which can be made at magnoliaschoolpta.org. The PTA estimates it will cost $650 per student to fully fund its top priorities, and those donating $1,300 or more by July 20 will be invited to join a private tour of the school before it opens.

One trend Leary wants to buck is the racial achievement gap, Seattle Public Schools having the fifth-largest gap between white and black students among the nation’s 200 biggest school districts.

Leary will submit a Continuous School Improvement Plan (CSIP) to the district later this month, which outlines a number of goals, including making sure all students are reading at grade levy by third grade and proficient in math by fifth grade.

For those wanting more information regarding the CSIP, Magnolia Elementary’s traffic management plan, emergency procedures, or to review the growing family handbook, visit magnoliaes.seattleschools.org.

The PTA is hosting a picnic for Magnolia Elementary families from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, June 19, at Ella Bailey Park, 2601 W. Smith St., which will serve as the school’s playground this fall.