Plans for Queen Anne Elementary addition move ahead

Completion of the project is still another three-plus years away, but planning work is well underway on the coming addition to Queen Anne Elementary (411 Boston St.).

Earlier this month, representatives from Mahlum Architects and Seattle Public Schools’ BEX IV capital projects team visited the school for a community meeting to update neighborhood residents and school stakeholders on the progress of the early design process.

The project — part of the BEX IV levy approved by Seattle voters in February 2013 — has a budget of $16.4 million. Of that, $10.8 million is slated for construction costs, while “soft costs” like permit and utility fees, along with classroom technology and furniture, are covered by the remaining $5.6 million.

Architects presented two schematic concepts for the project, both of which add a gymnasium and eight classrooms, and boost the permanent capacity of the school to 500 students to address current and projected elementary growth in Queen Anne and downtown, while reducing overcrowding in other area schools.

The differences in each scheme are in regard to where certain aspects of the school are housed. Though both called for a new gym just off of the current covered play area on site, one scheme called for a two-story addition with four classrooms on each level, while the other suggests moving the school’s head office to the new addition along with the library, while making the existing cafeteria slightly larger. 

Forest Payne of Mahlum told the crowd of about 30 people that while the eight new classrooms equate to 200 seats, that shouldn’t set off alarms about a substantially larger student population.

“It doesn’t translate into 200 new students,” he said.

Instead, it’s creating a more appropriately sized school for the number of students on site, while also accommodating some of the area’s growth. 

Project manager Vince Gonzales said this work does differ from similar ventures in the district, because of Queen Anne’s status as an option school.

“There’s that aspect of it the spaces fitting the program, and not just putting something in there — just eight classes and that’s what it is,” he said. “This is not a prescribed approach, this is an approach of communicating, learning, and providing the appropriate intervention on site.”

Another challenge, he said, will be staying within the budget parameters.

“They can only predict so much, but the economy’s booming, so one challenge for this project will be maintaining our goals and objectives, but staying on budget,” he said. “Because this is not a larger BEX project, it is definitely a tail-end project [with a] smaller budget.”

For interim principal Amy McCue Jessee, who served on the School Design Advisory Team along with teachers, parents, and neighbors, the additions will make it easier for the school to achieve its learning goals.

“I don’t think that there will be problems that will be fixed, I think there will be enhancements of things we were already trying to do in a less than ideal space that will just open up more possibilities,” she said.

And while the crowd on hand for Monday’s meeting was small, the principal said it wasn’t indicative of the community’s interest in the project.

“I think there’s a lot of enthusiasm we didn’t necessarily see or capture in this room today,” she said, “but the conversations after every committee meeting, teachers were talking about it the next day, they’d want to see pictures, they’d want to see ideas, parents were emailing me, ‘Where are the notes? Oh, I have to put them up, we’ll get them up, we’ll get them on the website.’ So I know that naturally there’s a lot of momentum starting to build and I think it will only gain and get better as the time comes.”

Gonzales also noted the importance of getting the commuunity involved in the process right from the start.

“It’s better to have them included, [rather] than make them feel like they’re outside the process, and not quite sure what’s going on,” he said.

With this early work complete, planners will now take a break over the summer before returning in the fall. Logistically, getting both access to the building, and to the appropriate stakeholders becomes more challenging when school is out.

“I think what was great is separating the schematic from the conceptual, and having sort of a breather, which is the summer, to kind of soak it in a little bit, because a lot of times it’s one phase into another,” Gonzales said. “That’s worked very well, but sometimes it is good to reflect.”

The outgoing principal also sees the project as a chance to further enhance and establish the use of the school’s five pillars of learning, which encourage critical thinking, creativity, and developing concerned, confident, and compassionate world citizens.

“It’s exciting to see how much they will take root and continue to grow,” she said.

For more information on the project, visit

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