School-wide effort underway for new playground at John Hay

“No more mud.”

That’s the tagline for an effort at a Queen Anne school to replace an area of what is mostly dirt with play equipment and space for students.

Project Playground is the push at John Hay Elementary (201 Garfield St.) for a significant renovation of the school’s current outdoor play area.

But, the endeavor will require a financial buy in from the community in the months to come.

Masterplan design work is currently wrapping up, with a $25,000 grant awarded last May by the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods funding the work by landscape architects, while a trio of community meetings helped define the vision for the space.

Laura Malkasian Huggins, the volunteer project manager for the renovation effort, said the biggest hurdle is coming up with further funding.

“It’s difficult to continually ask the parents to give and give and give, because they give a lot throughout the year,” Huggins said. “… And all of those funds go to fund educational experiences at the school. All the funds are earmarked for academics.”

With plans to seek a $100,000 matching grant from the Department of Neighborhoods in September, Huggins said the short-term idea is to seek a smaller $5,000 “small sparks” grant that would help pay for a majority of the remainder of construction documents needed to apply for the bigger grant.

The project would then go out to bid, with a request for proposals from contractors early in 2018. Depending on the cost estimates, and how much the renovation plans may need to be altered, the target is to begin construction after the final day of school in 2018, with phase one work complete by that September. That entire timeline, however, is dependent on funding.

And all that said, parents will likely be asked to chip in as well.

“We’ve scoured the corners of the Earth to look for opportunities, anything we can do to alleviate what parents need to donate, but in the end, there will be a large ask of the parents, and that’s probably the biggest sticking point,” she said.

And as the groups seek funding, Huggins hopes that surrounding neighbors also decide to contribute, with the understanding that the future playground will also be open for nearby residents.

“We’re hoping it starts to become more of a community space, like a city park, and not just a playground for the school,” Huggins said. “We feel by enhancing it, it will become a better place for the community to use and gather, and just promote community.”

To comment on this story, write to To learn more about Project Playground, visit