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    Modernization and Additions Nearly Complete at Magnolia Elementary
    Posted on 05/23/2019
    Front view of Magnolia Elementary with stairs under construction

    New Magnolia Elementary to Open in September

    On the first day of school in September, Magnolia Elementary opens as a new attendance area elementary school. Students, teachers, and staff will fill the halls for the first time since 2006. A ribbon-cutting event, scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, will celebrate completion of the project to modernize the historic building and construct two additions.


    The first Magnolia School began in a portable in 1922 with 26 students in grades 1–3. Adding a second portable in 1926 allowed the school to serve students through sixth grade. The permanent school building opened in 1927 with additions in 1931 and 1941. It closed due to decreasing enrollment in 1984, and then served as an interim school before being completely shuttered around 2006. aerial photo of a school building under construction

    Designing for a New Generation

    Growing enrollment in Seattle Public Schools led the district to include opening Magnolia Elementary as part of the Buildings, Technology, and Academics IV (BTA IV) Capital Levy in February 2016. Upon approval of the levy by Seattle voters, planning began for updating and expanding the school building.

    The design for the renovation and addition drew on input from a School Design Advisory Team (SDAT) comprised of the then-principal of nearby Catharine Blaine K-8 and two members of the local community, and stakeholders from Teaching and Learning and the Maintenance Department. The Magnolia community participated during public processes required for State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review and land use departures.

    The SDAT wrote a vision statement for the new school: “At Magnolia School, we build a joyful, caring community, fostering balance, creativity, and curiosity surrounded by nature, and framed by a historic modernized building.”

    Modernizing a Landmark

    Magnolia School was designated a historic landmark in July 2015, with the site and multiple features of the building to be of the outside of a building with windows and with a chain link fence

    During the design process, the project team met multiple times with the Landmarks Preservation Board to explain the challenges presented by preserving the historic features while modernizing the building to meet current codes and the needs of the school district. The Landmarks Preservation Board relaxed or rescinded some of the designated features. This allowed the district to replace versus restore the classroom windows on the exterior of the building due to the condition of the original windows.

    The final design respects the historic character of the existing school by incorporating its aesthetic cues and complimenting it with modern additions that are not overstated. photo of a large room with high ceilings and a wood floor being installed

    All building systems were replaced or upgraded as part of the modernization including the addition of thermally efficient windows, insulation, an efficient heating system, LED lighting with occupancy sensors, and automated building systems controls.

    Providing More Space

    With the new gymnasium and classroom wing, Magnolia Elementary is designed to house up to 500 students in grades K–5. This will reduce overcrowding at Lawton Elementary and provide more middle school space at Catharine Blaine K-8. An extensive public engagement process was used to develop boundaries for the new attendance area school by drawing from the boundaries of Lawton Elementary and Catharine Blaine of a large interior space with large windows along one wall

    A Library with a View

    The school’s location provides exceptional views of Queen Anne Hill, downtown Seattle, and Elliot Bay. The design team situated the school library on the second floor, southeast corner of the new classroom addition. A continuous ribbon of windows takes advantage of the view and floods the library with daylight. 

    Upcoming Project

    Another classroom addition will be constructed during the first year after opening. Funding for this addition comes from a state Distressed Schools Grant. It will allow the district to implement state mandated class-size reductions. This funding was received after construction began on the original project. Construction on the addition is expected to begin in early 2020 and be completed in early 2021.

    The Magnolia Elementary School modernization and additions were funded by the Buildings, Technology, and Academics IV (BTA IV) Capital Levy. BTA IV was approved by Seattle voters in 2016 as one of four projects to increase capacity in the district. Additional funding was provided by a grant from the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and a state Distressed Schools Grant.