[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The B-Town Blog nor its staff. This Letter comes from the Correspondence to the Council from Sept. 25, 2017:]

Dear Burien City Council,

I am asking for your help.

Without input from the HHS (Highline High School) Design Committee and without voter feedback, the school district has chosen to not save the fa̤ade. We have not received any documents pertaining to the soil and fa̤ade testing or estimated costs for saving part or all of the fa̤ade Рdespite my requests over the last few months. In addition, despite pleas by historic architecture experts and government historians, the district has apparently rejected an opportunity to give the fa̤ade historic status again.

I’m perplexed as to why this façade is not wanted. Why would people not want to save something that is Burien’s history and culture? I went to Mount Rainier High School and grew up in Normandy Park, but I see us as a region (Des Moines, Normandy Park and Burien) and your City has an amazing historic structure. It’s a teaching tool about the 1920’s and a symbol of school pride for countless students.

I thought the district was going to let the public weigh in on whether or not to use available Bond contingency money or other funds if available to save part or all of the façade. I offered to do community fundraising and was told no. I also have not received a reason why the bricks could not be taken down to fix the soil issue, and then built back up to restore the structure.

There should be a public meeting to discuss the façade. Do you agree? I know of many voters who want the façade saved. The voters are the ones paying for this new high school.

Best regards,
Susan West
HHS Design Committee Member
Former CFAC Member
Former Mayor, City of Normandy Park

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17 replies on “LETTER: Former Normandy Park Mayor upset about losing Highline High façade”

  1. I heard the cost to try and build a new school around the facade was way more costly then starting from the ground up. I personally believe future students will be more grateful for the money to go towards a modern school ground up and the money not used to save the facade go toward technology, learning materials etc.

  2. If the 2,300 year old clay brick facade of Babylon’s Istar Gate could be salvaged, moved to Berlin before WWI and reconstructed using 1890’s technology. I think the ability does exist to save Highline HS’s facade- someone in power just needs to have the will …..

  3. Agree! The tests of soul etc should have been done prior to the vote. Please consider reusing the bricks, materials etc or maybe selling the bricks to alumni.

  4. My dad was raised in Seahurst (HHS ’33) and I was raised at Three Tree Point (HHS ’63) and I find it to be a travesty to not rebuild/preserve/replicate the facade. It is a major part of Burien’s heritage.

  5. While I sympathize with all that love to save the Highline High School facade, I must think of the education of those students who will be attending Highline. Brick and mortar do not do anything to advance the education of students. Why put the School District in a financial bind. Look what has happened to the Kent School District and their financial situation. The high school I graduated from was a replica of Independence Hall. While many fought to keep her, her age and cost of repairs far out weighed the needs of the students. It was demolished but the dome was saved and incorporated into the new school. My hope is that we spend money on education not repairing things like the facade.
    Bob Kelly

    1. Hi Highline Grad – the district is going to build a brand new, modern high school – regardless of the fate of the facade. The last design our committee was shown incorporated the footprint of the facade. The problem in this situation is that I’ve received conflicting price tags for saving one or more of the facade panels. I’m hoping to have clarification from the district early next week. I was also told that the money from the bond cannot go toward learning materials.
      Pam – you are right. Money was allocated in the bond to help pay for the bond, but I specifically asked if it was enough. The district didn’t know because no soil testing was done.
      Hi Bob – I was specifically told by a district official that the money for building the new school cannot be used for text books, learning materials or teacher salaries.

  6. Its history on how we got out of the depression. Put people to work. President Roosevelt is turning over in his grave at the total disregard of our past. Build is back , no more switch and bait by the school district. Maybe they should sell off some of the properties they have that are vacant. No more bond issues until they are correct and honest with the public, us the voters who pay for all this. I pay thousands in school district funds every year and have no one in the district going to school. I could sure live better with out these tax’s. Just saying. total disregard for our local history SHAME ON YOU

  7. Hi All, I’m all for saving ‘the look’ of Highline High School even though I am a Glacier graduate and here’s why. Not one of the schools that I attended while in the Highline District still exists. They are all gone. Sunny Terrace elementary, Puget Sound Jr. High, and Glacier High School. There is little memory of the big rivalry Glacier and Highline had in sporting events and bragging rights over individuals who achieved high marks. It leaves a hole in one’s feeling of self not to be able to identify with one’s place of education. I get that a new school needs to be created, but I am here to say that there is value in what has come before and it is not just sentimentality to say so. Culture tells us to honor our family and our neighbors and our seniors. Visual landmarks help us to do just that. The façade may not be to everyone’s taste, but that is not the point. The point is what the façade represents and that has a value all it’s own, that I find well worth the cost of preserving.

  8. The following was published on 9/27
    “The stability of the north wall and the capability of the soil to support it were not known at the time of bond passage. Bond funds paid for a full evaluation. Now, after evaluating the brick wall and soil conditions, the technical team — architect, structural engineer, cost consultants, project manager, and Highline capital facilities staff — has concluded that the north wall is not stable enough to be safely shored up. The team determined the wall is at high risk of failing even if it is reinforced, which would cost up to $15 million dollars.”

    1. Don’t shoot the messenger. I quite like historical buildings myself but I have also no idea if the district has the means to rehabilitate the facade (which according to experts may not be possible).

  9. Rather than argue about how much it will cost to preserve the original facade, how about finding alternatives that meet safety, esthetic, and sentimental concerns? I will put forward an idea and encourage others to find a better solution.
    Take down the old facade, auction / sell individual bricks to defray the extra cost of removing and rebuilding a structurally sound facade that visually matches the original. No extra cost to district tax payers, a sentimental keepsake for those who want it, and a safe facade that looks like what was proposed in the bond levy.

    1. HI Douglas, I’m hoping for a community compromise. For example, if it’s financially and structurally feasible, why not sell some of the bricks for keepsakes, reuse some of the bricks for school walkways, and preserve a portion of the facade – in its current location. Perhaps it could be the middle panel that has the front door and most features. I think if we can have a public dialogue – like we’re having now – and get the documents that show the cost estimates, soil test results and structural test results, then the community, district and historians can find an answer. Right now, we don’t have the documents and I’ve received a lot of conflicting information – especially related to cost. The reason for saving part or all of the facade is that it’s a learning tool – like Pioneer Square, castles and other historic buildings around the world. Without them, future generations don’t know what was there and don’t have that immediate opportunity to learn about the past civilization, business, school, etc.

  10. So if they highline school district saved the facade and something happens. Say the soil fails the facade fails hurting students. Who would be at fault and who pay’s the lawsuits.
    Now if they take the main parts and put them in the history museum would be safer and the people that want to look at it can.
    Surprising how many people are against or didn’t think of the safety of the students. 1000s of pounds of bricks above there heads. That they have to walk under on a daily if not hour basis. Then there some of you that think it some conspiracy by the highline district.

  11. Something about this is not adding up. Take the Pioneer Square area and Seattle water front as a local example. Built on fill more than a century ago and still settling according to measurements of the Alaska Way viaduct. Are you suggesting those buildings should be torn down? This is to say little of all of the European cathedrals and other treasures that people pay big money to flock to every year. I suppose those are all death traps that should also be disposed of too. Never mind that they have stood for centuries. The Highline façade has withstood 2 significant earthquakes. It is likely to become much more vulnerable by the new construction and that is an issue in and of itself. Certainly there are construction companies and architects that have dealt with such issues successfully. Maybe we should look for new people for this project.

    1. The odds of major seismicity in our area are much greater than most anywhere. We should have building codes similar to Japan’s. I assume that many Pioneer Square buildings have similar problems

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