[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:]

I am Rose Clark. In 2015 and 2016 I had the privilege of co-chairing the Highline School District’s Capital Facilities Advisory Committee (CFAC). This 40 person committee had representatives from all across the school district including city reps. They did some amazing work and I stand in awe of the divergent opinions members held and then came together with a bond package that the community supported by 67%.
CFAC spent several months learning a whole bunch of stuff. Things like current capacity of each school, engineering studies on every building, future learning environments for students, the rating system the state uses to facilitate state construction matches, fiscal needs of safety and security, athletics, funds expected from the state as well as from the old noise mitigation agreements with the Port of Seattle and the FAA and a host of other things. One of the facts CFAC learned was that with two bond failures the capital fund was almost dry. This fund cannot be used for educational materials for the classroom. By law the capital fund can only be used for maintaining and constructing school buildings. The two funds cannot be comingled. Members visited many of our schools including Highline High School.
CFAC looked at all of these needs and developed a proposal for four bond measures over the next 25 years or so. I use the word proposal because we had to go before the school board and justify everything we recommended. The school board accepted those recommendations without changes.
CFAC took a hard look at the costs engineers and architects estimated for every building that fell within those recommendations. For Highline High School, those costs were estimated to be $145,100,000.00 including $41,700,000.00 from the state, FAA and POS mitigation funds. CFAC knew that there was much interest in keeping the north wall at this school. But there was a hard reality that they remembered from all of the issues they had studied: (1) that with two previous bond failures the capital fund was almost dry and (2) the capital fund was not able to fund the study of the stability of the wall. That is why CFAC used language they considered seriously: “rebuild Highline High School, preserving as much of the façade as structurally and financially feasible”.
The bond passed and the district had money to take a good look at the wall, which we knew was built in phases in 1923, 1926, 1928, 1931 and 1938. Professionals within the engineering field found several problems: (1) the north wall is mostly constructed as a single layer of bricks on wood—rather than solid masonry, (2) loose soils were discovered which will require more expensive stabilization measures (up to $5 million), (3) a significant percentage of the bricks will be too damaged to use after taking them apart, (4) it would cost up to $15 million to stabilize the wall, and (5) there is a significant risk that the wall will fail during the stabilizing process, resulting in a waste of millions of dollars. That amount of money would severely impact the budget for building the actual school, or it would take funds from approved projects in other parts of the District. For me as a lover of history it was a blow.
I have met with different district officials about this. I have sat in on meetings with architects and district staff to view the artistic renderings of what Highline High School could look like. I was happy when district staff pushed back against some of those proposals that did not reflect what the school looks like today. The architects were sent back to the drawing board. In the next meeting they had three renderings that were closer to what the school looks like today. I was able to make some verbal tweaks that I understand may cause a fourth proposal to emerge.
I do not want to describe the proposals because I do not want to impact what the public will see. These renderings will be presented to the Design Review Committee that is working on Highline High School. They will react. That may cause the renderings to change. With those potential changes incorporated there will be a public meeting on Oct. 19th at 6:00 PM at the Highline High School Cafeteria. All of you are welcome to be there.
I really want you to know that while the district staff is not born and raised in Highline they are working hard to build Highline High School that honors the current look of this beautiful building. Behind that big red brick wall they are working to create a 21st century learning environment that will help our children to learn and thrive. I join with you in expecting no less on both issues.
– Rose Clark

[Have an opinion or concern you’d like to share with our ~100,000+ engaged monthly Readers? Please send us your Letter to the Editor via email. Include your full name, please cite your sources, remain civil and – pending our careful review – we’ll consider publishing it.]]]>

Since 2007, The B-Town Blog is Burien’s multiple award-winning hyperlocal news/events website dedicated to independent journalism.

5 replies on “LETTER: Rose Clark responds to concerns about Highline High’s façade”

  1. Thanks, Rose, for your time and efforts on the committee, and for writing this explanation of the process and discussion that most of us have not been a part of.
    Wondering: due to the difficulty of saving the whole red brick facade, could they simply save the off-white, architectural, decorative details and use those in some way? (Like was done at Lake Burien Park, creating a nod to the old school.)
    I can only image the countless ideas that have been considered.
    Thanks so much.

    1. The terra cotta trimmings, the white stuff, is maybe a bit tricky. If it can be saved that will be great. If not I think it can be replicated. It depends on the costs. I hope people will attend the community meeting on Oct. 19th at 6:00 PM in the Highline Cafeteria. This and a host of other questions will be answered including the estimated construction timeline. So come out, meet your friends, and take a look.

Comments are closed.