[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:]

Dear Editor,
So, about that Highline High School proposed rebuild.
I’m a third-generation HHS alumna and since then we’ve sent a fourth.
In 1988-89, my senior year at Highline, I became sort of a part-time district activist working in support of the Highline High School reconstruction project. My partner in the project was my classmate, now infamous former Pastor, Mark Driscoll.
The language I’m reading today is VERBATIM what Mark and I used to lobby for a complete gut-and-rebuild and against historic status for the school theater – in 1988. “Inside it’s rotting” – we said that. “Leaky roofs, dry rot and plumbing problems” – I said that, about the theater where I performed and stage-managed. “Major leak developed in a stairwell” – I said that, about my French classroom. “Ancient buildings that cannot pass current, fire, safety, earthquake and technology codes” – yup, we said that. We bemoaned the decrepit state of the school, wailed about the impact to us students, and urged King County’s Historic Preservation Board to allow the district to do what “needed” to be done – which we knew meant destroy the historic theater.
The district paid to drive us around to the relevant county meetings. We were so earnest! We looked and sounded amazing. We repeated the district’s promises – their commitment to historic preservation, the experience of the architects, the state-of-the-art design, the exciting modern features (outdoor hallways! a Commons!). We “won”! I got to write a killer college application from it. Since then I’ve joked that HSD ought to have named their new Performing Arts Center the Hammond-Driscoll PAC.
There’s a lot I don’t get about this year’s bond proposal, starting with this: in building construction, 25 years is NOT THAT LONG. How is the entire school now “crumbling” again, in exactly the same ways, when we completely rebuilt it in 1989-90? Why the identical sob stories about the leaking pipes, non-functioning heating, out-of-date electrical system? Our fashion sense was questionable in 1989, but we had discovered electricity back then. (And how would the electrical system cause students to take “at least five minutes to sign on to computers in the computer lab”? That isn’t how computers work.) Earthquakes! Think of the children!
Why is this all so familiar?
As a student, I was told Highline High School was in its extraordinary condition because it hadn’t been updated since the 1920s! They were quick to say so then, and have you noticed they’re still pointing at the 1920s today, failing to mention our more recent complete rebuild? (How did those hallways get on the outside, anyway?)
I worked my 17-year-old activist butt off to get my school rebuilt, in my senior year, knowing I wouldn’t see the results, because EDUCATION. Because COMMUNITY. And I’m genuinely at a loss now. How did the 1989-90 project go so wrong? Did the Highline School District take my work and my family’s and neighbors’ money and build our promised “new, state-of-the-art” school out of cardboard? How incompetent and/or corrupt was that project? Seriously, what the heck?
And, knowing this, why in heaven’s name would I vote to give them a blank check to do the same again?
Cheryl M Hammond
Highline High School Class of 1989
Burien, Washington

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16 replies on “LETTER: 'So, about that Highline High School proposed rebuild…'”

  1. Well said!
    Where is the accountability? All the district says when asking for more millions is “It’s for the kids!”
    The sickening emotional plea…ughhhh

  2. Cheryl, what a powerful letter, this just confirms what we already knew The Highline School District and their supporters will say and do anything to get their hands on that 400 million.
    Thank you Cheryl for your work and commitment, Shame on the Mathison Family Shame on The Highline School District and their supporters.
    Vote No On Prop. 1

  3. Could it be that they just did a flat out awful job? My daughter says it feels like going to school in a prison. There was a lot of mismanagement of everything in that era. The last couple rounds of replacing buildings have come in at or under budget. However, I’m voting no anyway.

  4. A quick google search shows there was not a “complete rebuild” of Highline High School in 1989, but a remodel. I was born in 81, so my memory may be incorrect, but I don’t remember anything about the school being completely torn down and rebuilt and I can’t find anything that substantiates that claim (other than this).
    There was no complete rebuild.

    1. Yes that is correct Jake, the school district spent tens of millions of our hard earned tax dollars to refurbish HHS it was called an investment, then they failed to maintain and preserve our investment and allowed the school to fall apart, yes our schools need to be addressed but not with this bond it is flawed and has zero accountable has to how our money will be spent, nobody deserves a blank check for 385 million.
      Vote this bond down, and let’s rewrite a bond that we all can agree on.
      Vote No On Prop. 1

    2. Jake, I was there! My classmates – and especially the classes of 1991-93 behind me, who had to attend school during the rebuilding year – are shocked to hear how the district is ignoring and misrepresenting that work today.
      I stopped by at the end of summer 1989, just before I left for college, and visited the giant pile of rubble which was sitting where the entire interior of the main building used to be. We talked about taking souvenir bricks but I don’t think I did. The front facade was left standing, but its windows were replaced, and all the structure behind it was torn down. In the old building, the hallways were on the inside with classrooms on either side. The current classrooms are grouped around pods off the external hallways in back. And the historic theater used to sit smack front-and-center inside the main building. It’s completely gone now. You can look in before and after yearbooks to get a sense of the difference, or bring a VCR over and I’ll show you my Video Annual. 🙂
      We carried around copies of the architectural plans when we spoke to groups about it back then, and our message was always how totally ground-up, how transformative the new design was.
      “Rebuild” is what they campaigned for at the time. They used the same language there, too, as now – the district, and I on their behalf, said a “remodel” wouldn’t be sufficient, only a “complete rebuild” would achieve what was needed.
      Right now, on HSD’s website, they describe the bond funds to “Rebuild 91-year-old Highline High School”. That’s so misleading that I have to say it’s just not true.
      Would today’s bond campaign be as compelling if their top-line item was “Rebuild 25-year-old Highline High School” or “Rebuild Highline High School again”?

      1. Jake,
        It was, in fact, a complete rebuild. I was there start to finish. I was a freshman in 88-89 when Cheryl, Mark, and the district campaigned for a complete rebuild and I graduated in 1992 after all the work had been completed. They gutted everything except the main facade and the gym. I remember going to the school for practices during the summer of 1989 and being absolutely amazed as I looked at the giant pile of rubble where once the theater had stood. I walked the halls of the old school and I walked the outdoor breezeways and the vestibules of the new school.
        It was a total rebuild. The brick facade was preserved (though the windows were updated). Everything behind that wall was completely gutted.

    3. No there wasn’t a complete rebuild.
      However, they didn’t use the money for the High School as specified in the bond resolution. The gym turned into a patch of grass outside and in its place they built a Performing Arts Center purportedly for the Highliners to perform in.
      Note that this bond lists the High School and Performing Arts Center together as one item. Folks ought to figure how much the amount on each is. You may be getting a dance hall in the PAC.

  5. Yes, I believe they did a flat-out awful job then, and probably failed basic upkeep and maintenance since.
    It’s a terrible decision, as a voter. I don’t have confidence they’ll do any better this time, yet the school really does need work and they’re holding our children hostage in it.

  6. Thank you Cheryl for coming forward and telling us “the rest of the story”. The Highline School District Board is being dishonest, misleading and will do ANYTHING to get their hands on our money. They have brainwashed their minions to preach about the ‘children’, but the emperor is now without clothes. It is NOT for the children, it is for their self-serving power-driven lust for wherever and however they want to spend the money.
    This Bond needs to be rewritten with the citizens’ ability to pay, honesty about how it is going to be spent and integrity by having oversight and extreme accountability to all of us in the Highline School District neighborhoods. VOTE NO! ON PROP 1 AND ASK THEM TO REWRITE THE BOND SO THAT OUR CHILDREN CAN REALLY BENEFIT FROM OUR HARD EARNED TAX DOLLARS!

  7. Take a drive over to the Glacier Site owned by HSD 401 and check out the entire kitchen that they had fitted into the cafeteria and all the nice duct work vents fans and the likes on the roof as well as new floor etc. That was never used. Just rotting away now. Not used one time…So sad…

  8. That must have been an absolute piss poor rebuild, when I graduated in 2010 you could told me the rebuild was in the 20s I would’ve believed you. Water damage all over the ceilings. Old tattered curtains in gue cafeteria that have been there who knows how long, don’t even get me started on the 300 building.

  9. i believe “R”. R was there. It is very hard to pay those taxes. However, if you want healthful, safe surroundings for your children, you must be prepared to come forward and make it happen, and sooner rather than later. You have the right to speak out if you truly value a few dollars over a decent learning environment, you have the right to try to convince others to vote against this bond. But I want what I hope others will, to ensure the bond passes so your children and my family will have the best education that I can afford. Vote YES.

    1. Maybe you should go sell cookies to buy a new school…wink wink give raises to already high earning District employees.
      It isn’t about the buildings it is about the teachers and more importantly the teachers at HOME!

  10. From the photos in the pamphlet it looks like it has poorly maintained. Where is the accountability there? I work for a major local university with infrastructure from the 50s that looks night and day to those photos

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