Seattle Public Schools, 1862-2000: Highland Park Elementary Schoo

  • Posted 9/07/2013
  • Essay 10525

This People's History of Highland Park Elementary School is taken from Building for Learning: Seattle Public School Histories, 1862-2000 by Nile Thompson and Carolyn J. Marr. That book, published in 2002 by Seattle Public Schools, compiled profiles of all the public school buildings that had been used by the school district since its formation around 1862. The profiles from the book are being made available as People's Histories on courtesy of Seattle Public Schools. It should be noted that these essays are from 2000. Some of the buildings profiled are historic, some of recent vintage, and many no longer exist (new names and buildings not included in these profiles from 2000 have been added), but each plays or has played an important role in the education of Seattle's youth.

Highland Park Elementary School

The Highland Park neighborhood sits high on a hill, overlooking South Park and Seattle. Its isolation meant relatively late development. The first families to live in the area sent their children down the hill to South Park School, about a two-mile walk.

In August 1913, residents along the Lake Burien streetcar line south of Riverside and west of South Park renewed their request to the Seattle School Board for a portable building to house primary pupils. In September, the district agreed to install a portable at Highland Park if residents furnished the site. Mr. E. J. Sherman loaned a lot, and a portable was erected at the corner of 9th Avenue SW and (S)W Henderson Street, later the site of a Methodist church. Highland Park School opened in fall 1913 as an annex to South Park School with a single classroom with 16 pupils in grades 1-6.

In 1916, the district purchased a nearby site and cleared enough land for four single-room portables. By the time the entire block was cleared, enough families had moved into the area to necessitate the addition of two more portables. Even then double sessions were needed to accommodate all the students.

With industries along the Duwamish gearing up for wartime production during World War I, the Highland Park neighborhood was promoted as an ideal site for workers, who could commute by streetcar to the factories. Real estate boomed for a few years. In January 1919, the board approved construction of a six-room, emergency-type of building at Highland Park. That February another portable was added. In April, the Building Committee recommended that a permanent building be constructed, and shortly thereafter the district architect submitted plans for a 22-classroom building, which could grow out of an initial 10-room unit.

A permanent Highland Park building opened in 1921. The facility was a flat-roofed, U-shaped, single-story building, in 20th Century Georgian style, wrapping around a one-and-one-half story auditorium. Included were a lunchroom and kitchen, which were totally separate from the auditorium. The 7th grade was added in September 1921 and the 8th the following year.

In 1929, the building's two wings were extended to create a total of 22 classrooms. The addition included a soundproof music room, two library rooms, a gymnasium, and an art-science room. Kindergarten was introduced in September 1931.

Within a week of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, American soldiers appeared on the city playfield at Highland Park. Because of its strategic location on the hill between Puget Sound and the Boeing Airplane Company, the soldiers erected barracks for living quarters and manned anti-aircraft guns and barrage balloons, all on the playfield.

The men took their showers in the primary boys' lavatories. Once a week Highland Park students wore uniforms in patriotic colors to show their support for the war effort. Highland Park itself was subject to frequent air raid drills. When the siren went off, all students had to run home and write down their arrival time. When the war ended, the soldiers worked a long time to return the playfield to good condition.

In September 1942, enrollment swelled as "hundreds of newcomers jammed the school's hall in front of the main office to enroll." When enrollment hit 875 in fall 1947, it was necessary to close the shop and home economics departments to provide an additional kindergarten room plus two classrooms.

By fall 1950, 982 pupils attended the school. In 1952, the 7th and 8th grades were transferred to David T. Denny Junior High School. Still enrollment rose to 990 in fall 1953. The following year four more portables were added to house 1,068 pupils. By 1958-59, nine portables were in use and enrollment hit 1,130 pupils. Two more portables were added in 1960 to lower class size to 35 or less. In 1963, enrollment peaked at 1,180 students. In the mid-1960s, Highland Park was the largest K-6 in Washington. At that time, 19 portables housed 45 percent of its pupils.

To relieve overcrowding at Highland Park, construction began on nearby Sanislo School in 1968. When the school was not ready to open in September 1969, classes for students slated to attend Sanislo were housed in portables at Highland Park. In December 1970, those students walked to the new Sanislo School. As a result, 10 Highland Park portables were removed or demolished.

In 1978, Highland Park became a K-3 school as part of the district's desegregation plan. Its 4th and 5th graders were bused to Wing Luke School whose K-3 students were, in turn, bused to Highland Park.

In 1988, Highland Park became the district's Russian World Language and Culture Magnet Program site. The following year the school established a sister-school relationship with School No. 17 in Tashkent, Russia (now Uzbekistan). The school has received many Russian visitors, including Mrs. Boris Yeltsin, who toured the school in 1994.

Through the program, all students received Russian dance instruction, and a dance group was sent to Russia. By 1997, Highland Park was the only one of the district's five language and culture magnet programs to be still functioning.

With the 1990s influx of immigrants from Southeast Asia and Mexico, Highland Park has become a multiethnic school with a high level of racial diversity. The school hosts social events to bring in non-English speaking parents and evening English as a Second Language classes for the community.

The old school was closed in December 1997, and in January 1998 Highland Park students temporarily moved into Hughes, which was closed in 1989. The old Highland Park building was demolished. The new Highland Park School opened in September 1999, with students passing through an archway of bricks salvaged from its 1921 predecessor. The new building features six-unit classroom clusters, each of which has a common area for small-group activities. Classrooms occupy both floors of the east section of the school. Administrative offices, kindergartens, and childcare facilities are located on the first floor of the south section, with a learning resource center and computer lab on the second floor. To the north are the gymnasium, auditorium, cafeteria, and music rooms. Outside playgrounds include a covered area next to the gym and a separate courtyard for kindergarten children.

In 1999, students in grades 4-5 won first place in the Global Reading Challenge sponsored by the Seattle Public Library by besting a Kalamazoo, Michigan school in an Internet competition. Program partnerships include environmental studies supported by the Audubon Society and the Dance Chance program with Pacific Northwest Ballet.


Name: Highland Park School
Location: (S)W Trenton between 9th & 10th SW
Building: Portables
Site: 3.55 acres
1916: Opened on new site as annex to South Park
1919-20: Became an independent school
1921: Closed

Name: Highland Park School
Location: 1012 SW Trenton Street
Building: 10-room brick
Architect: Floyd A. Naramore
Site: 3.55 acres
1921: Opened in the spring
1929: Addition (Naramore)
1997: Closed in December
1998: Demolished

Name: Highland Park Elementary School
Location: 1012 SW Trenton Street
Building: 2-story concrete block and stucco
Architect: Burr Lawrence Rising & Bates
Site: 3.73 acres
1999: Opened in September

Highland Park Elementary School in 2000
Enrollment: 435
Address: 1012 SW Trenton Street
Nickname: Mustangs
Configuration: K-5
Colors: Royal blue and gold
Newspaper: Highland Park News
Annual: Highland Park Yearbook


Nile Thompson and Carolyn J. Marr, Building for Learning: Seattle Public School Histories, 1862-2000 (Seattle: Seattle Public Schools, 2002).

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