This People's History of James Monroe 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 HistoryLink.org 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.
Jame Monroe School
Plans for a new Ballard Intermediate School were underway in 1929 when the Seattle School Board voted to name it after the nation's fifth president. James Monroe Intermediate School was constructed on a slightly elevated site in an elegant 20th-Century Georgian style just four blocks west of Ballard High School. Its design resembles Hamilton, the district's first intermediate school. A three-story rectangle enclosed a single-story center holding the assembly room, lunchroom, and kitchen. Like Hamilton, the gymnasiums were placed in one and one-half story wings.
Monroe opened to 759 pupils in grades 7-8 from Adams, Crown Hill, Irving, Loyal Heights, Salmon Bay, Webster, and Whittier. Eighth graders from West Woodland came in 1941-42, but its 7th graders were not transferred until 1949-50.
The post-war population explosion sent some 9th graders to Ballard High School beginning in 1951. In 1955, four portables were added at Monroe and three more were brought in the following year. The portables took up about half of the playground, so the boys were forced to go to Salmon Bay Park for outside activities during PE. At the end of the school year in 1955, William King retired after serving as principal since opening day in 1931.
Monroe was the third school in Seattle to adopt departmentalized classrooms. Art and science were stressed with the two original art rooms expanded to three and three science rooms to five.
Enrollment peaked at 1,620 in 1956-57. With their school strapped for space, the 7th graders were moved to Loyal Heights for 1958-59. A 1959 remodel transformed a classroom into three counseling offices, provided space for Boys' Club and Girls' Club advisors, and added a reception room for pupils.
A major remodel in 1974 yielded a modern library, lunchroom, and auditorium. The playground was expanded, increasing the site size to 4.34 acres. In the 1978 desegregation plan, students entered Monroe not only from Adams and West Woodland but also from Whitworth. When Monroe closed in 1981, its enrollment was down to 537. Students were reassigned to Whitman and Mercer.
After the school closed in 1981, part of the building was leased as a community center. In 1987, the district took the building back for use as a temporary site. Monroe has been the temporary home of three elementary schools during periods of construction: Whitworth (1987-89); West Woodland (1989-90) and Whittier (1997-99).
In September 1999, Monroe became the new home of Coho Elementary and New Options Middle School (NOMS) that moved in from Wilson and Hay, respectively. The goal of combining the two schools is to create cooperation in a K-8 program. Another factor was that more than 50 percent of Coho's student body comprises children from the Ballard community. Staff and students in both programs are excited about their new, larger permanent space.
Name: James Monroe Junior High School
Location: 1810 NW 65th Street
Architect: Floyd A. Naramore
Site: 2.6 acres
1929: Named James Monroe Intermediate School on September 6
1931: Opened on February 2
1974: Site expanded to 4.3 acres
1981: Closed in June; leased in autumn
1987-99: Used as temporary site
1999: Reopened as K-8
Coho/NOMS @ Monroe in 2000
Nicknames: (C) Salmon; (N) Panthers
Colors: (C) n.a.; (N) Black & white