Seattle Public Schools, 1862-2000: Olympic Hills School

  • Posted 9/11/2013
  • Essay 10571

This People's History of Olympic Hills 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.

Olympic Hills School

Olympic Hills School is the third Seattle Public School with "Olympic" in its name (see Olympic and Olympic View). It was planned, named, and its construction started by the Shoreline School District, but before it opened in 1954, the area was annexed into the City of Seattle. The school opened in the Seattle School District with 585 pupils.

In 1955, the school grounds were landscaped and two outdoor basketball courts were added. Grass was planted on part of the playfield and the play area next to the school was blacktopped. Two additional lavatories were constructed on the north side of the building in 1957.

From 1954-1958, the school carnival embraced a western theme and was called the Olympic Hills Roundup. In 1958-59, it was modernized to a space-age theme and renamed the Olympic Hills Rocket Roundup.

Enrollment grew steadily and, in 1962-63, nine portables were needed to help house the 800 pupils. After that peak, enrollment declined to about 360 in 1976. By then, the last of the portables had been removed from the grounds.

A highly successful Career Education Program began in 1971, involving a variety of community members who visited classrooms to talk about their jobs. Field trips also provided students with a first-hand view of different occupations. A Career Education Achievement Fair held in 1974 displayed products designed and produced by each class.

The Outdoor-Education Program was introduced in 1972-73 and culminated each spring with a three-day campout for 6th graders at Cornet Bay Youth Camp at Deception Pass State Park. The destination changed around 1980, but the program continues to enhance student awareness of the natural environment.

From a modest beginning of just a few books, the school's library took shape and by 1957 had its own room and 4,000 volumes. In 1970, an expanded learning resource center opened and became the hub of the school, used not only for reading activities but also several other programs. It was named for librarian Lorena Slover, who was largely responsible for its creation. Outside of the door to the LRC is a painting of "Oly" the Otter, the student-selected mascot for their newspaper, Little Oly.

Under the district's 1978 desegregation plan, Olympic Hills (K, 1-3) formed a triad with Rogers (K, 1-3) and Madrona (K, 4-6) during the 1979-81 school years. Olympic Hills returned to a K-6 configuration in September 1981 and K-5 in 1988.

The current project-based curriculum at Olympic Hills allows for choice between single grade level classes or a mix of grade levels. The school has continued its emphasis on experiential learning and students take frequent field trips, sharing what they learn at weekly celebration assemblies. An all-school trip to Camp Long in West Seattle is a highlight of the school year. Students help create a school songbook and campfire skits for this end-of-the-year experience.


Name: Olympic Hills School
Location: 13018 20th Avenue NE
Building: 17-room brick
Architect: John Graham & Co.
Site: 6.48 acres
1954: Opened in September

Olympic Hills Elementary School in 2000
Enrollment: 272
Address: 13018 20th Avenue NE
Nickname: none
Configuration: K-5 Colors: none


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

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You