Seattle Public Schools, 1862-2000: South Shore School

  • Posted 9/12/2013
  • Essay 10595

This People's History of South Shore 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.

South Shore School

In 1967, Rainier Beach Junior and Senior High School was overcrowded, housing 2,159 students in a building designed for 1,500. The principal, Don Means, led a push for a separate school for younger students. Planners felt that 9th graders were too mature to be among the younger students, so they envisioned that the new middle school would serve as a pilot educational center. The middle school would house an interdisciplinary team of teachers who instructed the same group of students throughout the day in basic subjects, thus being "more like elementary schools" than the old junior highs.

On St. Valentine's Day, 1968, the school board authorized planning for a Southeast Education Center of which the middle school would be the key. Several years of planning and changes in leadership followed. In the meantime, a portable school was constructed. The school was scheduled to open in September 1970, but due to a number of circumstances, construction was delayed. That fall the Model Middle School opened for 300 7th graders in portables on the grounds at Rainier Beach.

A contest was held among the middle school students and 6th graders at feeder elementary schools (Dunlap, Rainier View, Emerson, and Wing Luke) to choose a permanent name for the school. The name South Shore, describing the school's location near the south end of Lake Washington, beat Parkway, Martin Luther King, and Marie McCloud (a past teacher at Rainier View).

The next fall the school was expanded to grades 7 and 8. When additional portables to house the incoming 7th graders were not ready in time, pupils had to go to double shifts. When they arrived, the groups of portables were joined together in "pods" of four, divided into "houses," with a team of teachers in each "house."

The permanent school, designed for 1,200 students in grades 5-8, was the first in the district designed expressly as a middle school. The main room of the open concept school was roughly a triangle, 1.5 acres in size and about 320 feet across at its maximum width. Of the feeder schools, only Wing Luke was an open concept school, so the experience was new to most entering students. Eventually the school housed grades 6-8.

At the time, South Shore was heralded as "possibly the most significant new school ever opened in the Seattle School District." The basic structure of the school was wood frame, with heavy, exposed timber trusses and columns. Open wood trussed beams were designed by computer for stress tolerance. Bright colors were used throughout the interior. Covering the floor of the main room was a multi-colored rug with stripes of pink, purple, rust, two shades of green, and two shades of blue. Student lockers were made of wood and plastic to reduce noise over the usual metal lockers.

The building is jointly owned and operated by the district and parks department. At the Rainier Beach Community Center end of the building is a pool and three special rooms. Students were given morning use of the parks department swimming pool. The school was completed six months behind schedule, and students shifted over from the portables midway through the 1973-74 school year. American Indian Heritage moved into the portables from Georgetown the following September.

In 1980-81, South Shore was able to attract "voluntary racial transfers from all over Seattle and from suburban school districts" through its Horizon Program for highly capable students. South Shore was the district's first secondary school to require students to wear uniforms.

In fall 1999, South Shore relocated to Sharples (see Kurose). The open concept floor plan no longer worked for the program. In turn, the South Shore building became the new home of the alternative programs housed at Sharples as well as the one-year temporary home of Dunlap Elementary. The alternative high school, renamed South Lake, is an individualized continuous progress approach and serves students who need an option to the regular school program. It also provides reentry services for students suspended or expelled from other schools. The Dunlap students returned to their newly renovated school in September 2000. Emerson students will use South Shore as an interim site for school year 2000-01.


Name: Model Middle School
Location: 8633 53rd Avenue S
Building: Portables
1970: Opened in September
1971: Renamed South Shore Middle School on August 25
1973: Closed as middle school
1974-75: Alternative school site

Name: South Shore Middle School
Location: 8825 Rainier Avenue S
Building: 1-story open concept
Architect: Naramore, Bain, Brady & Johanson
Site: 11 acres
1973: Opened on December 10
1999: Closed as middle school in June; opened in September as alternative school and temporary relocation site

South Lake Alternative High School @ South Shore in 2000
Enrollment: 91
Address: 8825 Rainier Avenue
Nickname: Sharks
Configuration: 6-12
Colors: Blue and white
Newspaper: none
Annual: 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