Hamilton’s Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Hundreds of people–from neighbors, students and faculty, to Seattle Public School Board Members–came out during this gorgeous, cloudless morning for the ribbon cutting ceremony at Hamilton International Middle School.  Members from the Hamilton Marimba Band welcomed guests with a fun and festive piece called “Mardi Gras.”

Principal Christopher Carter began the ceremony, thanking everyone involved and said he was thrilled to be leaving their temporary home at Lincoln High School,  “with all due respect,” he added with a wry grin.

As several members from the design and construction team raised the flag in front of the school, the Eureka (a.k.a. Farmers Insurance) Zeppelin flew overhead.

Wallingford resident Sharon Rodgers, who is President of Schools’ First (the coalition to help pass the levies for construction funds), thanked the area residents “who provided so much input to the process and put up with noise and inconvenience during the construction,”  and she especially mentioned those “who live so close to the building.”

There seemed to be more people designated as ribbon cutters than there was ribbon, as people representing the school, the school board, and the construction and design teams were invited to cut the ribbon at the top of the front steps.

With the ribbon officially cut, visitors were led to the Commons – a light- and flag-filled room where they were entertained by music performed by the (most excellent, I might add) Hamilton Senior Jazz Combo.  Principal Carter continued by introducing Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson and members of the Seattle School Board.

While Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson took the podium thanking people including the neighbors in the community, it was School Board President Michael DeBell who gave us a brief history lesson when he said, “during the 1920s, the Wallingford and Fremont areas were filling up with young families and they needed a middle school.  90 years later, once again Wallingford is filled with young families looking for the great quality of life here in the city of Seattle and the great educational opportunities that are available at a place like HIMS.  Once again, we have growth in our enrollment in Seattle and we need to refurbish these building that were conceived so long ago.”  As he pointed to the colorful flags flanking the sides of the Commons, he noted that, “the flags are a symbol of our connection with the rest of the world.”

Sherry Carr, the school board member representing the district area, marveled that she had been on the construction site 20 months ago, and that where everyone sat today, there was nothing but “a sea of mud with snow on the ground.”  She was delighted with the outcome and thanked the team that had worked on the remodel.

Hamilton Associated Student Body President Melia Wong took the stage and quipped, “when I was writing this speech, I wanted to say something important about academics and how the new Hamilton Building will change all of our lives. But what I am truly excited about is the new lockers.  I’m truly excited about the new classrooms, and the new bathrooms.”

The Hamilton International Middle School “All Community Celebration” will take place on Saturday, October 2, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. where the public will be able to tour the newly completed historical buildings.  Hope to see you there!

Want to see more photos from this morning’s event? Click below to view the photo album.

  1. Kristin said,

    I want to thank all the construction workers and loud trucks for entertaining my toddler for the past two years. You will be missed!

    Thu, September 2 at 2:41 pm
  2. Greg said,

    I am happy that Hamilton has finally gotten the new facility many of us worked so hard to achieve for so many, many years. However, there are mixed feelings about some of the choices made and the actions of some involved in the design process. It seems useful for folks to be aware of the shortcomings of the quasi-public agency responsible for the design choices so that we might, perhaps, avoid some of the errors in the future.

    Some of us in the community worked long and hard for over 14 years to develop a “community school” model that was included in the District Facilities Master plan and the Wallingford Neighborhood Plan. The model would have realized an improved Hamilton facility and also a community center for Wallingford. District Facilities suddenly reversed course and withdrew from the plan in 2008. The new School Board was not responsive to our appeals. Many feel that this was a poor decision for Hamilton and for the community.

    Please do not forget that the plan for over 14 years was for Hamilton to have a 7-acre site that included space for an APP program, a true performing arts space shared by the community, their own all-weather athletic field, and space for a Wallingford community center, as well as trees and natural cooling and outdoor areas where students could relax. Things were all lined up with the District, the City and the community. It was District Facilities that balked and chose the small 2-acre site (the District standard is 12-acres for a middle school. MLK, at 2-acres was closed stating the site too small for an elementary). Facilities made this decision without ever performing a sincere analysis of the Lincoln site that three previous School Boards had supported.

    The choice to keep the old single-pane windows ignored potential savings of up to 30% in the size of the HVAC system and electrical system. When the sun crosses the meridian, the perimeter rooms will likely overheat and books and furnishings will fade from the UV.

    Many of the improvements in the final design witnessed today were the result only because the community dragged District Facilities kicking and screaming before the Hearing Examiner. This should not be necessary on every District project.

    The gym building could have been located on the west side of the site, where it would not have obscured views of the park and would not have shaded the basement Commons area. The play area would have been highly visible and more secure.

    Geothermal wells could have been installed beneath the north school play area and, with Parks Department permission, below the new garden area (created as another result only of community pressure on Facilities).

    The silly lighting around the school yard lights the park and neighborhood like a WalMart parking lot rather than the play yard. Facilities has ceased turning the fixtures on at night. Why install fixtures that cannot be turned on?

    Kudos to the project management team for making Hamilton the first school project in a very long time to come in on budget (consider the $35 million cost overrun at Garfield). Now to work on reducing project overhead – of the $73 Hamilton project budget, less than $45 million went to construction. Perhaps cutting back on the $50,000 models would be a start.

    District Facilities appears to feel it necessary to turn every Seattle school project into a defensive adversarial relationship. We witness this time and again on projects like Ingraham, Hale, Denny/Sealth, Hamilton. Why? Communities know their neighborhood schools and are a great resource for improving the design and make it more compatible with the surrounding environment.

    Please, this posting is not sour grapes. I am truly happy for the new Hamilton. We were working on trying to realize an improved Hamilton long before many of the families who will now attend moved to Wallingford. It will be a great asset for our neighborhood. Please consider this post instead as a final weep over the lost opportunity of what could have been and a plea to address the defects at District Facilities that turn these wonderful community projects into community battles. This should not be forgotten.

    Sat, September 4 at 7:51 am
  3. Bob said,

    Thanks, Greg, for filling us in on some of the details left out of the post. I wish the students, staff and administration of Hamilton the best of luck with the new facilities, and hope that they continue to take care of the surrounding park and neighborhood as part of the educational process. I hope that eventually, the Lincoln campus can be converted into a learning and community center (and library!) that befits the great neighborhood of Wallingford! Please don’t stop now that the new middle school is open. Money and people are needed to maintain both the school and the park. Let this be a beginning!

    Sat, September 4 at 3:31 pm

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