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NWAIS News

First of Its Kind Partnership to Build Joint Academic and Community Center in South Seattle
Posted 08/16/2018 10:30AM

Two of Seattle’s Leading Independent Schools Announce First of Its Kind Partnership to Build Joint Academic and Community Center in South Seattle

  • Lake Washington Girls Middle School and Giddens School Team up to Create a Modern Sustainable Campus for Both Schools
  • Adjacent development by Seattle JazzED and Capitol Hill Housing will provide a youth performing arts hub and affordable housing
  • Seattle Based Graham Baba Architects Designs Gracious New Building to House STEAM Studio, Science and Art Labs, Full Court Gym, Playfield, and Performance Space to Support Inquiry Based Learning

Seattle, WA, July 9, 2018 – Today, two independent schools located in Seattle’s Central Area announced plans to collaborate on new space in South Seattle to house both schools for years to come. This partnership, unprecedented in any other area of the U.S., brings two like-minded schools together while letting each school maintain its individual identity, and is a showcase for creativity in building affordable urban learning spaces. Additionally, announced today, JazzED and Capitol Hill Housing announced their intention to build, on the same property, a performing arts space with affordable housing to serve the community.

Lake Washington Girls Middle School (LWGMS) and Giddens School were each separately faced with multi-millions in required seismic upgrades to the 100+ year old buildings that they lease from the Archdiocese of Seattle. Faced with these and other costs, the schools seized an opportunity to bring two socially and economically diverse schools together under one roof – to share core services (gymnasium, lunchroom, common and outdoor areas, upkeep), amplify a common commitment to social justice, and ensure an exciting future for both schools.

After initiating this project in 2016, LWGMS and Giddens School searched for like-minded organizations to share the block, and sold a parcel of the land to JazzED and Capitol Hill Housing who have announced their partnership to develop space adjacent to the schools for music education and affordable housing. While these four entities will all continue to operate independently, they share a commitment to social justice and activating a community with attention to access, equity, and empowerment.

This innovative partnership between two schools capitalizes on the creativity independent schools bring to the learning enterprise. The new space will not only house both schools – one an early childhood and elementary co-ed school and the other an all-girls middle school – it will enable both schools to continue to provide a diverse range of Seattle families with access to the rich, innovative education each institution is known for. The building site on the Imperial Lanes block in the Rainier Valley at the crossroads of Beacon Hill, the Central District, and Mount Baker is close to both schools’ current locations and fixed in a vibrant, central, and transforming area of the city. The site’s centrality, and proximity to Seattle’s Link Light Rail, will enhance its practical appeal for families.

But that’s just the beginning of the partnership’s benefits. Expenses conserved from sharing building costs will allow both schools to maintain their commitment to economic and social diversity. More than 55% of LWGMS students identify as students of color, and almost 25% receive financial assistance. At Giddens, 48% of the children are students of color, and 35% of families receive financial assistance. The fiscal prudence from sharing costs will protect the schools’ ongoing commitments to low tuition, robust financial aid, and small class sizes.

Additionally, the new building will serve as a civic hub for the neighborhood. Both schools are committed to developing relationships with local community-based nonprofits and supporting the children, youth, and families of the neighborhood by providing meeting spaces and access to the gymnasium and playfield. They will offer summer camp opportunities to extend enrichment across the neighborhood.

“Partnering to purchase and build a new facility to house both schools secures our future,” said Patricia Hearn, founding head of LWGMS, and Dr. Morva McDonald, head of Giddens School, in a joint statement. “Sharing our combined resources – financial, material, and intellectual – allows LWGMS and Giddens to deepen, expand, and sustain our reach, while enabling us to stay small and maintain our commitment to offering robust financial assistance to a wide range of Seattle families.”

The project is set to break ground in 2018, with classes in the new building expected to begin in the 2019-2020 school year. The award-winning architecture firm Graham Baba Architects is leading the design. Anjali Grant Design is an integral team member bringing significant experience in the design of educational spaces. The completed building will provide shared and individual spaces for the two schools. "We are thrilled to be involved with this project," notes Jim Graham. "The missions of both schools and their shared belief in the power of social connectivity to enrich the lives of students, teachers, families, and the broader community is incredibly compelling. We jumped at the chance to be involved." In terms of design, Graham notes, "The building is conceived as a simple armature, a place in which to explore ideas and facilitate creative thinking and learning. Transparency and connections, both physical and visual, will reinforce a sense of community and enable students to learn from one another in a dynamic educational setting."

To bring this vision to fruition, the schools have formed Two Schools LLC, and alongside Graham Baba and Anjali Grant, are working with project manager Costigan Integrated and contractor Exxel Pacific. Each school is undertaking separate fundraising efforts to meet the costs of the new building. Combined, the schools have raised more than $9 million.

For more information please visit twoschools.org

Press resources: twoschools.org/press-resources

Media Contact: Erika Shaffer, erika@madrona.com ; 206-972-5514

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