By reporter Steven Smalley
Boarded up and overgrown, Magnolia Elementary School on 28th Avenue was closed by the Seattle School Board 10 years ago. Now Magnolia Voice readers write to ask, what’s happening to our school on the hill? In a letter dated 2005, community advocate Elizabeth Campbell asked the school board various questions – Can the community find a use for the school? Will Magnolia Elementary continue to slowly deteriorate into a useless heap? What will happen to this once great facility? Magnolia Voice followed up seven years later and asked Campbell what she thinks today about the state of our moth-balled school with the great big view.
Here are some of her frank assessments edited for this story: “It (Magnolia Elementary) should have been something the community could access. The school district has a history of not managing its assets very well and this is one example of it. They have this thing called, ‘Deferred Maintenance’ where you waste the asset by not taking care of it. You have maintenance by attrition…you don’t have to take care of it anymore because it’s beyond being able to retrieve it.” Campbell continued, “It gets boarded up like this is, and it gets somewhat vandalized – it goes to seed…the grounds do. Also they lose their occupancy permit with the city and then the school will come back and say, ‘Well, we can’t use it because it’s substandard,’ and that it’s either earthquake substandard, or it has asbestos, or it has lead. They should save some of these buildings which are really the district’s legacy,” she said. “The district is obligated to be a steward of the public’s property, and these schools are public property.’” When asked what she would say directly to the Seattle School District if she could, Campbell stated, “You have a covenant with the people who came before you. People in the past have paid their hard earned money to create this facility…there’s no sense of obligation to the public’s assets.”
In response to Campbell’s criticism, a spokesman for Seattle Public Schools sent an email to Magnolia Voice. It says in part, “There has not been a capacity need to open an elementary school in Magnolia in recent years. It [Magnolia Elementary] is being held (and not sold) pending possible future use. Reopening the school would require a major renovation at a substantial cost to bring the building up to current city codes and modern educational needs.” He goes on to write, “…There is no graffiti on the building at this time, but our maintenance team would make it a priority to clean it up when/if it does happen.”
This reporter notes that since Campbell’s 2005 letter complaining of the open nature of the play area in the rear of the school, it is now completely fenced with no access to it except through a locked gate,
MV readers- please let us know what you think!