Public meeting Monday night on downtown Seattle school

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SEATTLE - Parents took a tour through the old Federal Reserve Bank that’s now the proposed site for an elementary school in downtown Seattle on Monday night.

Flip Herndon, Seattle Public Schools assistant superintendent for capital, facilities, and enrollment planning, said the total costs would be about $53 million. The construction costs, he said, would be on par with other school buildings at around $30-$32 million. However, the design costs would be higher because of the challenges in dealing with a landmarked building.

The federal government has offered the building to SPS for free, if its application to build a school there is approved.

The Downtown Seattle Association said 60,000 people live downtown and children ages 5 - 9 are the fastest growing group.

The tour showcased the lobby’s security desk, complete with bullet-proof glass, and the giant bank vault in the basement. According to plan presented at a meeting in the downtown library beforehand, architects suggest putting a small gym or theater in the vault space.

I think it would be money well invested,” Mark Hunt, who lives downtown and has a five-year-old daughter, said.

It’s a big decision whether we stay downtown… is if there will be a school for us,” Leslie Schmitz, who lives downtown and has a 3-year-old daughter, said.

Old offices would be turned into classrooms. Narrow staircases would need to be replaced so they’re up to city codes. Herndon said the money could come from a new levy, but he admitted that other schools in the district need a lot of maintenance as well, which has been put on hold over the years.

Douglas Leek, a resident who attended the meeting, said he wonders if the Second Avenue site is the right fit.

Can you imagine parents dropping off on Second Avenue, for those parents that have to drive in?” he said.

He’s also skeptical of the cost and the idea of another levy supporting it.

Is it really only going to be $53 million dollars?” he asked. “Is it going to cost the school more?”

If the district gets approval it would have to convert the building into a school by 2017.

The next public meeting on the topic is Aug. 12 at the Belltown Community Center.