New shine on old Washington



It’s 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 2. Most of Washington Elementary School students have finished dinner and are getting ready for bed. Bedtime is a long way off for a crew of construction workers, cleaners – and maybe a few teachers who will work late tonight, maybe even into the wee hours. They are making sure the remodeled old school is as ready as it can be for the first day of school Wednesday.

There is still work to do. The library and gym look doubtful for Day One. The internal stairs are bare concrete, waiting for an application of rubberized flooring.

But the dark wood finish gleams on lockers, doors, wainscotting and window frames. Warm paint colors harken back to 1906 when the brick beauty was new. There’s a playground again, and turf, according to one child a vast improvement to the former blacktop play surface.

Street trees are back. They line the block around the school, along with parallel parking spaces.

The classrooms look ready and inviting. And most importantly, said James Kabalic, logistics coordinator for BNCC Construction, “The children will be safe. And so will the faculty.”

Washington students and faculty spent the 2013-14 school year at the former Hunt Middle School while during the project. Washington Elementary is a recognized historic building in the Proctor District. The project remodeled and restored the 1906 building, added a gym, library, cafeteria and kindergarten wing.

Principal John Knight is delighted with his new old school.

“They managed to capture the atmosphere and ambience of 108 years of Washington. Yet it’s new,” he said, as he headed home Tuesday evening.

First grade teacher Lisa Wines was also heading out after several long days of preparing her classroom. She said she’s energized though.

“It’s absolutely stunning,” she said.

The year at “Camp Hunt” was her first year as a Washington teacher.

“So it’s very exciting for me,” she said. “The most exciting thing will be to see the kids’ faces. They’ll be in awe.

“They knew this beautiful school was being built. They live in the neighborhood. They watched it. That’s the most exciting thing,” she said. “We’ll go on a tour.”

The Washington-Hoyt PTA will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the morning at 8:45. The Tacoma School District says construction crews will be on site to wrap up the work for the next four to six weeks. An open house is set for Friday, Oct. 10 from 6 to 8 p.m.


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