Nice view, long history: Edmonds Elementary marks 50 years
To go back to the very beginning, the first schoolhouse was Edmonds founder George Brackett’s feed barn at the corner of Third and Edmonds, according to Joan Swift in her book “Brackett’s Landing: A History of Early Edmonds.”
The teacher, Emily Box, made $20 a month for instructing six students, three of them belonging to Brackett.
Edmonds Elementary School’s history isn’t that long, but it is celebrating its 50th anniversary at its current location. There’s a bit of a story to the history.
The two-story school with the killer view on Olympic Avenue was built in 1966 and opened in 1967 as Olympic Elementary School. Before that, elementary students attended school in several locations around town, originally at Edmonds Grade School on George Street (now Main Street) between Third and Fourth, then at Seventh and Main.
Edmonds Grade School was closed down in 1972 and converted to the Frances Anderson Center in 1978.
The new Olympic Elementary School kept that name until the end of the 1982 school year. For the next seven years, the school was shut down, partly due to low enrollment in the Edmonds School District.
According to Katie Kelly, Edmonds Historical Museum director, enrollment decreased to the point that many of the classrooms sat empty.
The school rented a room to a preschool, and in 1985 the Snohomish Christian School rented the school with a lease through 1987, Kelly said. In September 1987, Beverly Elementary School students moved into Olympic Elementary while their school was renovated.
Interestingly, in the mid-’80s there was a giant push to use the site as a city-operated Youth Center, although many highly opposed the idea, Kelly said.
In August 1990, the former Olympic Elementary School was rededicated during the city's centennial. With the opening came the name change to Edmonds Elementary School, home of the Orcas.
“The superintendent (Brian Benzel) wanted to have one elementary named after each city in the district,” said Karyn Heinekin, a fourth-grade teacher who has been at the school since it reopened. “There was Brier, Mountlake Terrace, Woodway and Lynnwood.”
The district named Craig Madsen principal.
“Principals got to hand select their own staff,” Heinekin said. “So he went out and interviewed and picked who he wanted. He allowed teachers to assign their own grades, even letting us select our rooms. There was a lot of team building.”
Marking the anniversary
There’s a lot of history to celebrate and remember, and it will be spotlighted during a 50-year anniversary celebration 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, in the Edmonds Elementary gym.
Invited guests include Edmonds School District superintendent Kristine McDuffy, past principals, City Council and school board members, alumni, scout troops and the community at large.
There will be speakers, a slide show and student posters made by each classroom. Current students are also writing essays.
“It will be interested to hear what former students say,” Heinekin said. She said a former student said in a note that lunch used to be 30 cents, and they would take the lunch cart up and down the elevator.
Current principal Brett Hagen, now in his fourth year, said he’ll collect items for a time capsule.
“One of things that makes Edmond Elementary unique is the community and parent support,” said Hagen, now in his 11th year with the Edmonds School District. “We have the PTA, and a lot of volunteers. Parents are active here, and we appreciate their support.”
Invaluable, Hagen said, is the school’s STARS Foundation, which raises money for the teaching of art, reading and science. “It’s allowed us to do clay work, buy a kiln, take field trips, invite guest speakers and provide other enrichment programs.”
As you’d expect, Heinekin has seen changes during her quarter-century at the school.
“We started out with one phone at the secretary’s desk and one in staff room,” she said. “We had the intercom system. Then we got a phone for each class, but they were in the cupboard before we realized that wasn’t a good idea since some of the older kids would play with them. It took a while before we got a phone in every room, and we all thought that was pretty cool.”
Today, thanks to the support of residents who support tech levies, all students in fourth to sixth grades have their own Chromebook laptops to use during school hours.
Heinekin said Edmond Elementary now has a more ethnically diverse mix of students. The school is also growing.
“When I started, part of it was that there was an older community in Edmonds. Now we’re starting to see more kids because we’re having younger families move in here. The retired people are starting to sell, and we’re seeing a lot more younger people move in.”
There are more than 40 people on staff, including administrators and paraeducators.
Past school board president Diana White, whose kids attended Edmonds, was instrumental in securing funds for the track and new playground equipment, Heinekin said.
A school with a long history also remembers those who contributed to its success.
A sign outside the main entrance reads “Be Curious, Learn Lots, Have Fun!” in honor of the favorite saying by the late Don Whitney, an active parent at the school. When he died, the school mounted the plaque with the quote that he often said to students and teachers.
Another teacher, Bill Hamilton, is honored with an amphitheater on campus with a silver rocket as its centerpiece. Hamilton, who died in 2005, developed a model rocket program and was known by many as “Mr. Rocket.”
Heinekin has been around for a lot of Edmonds Elementary’s history. As time marches on, her students never age. But they do grow up.
“Last year I had boy and girl,” Heinekin said. “I taught their mom in third grade.”