FAQs on our Facilities Change
Why should I be really excited about this?
The new campus provides a space for Billings that is 50% bigger than even our Green Lake renovation designs. This means that we are able to offer all of our hallmark Billings programming, in a space specifically designed for teenage bodies...and so much more! The new campus will offer amenities that we wouldn’t have had, even in the redesigned Green Lake building, including a gymnasium, stage, teaching kitchen, and dedicated arts wing. Plus there is over an acre of wooded land, outdoor play spaces, and plentiful parking! We remain in a (different) bustling urban neighborhood in North Seattle, but at a much lower price point, and with significantly lower risk than a year-long construction project. We get so much more in a building, all while securing the financial future of the school.
Why not just stay in Green Lake, and finish the build as planned?
This new campus presents the opportunities, not just for a larger building at a lower price point, but to more fully articulate our experiential learning in the classroom. The spaces will allow us to expand our art offerings and electives over time, while also continuing to build our cross-curricular programming and team teaching approaches. The new location has the ability to be a true basecamp for not only the outdoor program, but above and beyond what the planned Green Lake location could offer - a basecamp for the arts program (with an arts wing and stage!), the sports program (a gym!), experiential learning (a teaching kitchen!), and community (large gathering space for special events!).
Why is this is the first time we are hearing about this?
This negotiation impacted three school communities: Billings, SJCS, and the North Seattle French School, who currently lease space from SJCS. Because of the breadth of impact, the negotiations were bound very early by legal non-disclosure agreements. It was extremely important to Billings that this negotiation be a partnership with SJCS, that we honor each other’s communities, and that the announcements to our communities be coordinated celebrations.
How does this impact the expeditionary aspect of our academic program?
The expeditionary nature of our program will not change! In fact, in considering this facility for our needs, we insisted that maintaining the expeditionary program was paramount. The proximity of the new campus to Thornton Creek Park provides a location for shorter expeditions and for preparing for our overnight trips. There is plenty of space for our gear lending library, and for trip preparations.
How does this move affect our current program?
All elements of the current program will be maintained, including our current arts program, athletics, and signature expeditionary education program. If anything, we hope to be able to expand our elective offerings in this new space.
Will there be new programs added on account of increased space?
The larger facility will allow us to consider additional elective offerings, including possibilities like culinary arts in the teaching kitchen. While there are not immediate plans for curricular changes, the additional space will allow our teachers to be creative and even more hands-on, building out our experiential, cross-curricular pedagogy.
What takes the place of our identity as a Green Lake school and our identity as an urban school?
Green Lake has certainly been a large part of the Billings identity for several years, but Billings has not always been a Green Lake school. The Billings mission to stretch, support, and inspire early adolescent learners is one that is portable. Although leaving Green Lake is bittersweet for many in the Billings community, the Board’s core priority was to provide an appropriate platform for permanence, growth and evolution of the Billings mission. Our move to Northgate will not mean abandoning our identity as an urban school, but rather will result in our urban identity being tied to a new neighborhood, one where we plan to build new relationships just as we have in Green Lake. It remains an important core tenet that students learn how to be engaged members of an urban community.
Where will sports teams practice now that we do not have Green Lake?
The addition of a gymnasium provides practices spaces for indoor sports like volleyball and basketball, as well as weekly PE classes. Northacres Park, only a ½ mile away, has playfields that may be rented for practices and games, just as we have done in Green Lake.
What will lunch look like now that we do not have Green Lake?
While lunch on the new campus will look a little different, playtime spent outdoors at lunch remains just as important. At the new campus, there is a large, secure outdoor play area, immediately adjacent to the gymnasium. Students will have indoor and outdoor eating options as well as indoor and outdoor play options during lunchtime.
Will we have an open campus for students?
Billings currently does not have an open campus during the school day, and this will not change.
Are the campus and neighborhood safe for our students?
Yes! The neighborhood, which includes both residences and businesses, is a safe and welcoming area. The campus itself is secured, with a locking fence and a video-based security system.
Is there transportation nearby? Where are the bus stops and what are the bus lines?
King County Metro Transit routes 41, 77, 347, and 348 all stop within ¼ mile of the new campus. In addition, the planned light rail station at NE 130th Street will only be a few blocks from the school.
Where will parents park?
The new campus includes an expansive parking lot, offering parking for both employees and visitors immediately adjacent to the building.
What will drop-off and pick-up look like?
The parking lot is structured with a one-way drive, which allows students to be dropped off and picked up from campus directly by car line. The fenced courtyard will provide a safe space for students to gather before the day begins or while they are waiting to be picked up in the afternoon.
Are there plans to grow the school?
There are no immediate plans for size growth. Being a small school is an important part of the Billings identity, and we intend to maintain our small, intimate community. The new campus, however, will allow for our size to grow in the future without additional construction, should we decide that we are ready to grow.
How do you expect the move to impact enrollment?
We do not expect to see much change in enrollment. In considering this new campus, we plotted the addresses of our applicants from the past five years. The majority of our families come to us from North Seattle. The commute will result in only a 3-4 minute change for most of our families. Furthermore, we expect to have more interest from families further north, in areas such as Shoreline.
Will this impact tuition? Will tuition go up?
The new campus comes at a lower cost than the proposed Green Lake construction. Each year Billings increases its tuition in alignment with the greater Seattle independent school community, and to reflect the consumer price index. We expect to see tuition increases remain at this level. Purchasing the new campus will not result in a change to tuition that is different from most years.
Could we add an after-school program? Will there be a new plan for late pickups?
The new campus certainly provides the space for an after-school program, and currently the administration is evaluating options for providing after-school care.
Could we add a summer program?
Yes! It is our hope that over the next couple summers, we will expand our extracurricular offerings to include a summer program. The new campus will provide the space to do so.
How much work does Billings need to do to the new campus in order to move in?
There is only minimal cosmetic work and cleaning required to move Billings into the new campus. We expect to be able to move in quickly upon occupancy.
How much work does SJCS have to do on the Woodlawn building to move in? Could they get delayed? How confident are we on our move-in timeline?
SJCS will complete their updates to the Woodlawn building in a staged plan. They do not require a building permit to be able to occupy the Woodlawn building, but we have built extra time into our moving schedule nevertheless, to allow for plenty of time to prepare both buildings for their new schools.
What will a mid year move look like for families and students and staff? Does it change and affect our yearly calendar?
A mid-year move will have an impact on our calendar year. In order to move over the winter break, while still allowing our faculty and staff time with their families, we will plan for a three-week winter break, and will finish the school year one week later than usual.
What will happen to capital campaign gifts and pledges?
The capital campaign for permanence remains committed to providing a permanent basecamp for the Billings program. Capital campaign gifts will continue to be used to offset the cost of this purchase. We are thrilled to report that all of our lead donors to the campaign enthusiastically support the purchase of this new campus.