Dear Billings Families,
About twenty years ago, my husband and I started off on a day hike at Mt. Tamalpais. We planned our trek carefully. After several hours of hiking, we emerged from the woods on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. It was a stunning vista, and I said to my husband, “I love this view, but it’s definitely not the trail I thought we were on.”
Sometimes life takes us on trails we didn’t think we were on. This certainly has been the case for Billings in recent months. Today I am thrilled to announce that the Board of Trustees of Billings Middle School has unanimously approved a joint purchase and sale with Seattle Jewish Community School, in which we will purchase their Northgate campus and, in turn, sell them our Green Lake campus. This unprecedented swap-sale affords both schools right-sized spaces for our communities, as well as long-term financial sustainability, through a partnership that only two schools in the Northwest Association of Independent Schools could navigate together.
Admittedly, this is not what we had been planning for so long. Three years ago, after copious research, the Board of Trustees and I started down a trail to a new school building in Green Lake. We engaged architects, construction firms, and a project manager. We undertook the most successful capital campaign in Billings’ history, raising over $4M for permanence. By last summer, we were ready to begin demolition, held up only by the City of Seattle’s permitting process, which dragged on...and on! And while we were waiting for our permits this fall, our lender decided that there were other projects that they’d rather support, leaving us to find new financing. But during this time of frustration, this opportunity presented itself, and we realized that ahead of us was a spectacular view. It just wasn’t the trail we thought we were on.
This acquisition is a HUGE win for the Billings community! Our new wooded, one-acre campus, located just three miles north of our current Green Lake location, is ideally suited to support our unique expeditionary program, while allowing us to grow our program in ways that our Green Lake campus, even as imagined, would not have allowed. In this well-maintained facility, we will find:
Our New Basecamp
Over 30,000 sq. ft. of academic spaces. Originally designed as a private high school, and 10,000 sq. ft larger than our Green Lake designs, our new campus is right-sized for growing teenage bodies
A full Gymnasium, as well as secured outdoor play spaces
An Arts wing, with dedicated visual art and music classrooms, and a well appointed stage, ready to host events ranging from the Shakespearean Poetry Slam, to the musical, and even graduation
A dedicated Design Lab
A fully equipped Science Lab!
Other exciting features, including large and flexible learning spaces, a full kitchen and an expansive parking lot, allow us to plan for future opportunities, including summer and afterschool programs, community partnerships, and even new options for lunch. This space will allow us to grow in size (if and when we are ready) without needing to build additional space. The location presents us with easy access to city green spaces, including Northacres Park, Thornton Creek Park, the Pinehurst Playfield and public transit, making the campus perfectly situated for our hallmark expeditionary and athletic programs. And all of this comes at a lower price point, and significantly lower risk, than the Green Lake construction.
Even with this exciting opportunity ahead of us, moving from Green Lake is bittersweet. Since 2001, Billings has been a part of Green Lake -- and Green Lake has been a part of Billings. We will miss the friendships and partnerships we have built in the neighborhood; we have made so many memories as we have grown through our own adolescence as a school here. We look forward, however, to forging those same bonds and relationships in our new neighborhood for many years to come, continuing to grow our community connections and creating new opportunities for our students to know what it means to be part of a bustling urban neighborhood.
This is a tremendous opportunity for Billings, securing our future, while honoring our past. We continue to have the support of alumni and current family donors, and are now grateful for a new partnership with Washington Federal to secure a smaller loan for this purchase and sale.
A move like this will take some time and planning. We will move into the new campus in December 2019, finishing the calendar year in the Vitamilk campus on 72nd Street, while Seattle Jewish Community School readies the Woodlawn building for their community. We will celebrate the New Year, and a new decade, in a new Billings campus!
We know you will have questions, and for that reason, we will host a Billings Parent Forum (no children, please) on Thursday, February 28, at 7:30pm at 7400 Woodlawn. Members of the Board of Trustees, the Finance Committee, Facilities Committee, and I will be on hand to share more about this process and to answer your questions.
We also want you to see the new campus and love it as much as we do! To that end we have scheduled an Open House (students invited as well!) for Monday, March 11, 6:30-8:00pm, at 12351 8th Ave NE.
This is such an exciting moment for Billings, and I’m so glad to share it with you. In the end, just as we expected, we have a new, beautiful campus, ideal for the unique nature of Billings’ academic program. It just isn’t the trail we thought we were on. It’s even better!
All the best,
Anne-Evan K. Williams, PhD
Head of School