The T.T. Minor school building at 18th Avenue and Union Street has been closed for more than a year but with the start of a new school year, the Seattle Public Schools-owned building is about to re-open… as a private school.
Hamlin Robinson, a school for children with dyslexia and other language difficulties, will lease the building from the Seattle Public School District until 2017. T.T. Minor closed after the 2008-2009 school year during districtwide budget cuts. According to the lease, this year’s rent will cost $104,400 and will go directly to the school district.
“We avoid having an empty building that is a target for vandalism and having it deteriorate from non-use,” said public schools Teresa Wippel, explaining why the district feels the lease will be beneficial. “We will save money because we won’t be paying maintenance costs and we will receive rental income.”
Despite the financial and safety advantages to the seven year lease, some local parents were not satisfied with the decision and were concerned by the fact that the school charges tuition and might not reach children in the nearby Central District who might benefit from the school’s services. A commenter on the Central District News said:
It’s a bit sad that Seattle Public Schools couldn’t make a school that worked for the community, vs. decades of the worst school in the area. Instead the replacement is a school for the rich, like Giddens, Seattle Girl’s School, etc. It’s great, if you have the $$ to afford the tuition, which the great majority of neighborhood residents do not.
Hamlin Robinson spokesperson Rob Harahill said that the school is aware of the needs of the community around T.T. Minor and that it hopes to begin programs that will be beneficial to that community.
“We feel honored to be a tenant in this building, so part of our luck of being here is being involved in the greater community,” Harahill said.
Harahill said that the school is looking to aid students outside of the children who attend the school full time. They want to provide after-hours tutoring for students with language-related difficulties who cannot attend the school full time. The school has not yet decided whether the tutoring will be free but Harahill said the school’s main goal is that all students should have access to their programs, regardless of financial background. So, if there was a fee that went along with the tutoring, there would also be a scholarship program, Harahill said.
“[The space] is absolutely ideal,” Harahill said. “We have a core philosophy that great teaching can be done in any environment, but in this space we can do many things that we could never do before.”
This summer, the school got a $663,00 roof job that the district said was part of planned maintenance and was paid for out of the district budget. Beyond that, the only renovations made to the building were topical fixes like painting, carpeting and putting up artwork — including a mosaic mural — from the old school building.
Hamlin Robinson school officials plan to take advantage of the building’s architecture to accommodate some of the school’s more unique programs. The large room on the first floor, which has already been nicknamed “the learning center,” will be used for all-school activities (which happen more frequently at Hamlin Robinson than other k-8 schools) as well as community programs like after school tutoring and parent learning nights.
Faculty and students alike are ready to move into the building Sept. 8 despite the commute it will take to get to the Hill. Hamlin Robinson was previously located in South Seattle and some of the students commuted from as far as 50 miles away. The school has set up two bus routes to ease the travel burden.
Though the lease will last seven years, Seattle Public Schools officials still hope to reincorporate the T.T. Minor building into the public school system sometime in the future.
“We set the term of the lease so that at the end we will have the option to reopen the building as a school,” Wippel said. “There is no certainty to this, but we want to preserve that option.”