Seattle Public Schools, 1862-2000: Kimball Elementary School

  • Posted 9/08/2013
  • Essay 10536
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This People's History of Captain George W. Kimball Elementary School is taken from Building for Learning: Seattle Public School Histories, 1862-2000 by Nile Thompson and Carolyn J. Marr. That book, published in 2002 by Seattle Public Schools, compiled profiles of all the public school buildings that had been used by the school district since its formation around 1862. The profiles from the book are being made available as People's Histories on courtesy of Seattle Public Schools. It should be noted that these essays are from 2000. Some of the buildings profiled are historic, some of recent vintage, and many no longer exist (new names and buildings not included in these profiles from 2000 have been added), but each plays or has played an important role in the education of Seattle's youth.

Captain George W. Kimball Elementary School

During World War I, when the shipbuilding industry was attracting an influx of new residents to Seattle, there was a perceived need for another school on Beacon Hill. In October 1918, the Seattle School Board decided to build an emergency building to relieve overcrowding at York School (see Muir). Robert Fulton School, which operated as an annex to Beacon Hill School, was one of five "Liberty Buildings" erected by the district (see Bagley).

A large 250-unit apartment house, which had been proposed for the neighborhood, was never built, and Fulton operated for just three academic years. The school varied in configuration, from two to four classes for grades 1-4 or 1-5, with a special education class included in the final two years.

The school closed in June 1922. For many years, the Seattle Parks Department leased the site for a playfield named for Judge Roland H. Denny, an early advocate of youth activities.

Starting in 1960, the site became home to Beacon Hill Annex, an all-portable school, with classrooms in eight portables. By 1961 there were 11 portable classrooms, a double portable serving as a lunchroom and auditorium, and a portable office.

By 1963, 300 students attended the Beacon Hill Annex and it was deemed large enough to be an independent school. It was time to select a proper name and, in 1964, the school was named after Captain George Kimball, the man who headed the Junior Safety Patrol in Seattle from 1928 to 1961. Captain Kimball received national recognition for his innovative work with school safety patrols.
In the late 1960s, plans began for the construction of a permanent building for Kimball, and the long-term lease to the parks department was cancelled in 1969. Because the new facility was not ready at the start of the 1970-71 school year, 225 students and eight teachers were temporarily housed at Beacon Hill. The new school was constructed with an "open concept" design.

Kimball was built with a limited number of classrooms, in anticipation that 5th and 6th graders would be moved into middle schools as part of the district's desegregation plan. When that plan didn't materialize, it was necessary to place Kimball's 5th and 6th grader classes in portables on the lower campus until June 1974. They moved from portable to portable for classes in different subjects. The kindergarten started in the new building but, because of the noise from traffic in the hallway going in and out of the office, asked to move into a portable.

Because of the rich multicultural makeup of the neighborhood, all annual events at Kimball were geared to an international theme. In September 1971, Kimball became the forerunner of the Voluntary Transfer Program when the parents of 20 pupils from Fauntleroy School decided they wanted their children to be exposed to Kimball's multicultural environment. These dedicated parents carpooled their children to and from school each day. The next year the program was expanded, with 28 West Seattle children coming to Kimball from Gatewood, Fauntleroy, Roxhill, Hughes, and Alki, and 10 minority students going from Kimball to Fauntleroy and Viewlands.

"Greg McNeil's Garden of Friendship" opened in the courtyard off the library in October 1971 in honor of a 4th grade student who died of sickle cell anemia the previous year.

Fittingly, Kimball became the second school in Seattle to receive the Seattle Police Department's Award of Excellence for their Safety Patrol in 1973 and has won the award many times since. For two consecutive years, fall 1973 to spring 1975, Kimball had the lowest absentee rate of any Seattle Public School.

In 1989, the school chartered a helicopter for a physics project. Students teamed up to design break-proof vessels for single eggs. Packing materials ranged from a water balloon to Jell-O and shoulder pads. The containers from each grade were wrapped in a net and released from nearly 300 feet over the asphalt playground to determine which designs passed the test.

In 1990, Kimball hosted a group of Russian students in conjunction with the Goodwill Games held in Seattle that summer. Eight Kimball students and three staff made a reciprocal visit that fall. Thereafter, an e-mail exchange was set up, so students could communicate with their Russian counterparts.

Kimball's librarian, Bill Towner, was selected as Washington Library Media Specialist of the Year for 1993. Towner was instrumental in building the school's multicultural media collection and also helped Kimball get chosen as the Washington State site for the Technology and Teaching Project.

An addition to the school building was completed in March 1998. Four new classrooms and an art/science and kiln room are included in the new section. Portables were removed from the grounds, and the kindergarten play area was enlarged. Today the student body, many of whom come from immigrant families, is 53 percent Asian American. Staff support activities aim to bring school and home environments closer together. The school newsletter is translated into other languages to promote communication.


Name: Robert Fulton School
Location: 24th Avenue S & Hanford
Building: 6-room wood "Liberty Building"
Architect: n.a.
Site: 2.56 acres
1918: Named on November 7
1919: Opened as annex to Beacon Hill
1922: Closed in June
by 1932: Building demolished
1946-69: Site leased to Seattle Parks Department

Name: Beacon Hill Annex
Location: 2320 S Horton Street
Building: Portables
Site: 2.56 acres
1960: Opened as annex to Beacon Hill in September
1964: Renamed Captain George W. Kimball on January 15
1971: Closed

Name: Captain George W. Kimball Elementary School
Location: 3200 23rd Avenue S
Building: 1-story brick
Architect: Durham, Anderson & Freed
Site: 4.9 acres
1971: Opened February 22
1998: Addition (Kubota Kato)

Captain George W. Kimball Elementary School In 2000
Elementary School Enrollment: 524
Address: 3200 23rd Avenue S
Nickname: Cougars
Configuration: K-5
Colors: Red, black & white


Nile Thompson and Carolyn J. Marr, Building for Learning: Seattle Public School Histories, 1862-2000 (Seattle: Seattle Public Schools, 2002).

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