Northwest NEWS

May 20, 2002


Together we can find the right way to honor the past and serve present and future generations

This letter is in response to Lucy DeYoung's thoughtful letter to the editor regarding the importance of the historic red brick schoolhouse on NE 175th Street in downtown Woodinville. Her letter supported the preservation of the Old School House as a symbol of the community and a link from past to present. This very theme is one that has been consistent throughout the life of our young city. The Old School House is featured prominently in the future development plans for the Civic Campus which also includes the new Woodinville City Hall, the former C.O. Sorenson Elementary School (now Woodinville Community Center) and the sports fields.
   The adopted Civic Center Master Plan for the site indicates that the city has every intention of retaining the building for future generations. Its stature and presence on Northeast 175th Street will remain. Current work on the Downtown Plan for Woodinville echoes those sentiments by showing the building in draft plans.
   All this being said, the question of when, how and for what purpose the Old Woodinville School will be retained is still undecided. History tells us that buildings need to be alive and functional to shine and the Old School House has served us well as a school, a City Hall, and then as a temporary Community Center, until recently being damaged and deemed unsafe due to the Nisqually earthquake in February 2001.The recent vacation of the Old School House gives us an opportunity to explore the extent and purpose of future renovation.
   During the course of the planning for the next phase of the Civic Center, the question of the future role of the Old School House will be front and center. Will it have rentals for offices, classrooms for recreation, office spaces for non-profit organizations, a small museum, a children's library, computer stations for after school programs, community gathering spaces for seniors? How will it be restored, maintained and operated? These are just some of the issues that lie ahead, and many of the solutions involve investments that may require grants, partnerships and possibly even private funds in addition to city funds.
   The entire range of options has not yet been identified, and the funding and phasing need to be placed in the context of many other public objectives already identified in the Civic Center Master Plan. These include creating more parking for the fields and Wilmot Gateway Park, purchasing the remaining parcels along the north and east sides of the Civic Campus, and determining the future of the aging Sorenson pool.
   If we can discover the unique role that the Old School House will have in meeting future community needs, this building can become the lightning rod for the community spirit that your letter describes. We need to preserve the passion for the building and create a practical blueprint for long-term community use.
   The Parks and Recreation Commission invites you and anyone else interested in the future of the buildings on the civic campus to attend the joint meeting of the City Council and the Parks and Recreation Commission on the subject of the Civic Center Master Plan Phase II. This kick-off meeting will offer the first chance to launch a discussion of the Old School House and its future use. The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on June 3 at the Woodinville City Hall at 17301 133rd Avenue NE. Together we can find the right way to honor the past and serve present and future generations.
   Liz Aspen, Chairman, Woodinville Parks and Recreation Commission, 483-8528