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Originally published September 4, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 4, 2007 at 7:46 PM

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Cleveland High remodeled in a new light

Interstate 5 cut off the original Cleveland High School entrance from the Georgetown neighborhood it was built to serve. From then on, people...

Seattle Times education reporter

Cleveland High School events

Dedication: Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, School Board President Cheryl Chow and current and former students will attend a ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony at 9 a.m. today at the school, 5511 15th Ave. S.

All-School Reunion and Open House: A Sept. 22 event will start at 10 a.m. with a reception for "Golden Grads" — those who graduated before 1958. Starting at 10:30 a.m., graduates from 1950 through the 1970s can meet at the school. At noon, there will be welcoming ceremonies in the gym and at 1 p.m., graduates from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s can meet at the school. On Sept. 23, there will be a 9 a.m. pancake breakfast, followed by self-guided tours of the school.

Interstate 5 cut off the original Cleveland High School entrance from the Georgetown neighborhood it was built to serve. From then on, people had to approach the building's plain brick back.

The old building was too small and in disrepair. It was "dark, gloomy, dungeonesque," said the school's current interim principal, Wayne Floyd.

Now, the first thing visitors will notice at the newly expanded and remodeled Cleveland is the abundance of natural light. Huge floor-to-ceiling windows flank the shiny new science classrooms, light streams through old-fashioned windows into a high-ceilinged gymnasium-turned-band-room. Skylights give a sitting area outside the new third-floor library an airy feeling.

"We've found that it is so important to student learning, to have that exterior light," said Eleanor Trainor, a community liaison for capital projects at the school district, which begins its school year Wednesday.

From the outside, the new campus is more hospitable, with courtyards facing its current neighborhood on the southwest slope of Beacon Hill, and common areas spread throughout. The project, part of a capital levy Seattle voters approved in 2001, cost $68 million.

"I liked the way that the buildings will be configured to allow more interaction between students," said City Councilman David Della, who graduated from Cleveland in 1973. "Before, Cleveland had a lot of walls in it."

About 100 workers were scheduled to work through the holiday weekend to prepare the new building for classes that start Wednesday. Teachers attending training sessions and moving into their classrooms last week had to step around power tools and buckets of touch-up paint late as everyone worked to ready the building.

The auditorium will not be complete until October. Cleveland students have been at the old Boren school building in Delridge, in West Seattle, for the past two years. About 600 students are enrolled, but the new building will hold 1,000.

Construction at Cleveland was behind schedule before it even started because bids came in higher than expected.

Six months of negotiation reached an agreement with the contractor, but that gave workers 18 months to finish the school instead of the planned 24. Then construction workers discovered that the project sits atop a huge, uneven rock likely from lava flows left by Mount Rainier. The historic building lent other issues to the project, as well. Construction on the auditorium had to be halted when workers discovered that the ceiling was made of a giant, asbestos-laden horsehair blanket.

"If this were a commercial project, we'd say, 'We're opening three months late,' " Trainor said. "We don't have that luxury."

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or eheffter@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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