Project Orca Playground (POP) is spearheading the redevelopment of Orca K-8’s school playground and playfield to include more opportunities for play, physical activity, outdoor learning, and community building for the school community and the surrounding neighborhoods.
The POP committee– in partnership with the Orca staff, faculty, and PTSA; the City of Seattle, and Seattle Public Schools– has been working since fall 2012 to realize this vision. The POP Committee has thus far successfully applied for and won two Department of Neighborhoods Small and Simple grants totaling $50,000. The first grant funded a robust community engagement process facilitated by a professional landscaping firm who worked with the school and surrounding public community to create a design that addresses the needs of all shareholders. The second grant is being used to prepare construction and bid documents for Phase 1 of the project.
Our efforts to improve the school and community public spaces have been met with tremendous enthusiasm and support the school and its neighbors. We have conducted an extensive community outreach effort, with the distribution of a survey that will help us identify school and neighborhood priorities related to the playground area. The majority of the 190 respondents indicated that they wanted to be involved in the project, either to donate volunteer time, money, or both. Three public meetings and an outreach event at the Columbia City Farmers Market during the development of the conceptual design engaged over 100 people in the planning effort.
We are fortunate to have retained Columbia City’s Johnson + Southerland firm as our project designers.
WHY THIS PROJECT MATTERS
While this project will occur on the Orca K-8 property, it is intended to benefit the greater community as much as the school community. Although the long term goal for the school is to build a new play area and outdoor entry area, the process of bringing our diverse community together is our first step, and a vital aspect of our overall plan.
The finished design addresses several pressing needs of the Orca school community, including a current entrance flow that is confusing and uninviting, a playground that does not currently fully address the needs of a very wide range of ages including preschool through middle school, and a unique medically fragile student population that is underserved by the current site configuration.
In addition, the new design aims to provide a park and recreation function to the surrounding community; the nearest park is ½ mile away. The new design will be available to provide walking paths, a re-surfaced field and updated play areas to the community. The entrance redesign will be more welcoming to the surrounding neighborhood as well as much more functional for the school community.