Early look at proposed high school downtown

A proposed private high school in downtown Winslow received mixed reaction at a public participation meeting of the Bainbridge Island Planning Commission last week.

The purpose of the meeting was to give the public an early look at Hyla High School before a formal application has been filed.

Senior city planner Kelly Tayara explained that Hyla has had a middle school locally for 29 years for students in grades six to eight, but wants to start a high school for grades nine to 12 at property on Ericksen Avenue, just north of the Bainbridge Historical Museum. Tayara said an educational facility is already a permitted use at the site.

Eventually, Hyla hopes to have 160 students there, but that would take five to 10 years, architect Charles Wenzlau said. The property has four buildings and is being remodeled at about a rate of one a year. Therefore, the facility will only have one class per year. High schoolers would temporarily be at IslandWood but would transfer to the Erickson campus when their grade-level building is finished.

Wenzlau said in meeting with neighbors he already knows some of their concerns: traffic, light glare, fumes… “We want to dive into the issues people have” so we can figure out how to best address them, he said. “People have questions, and that really is the focus of tonight.”

Public comments

Ryan Daniel was concerned about vehicle emissions as Ericksen cottages would be just 5-10 feet from the area where students would be picked up and dropped off. He was also concerned about noise from 160 kids.

Gerri Harrington said traffic is already a problem on Ericksen.

Another caller was upset because it looked like the project already was a done deal because it’s on Hyla’s website. Another said high schoolers like to drive so it’s hard to believe they would use other types of transit. Yet another said cars idling outside next to her bedroom would not be healthy at all.

There were also callers who were more positive about the school possibility.

Piper Thornburgh said she has lived on Erickson for 20 years, but she has a child who goes to Hyla and thinks the school would have less impact on the neighborhood than the current tenants, a construction company. “It would add to the vibrancy of the neighborhood. They would be respectful of the culture.” She also said it’s the perfect spot for a school because public transit is nearby. And such as facility obviously was envisioned there because it’s a permitted use.

Jim Hopper said his middle schooler goes to Hyla, he owns a business on nearby Madison Avenue, and he’s excited because Hyla incorporates the community in its programs. “I’ve watched my kids become more a part of the community,” he said. “It will benefit the downtown core and the broader community as well.”


Anticipating possible problems, Wenzlau said, regarding lighting, that the high school is a daytime educational experience from 8:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.

There are 40 parking stalls, but Hyla actually wants to remove some and have students park off-site if they drive to school. Instead, they plan a multi-prong approach to include: walking, bicycling, public transit, the school’s private shuttle, carpooling, etc. After listening to public comments, Wenzlau said the one-way loop to keep backups from forming on Ericksen could be switched to the opposite direction to keep idling fumes from people’s homes.

Planning Commissioner Ashley Mathews said she lives by Hyla Middle School and has been impressed with its traffic flow. “I wonder how they do it,” she said. “However they do it there I hope they have the same ability downtown.”

Commissioner Lisa Macchio said Ericksen already has traffic woes, but she thinks this could work if people think outside the box. “It’s going to be a disaster for our community” if solutions aren’t found. But she urges the “community to hang in there and be patient.”

Because there was a problem with mailing notification of the meeting another one is planned, possibly March 24, before the planning commission.

Middle school students would be able to continue their private schooling through high school.

Middle school students would be able to continue their private schooling through high school.