The Kent School District received a conditional use permit from the city of Kent to build a new two-story school at the former Panther Lake Elementary School site.
The approximately 58,085-square-foot building at the southwest corner of 108th Avenue Southeast and Southeast 208th Street will house Kent Phoenix Academy and Kent Mountain View Academy, the district’s choice schools. The new building is expected to open in fall 2021.
Crews demolished the former Panther Lake School earlier in 2019 and the land is ready to be built on once the district acquires the permits. Construction costs are estimated at $18 million, according to district officials.
City Hearing Examiner Andrew Reeves approved the conditional use permit in early December. Nobody opposed the land use change.
Kent Mountain View Academy has about 273 students in grades 3 through 12. Kent Phoenix Academy has about 288 high school students. The two schools share space at 11000 SE 264th Street, the former Sequoia Middle School.
“The proposal would provide superior facilities for the existing schools and allow the district the flexibility to better utilize the former school sites based upon its needs,” according to city hearing examiner documents.
Because students will attend the new school in shifts, no more than 425 students are expected to be attending the school at any one time. The former Panther Lake school had 536 students before it closed, so the district doesn’t expect greater impacts on the property or vicinity than previously occurred.
The district closed and demolished in 2019 the former Kent Mountain View Academy site at 22420 Military Road S., to make room for a new elementary school scheduled to open in fall 2021 and be built for an estimated $40 million.
Voters approved a $252 million bond in 2016 for 120 proposed projects. That list included a new elementary school for the Valley and the new Covington Elementary School that opened in 2018 at 25811 156th Ave. SE.
Voters also approved funds for 20 new classrooms at sites that were not yet determined in an effort to reduce overcrowding. Those funds will be used to pay for the Panther Lake project.
The former Panther Lake school closed in 2009 when the district opened a new Panther Lake Elementary School at 10200 SE 216th St. District officials had hoped to sell the property to help pay for other capital projects. After a potential sale to a developer fell through, the district in August 2017 took the former Panther Lake school property off the market.
The proposal for the new school would provide upgrades and improvements to the vehicular and pedestrian circulation both on site and off site. A long, curbside passenger drop-off area would be provided on site at the front of the school to prevent congestion and backups on Southeast 208th Street. The amount of on-site parking will be increased and reduce the need for off-site street parking that would impact the adjacent neighborhood, according to city documents.
The existing access point from South 208th Street (at the intersection with 105th Place SE) would be maintained, and a secondary, emergency-vehicle only access point will be added on Southeast 208th Street. The access to 108th Avenue Southeast would be removed. An existing traffic signal at the intersection of SE 208th and 108th Avenue SE was recently upgraded by the city and no modifications to the intersection are required, according to the hearing examiner.
Another traffic lane will be added on SE 208th Street and a review of the lane addition and traffic signal changes to the existing entrance at SE 208th and 105th Place SE would be reviewed during civil construction permitting.
City Planning Manager Erin George testified before the hearing examiner that the city determined that although there is generally a 25-foot height limit for structures in the mixed use zoning overlay district, a maximum height of 40 feet is allowed in the underlying commercial zoning district. The height of the new two-story building will be 34 feet.
The property has a long history with school districts. Isaac Parmenter owned the property in 1906 when he deeded an acre of it to the Panther Lake School District, which later merged with the Kent School District. A new school was built in 1946 and the 10 acres served as the site of the elementary school until 2009.
A condition of the deed was that the land was only to be used for a school. When the old school building was vacated, district officials negotiated with the 44 identified heirs of Isaac Parmenter to pay them a total of $445,000 in 2014 so the district could try to sell the property. The agreement also included naming the gym at the new Panther Lake Elementary School the Isaac and Nellie Parmenter Gymnasium.