Arlington Elementary School

Tacoma Public Schools

Like many districts across the country, Tacoma Public Schools has experienced declining graduation rates, hitting a low in 2010 at 55 percent matriculation. The district recognized that to accept the challenge for their schools to be an agent for serious change, work must happen that touches on deeper levels by rethinking the concept of school itself, empowering community partners and establishing a positive culture.

Arlington is a case study of what can happen in school design when you explore the spatial possibilities that emerge when a community sets out to totally rethink the basic assumptions behind traditional elementary schools in order to build a culture that wraps around kids. This culture allows them to learn all day, every day, and throughout the year in environments where learners are continuously challenged, relentlessly supported, and engaged in a way that is both safe and healthy. To understand the context of this community in need, the team embraced a collaborative, immersive approach with broad user engagement. By drawing on individual strengths of all participants, the community of practice surrounding the Arlington Elementary School project has kindled innovation from initiation into completion.

AIA Institute Honor Award for Architecture (2019) | AIA SWW Honor Award (2019) | AIA NWPR Award of Merit (2019) | AIA Seattle Honor Awards for Washington Architecture, Award of Honor (2018) | A4LE LESolutions Planning & Design Awards, New Learning Environment (2018) | AIA Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE), Award of Merit (2018) | A4LE Pacific Northwest Region Chapter, Pinnacle Award (2018) | A4LE Washington State Chapter, Polished Apple Award (2018) | A4LE Pacific Northwest Chapter, People’s Choice Award (2018)

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“Arlington really reimagined how we see the school space and the context of a community. And as an equity trainer I talk all the time that school happens in context. School doesn’t happen independent of a community. I think Arlington really imagines that in a powerful way.”

― Erin Jones, Juror, A4LE Washington State Chapter Awards