New elementary relieves overcrowding in Bellevue

Wilburton Elementary partners with Microsoft’s Flagship School initiative.

Bellevue elementary schools are beginning to feel relief from overcrowding since the opening of Wilburton Elementary.

Wilburton Elementary, named after the Bellevue community it resides in, opened its doors this fall.

Located at the corner of Main Street and 124th Avenue Northeast, the new Wilburton Elementary School houses about 650 students, preschool through fifth grade. It draws students from throughout the downtown and Wilburton areas, relieving overcrowding at Enatai, Woodridge and Clyde Hill elementary schools.

The school was built as part of the 2014 bond measure. It is the first school in the Bellevue School District to be built from the “ground up” since the 1970s.

The 82,000-square-foot facility, designed by BLRB Architects and built by Edifice Construction, takes advantage of the natural slope on the property, maximizes natural light in classrooms and provides additional open learning spaces for small group instruction.

The school also has a playground, an all-weather field and a 41-car drop-off/pick-up line to minimize the impact on surface streets.

Beth Hamilton, the school’s principal, has been on the ground floor in planning and preparing the school since the project was first approved.

She’s served 17 years in BSD and was the principal at Medina Elementary for the past five years. She said she is excited to be the principal for Wilburton because there aren’t many opportunities in education to “build something from the ground up.”

“The opportunity to be able to start from scratch is a dream because you just don’t get to do that,” Hamilton said.

Unlike other principals, Hamilton said she is able to establish new values and traditions for the school and not have to try to conform to previously established customs.

Part of Wilburton’s vision is to support and educate students to be “creators of their world.” For Hamilton, creating a relevant, adaptive and rigorous experience for all students is important to achieving that goal.

“We’re making sure we’re attending to each student as an individual and meeting their needs — whether that’s social emotionally, academically — and really pushing beyond the four walls of the classroom,” she said.

One way Wilburton is going beyond the walls of the classroom is partnering with Microsoft’s Flagship School initiative. The initiative works to collaborate with new schools to help design and provide the best educational technology.

Hamilton describes the school’s relationship with Microsoft as “thought partners.”

“[The school] was built just like any other school in the district, but we have been close thought partners with Microsoft intentionally because they have resources and expertise about education around the world, and we’re in their backyard,” she said.

Educating students is not a competition, according to Hamilton, and she said she hopes the partnership can offer benefits to other students worldwide.

“I’m not trying to be better than anyone else because our kids across the world deserve the best education, and if we can provide a partnership that can share the good things that are going on to help the rest of the world’s kids, that’s the dream,” she said.

Hamilton said it’s been “so special to build a community, build a staff and our work around equity and inclusion.”

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