Seattle Public Schools, 1862-2000: Horace Mann School

  • Posted 9/09/2013
  • Essay 10553
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This People's History of Horace Mann School is taken from Building for Learning: Seattle Public School Histories, 1862-2000 by Nile Thompson and Carolyn J. Marr. That book, published in 2002 by Seattle Public Schools, compiled profiles of all the public school buildings that had been used by the school district since its formation around 1862. The profiles from the book are being made available as People's Histories on courtesy of Seattle Public Schools. It should be noted that these essays are from 2000. Some of the buildings profiled are historic, some of recent vintage, and many no longer exist (new names and buildings not included in these profiles from 2000 have been added), but each plays or has played an important role in the education of Seattle's youth.

Horace Mann School

In September 1901, Walla Walla Annex, thus named because it was in the Walla Walla real estate division, opened in a rented store building at 21st Avenue and E James Street. It housed 174 students in grades 1-3 for a little over one year in order to alleviate overcrowding at T.T. Minor School.

A permanent Walla Walla School was a Colonial Revival structure, based on the "model school" plan developed by James Stephen. The design included an addition to the north side of the school, but this plan was never realized. The school resembled Green Lake School built a year earlier.

In 1921, the Seattle School Board renamed the school Horace Mann, after the "Father of Free Schools." Mann was a lifelong proponent of universal public education, which he felt was essential for democracy.

Kindergarten was added in 1931. From 1926 to 1938, Horace Mann School operated with a platoon system for children in grades 5-8 in which they spent about half of each day in a homeroom and then attended other classes elsewhere in the building. September 1938 saw the relocation of the 7th and 8th grades to an 8th grade center at Washington School.

The April 1949 earthquake weakened a chimney, and the school was closed for a week. That June, Dio Richardson retired after serving as principal for 30 years. A harmonica player since his childhood in Arkansas, Richardson organized and led a harmonica band at Mann from 1924 until his retirement, except during World War II when harmonicas were not manufactured.

Enrollment peaked in 1957-58 with 596 students. By 1965-66, it was down to 252 and the school was closed at the end of the 1967-68 school year.

During 1970-71, the building was used as extra space for Garfield High School projects and offices. From 1970-75, the building also housed the Extended Services Program (ESP), an alternative program for grades 9-12 developed by the Central Area community and the district. It provided more individualized instruction and attention than was possible in the regular school setting. Additionally, it gave students who had dropped out or who had been suspended a chance to continue their education. In 1975, ESP became GAP (the Garfield Alternative Program). That September, an alternative high school called Nova joined GAP at Mann. Summit K-12 was at Mann from fall 1977 through spring 1979, when it moved to Colman.

Nova was founded in 1970 and had been housed in rented space at the downtown YMCA. Nova students earned all credits by fulfilling contracts, which they wrote themselves. Much of the learning was carried on outside of the classrooms and attendance was not required.

Today Nova Alternative High School continues to operate in the Mann building. Its goal is to be a democratically-governed learning community of broadly educated, creative, and independent thinkers who work collaboratively and demonstrate a high degree of individual and social responsibility. The academic program includes interdisciplinary curriculum, team teaching, and small group/individualized study. Nova offers language and culture immersion classes in French, Russian, and Spanish; literature, writing and poetry; and advanced mathematics and science. Environmental education and integrated classes in social studies and the arts are also included. Principal Elaine Packard has been with the school for 30 years.


Name: Walla Walla School
Location: 2410 E Cherry
Building: 12-room frame
Architect: Saunders & Lawton
Site: 1.76 acres
1902: Opened on November 2 or 3
1921: Renamed Horace Mann School
1968: Closed as an elementary school
1969-70: Called Garfield Music Annex
1970 -: Alternative program site

Nova Alternative High School @ Mann in 2000
Enrollment: 239
Address: 2410 E Cherry
Nickname: none
Configuration: 9-12
Colors: none
Newspaper: unnamed
Yearbook: The Nova Snail


Nile Thompson and Carolyn J. Marr, Building for Learning: Seattle Public School Histories, 1862-2000 (Seattle: Seattle Public Schools, 2002).

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