Lakeside Expansion on Hold


The newly installed window in Kent-Evans, casting a soft, natural light over the overwise dark auditorium.

Rumors of a myriad of campus changes have been floating around Lakeside for years – everything ranging from a new building, to a new field, to even a new campus. Lakeside’s last major addition was the Paul G. Allen Athletics Center in 2014, and since then students have given plenty of reasons for new spaces, from the small, cramped classrooms of Moore Hall to the over-packed lunchroom of the WCC.

Yet nothing seems to have materialized yet, making it hard to figure out exactly which rumors are true. According to Birage Tandon, assistant head of school, none are, although many are rooted in truth. In 2016, Lakeside hired an architect to reexamine both the Middle and Upper School campuses. They looked at the land, examined how Lakesiders used spaces, held focus groups, and came up with a long-term “master plan.” However, says Ms. Tandon, the master plan “made a lot of assumptions about the size of the school.” Until recently, Lakeside had planned on expanding the size of the upper school, adding upwards of 200 students to fill out the new buildings. “There’s a lot of demand for a great education like Lakeside. We wanted to be able to provide it to more families and more students,” Ms. Tandon says. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit, and since then there has been growing uncertainty. Lakeside’s increased class sizes were based on projections of the City of Seattle’s growth, with more jobs leading to more residents and potential students. However, Zoom and Teams have altered the need for people to live near their work, making it hard to predict the feasibility of expanding the school in the long run. With this uncertainty, Lakeside decided to put the master plan on hold. 

When asked about student concerns surrounding Moore Hall, Ms. Tandon laughs: ‘Oh, we are acutely aware.’

Another reason for putting a pause on campus expansion? “We’re in the middle of a head transition,” Ms. Tandon remarks, and it would be unfair for Mr. Bynum to start in the middle of costly and permanent campus changes. “We’ll probably wait for him to arrive before we make any decisions.”

Even though it has been delayed by the pandemic, Lakeside’s vision for the future had originally entailed a sweeping set of changes. Back in 2016, it laid out plans to add a new building on the softball field and to rebuild the middle school gym. The proposed building, located where the portables now stand, would have contained around 20 academic classrooms to accommodate the planned addition of 200 students. 

The plan also explored tearing down Moore Hall and St. Nicks to build a major performing arts center and academic building. However, “that was a very prohibitively expensive option,” Ms. Tandon says, its price tag estimated at over 100 million dollars. “The board didn’t think it was good stewardship of our resources.” 

Coming back to the present, the fate of portables is one of the main questions on Lakeside‘s campus. Added last year to help the school meet the CDC’s six feet social distancing guidelines, the portables are actually on loan from an outside company. “We are going to keep the portables,” Ms. Tandon says, “since we don’t want to cancel our lease in case there is another spike and the CDC guidelines go back to six feet distancing. They are going to stay but they’re not going to stay forever, and sooner or later this pandemic will be over.”

The plan also explored tearing down Moore Hall and St. Nicks to build a major performing arts center and academic building. However, “that was a very prohibitively expensive option,” Ms. Tandon says, its price tag estimated at over 100 million dollars.

Along those lines, the most common gripe among Lakeside students is Moore Hall, the eighty-year-old building occupied by the English department. When asked about student concerns surrounding Moore, Ms. Tandon laughs: “Oh, we are acutely aware.” Given Moore’s age, as well as the ever-volatile Seattle weather, Lakeside recognizes the need to make updates to the campus fixture. “We saw in the pandemic we were only using one classroom in Moore because the others were just not suited to it,” Ms. Tandon says. “It’s an eighty-year-old building that’s not the most popular to learn in or teach in.” And while nothing concrete is in motion right now, updating Moore is an issue that will be addressed sooner rather than later.

Ms. Tandon also notes that not all campus changes have to be major, and many go unobserved. In the last few years, Lakeside has updated the auditoriums in St. Nick’s and Allen-Gates, fixing carpeting, chairs, and audio, as well as a new window in the case of Kent-Evans. For those in the arts program, McKay Chapel has recently gotten a facelift, and in every building on campus besides the relatively new athletics center, Lakeside has slowly replaced the lighting with new energy-efficient light bulbs. Even without any 100-million-dollar changes, small improvements like these are a helpful reminder that Lakeside is still under construction.