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Des Moines Elementary School

Highline Public Schools

Built on the former Zenith Park site, the new elementary utilizes a split-level design that incorporates the sloping terrain. Classroom wings are organized into six small learning communities. Each community has a distinct entry providing access to individual learning communities.

The school provides a variety of engaging teaching and learning environments. Classrooms are spacious and flexible to quickly adapt to the task at hand. Whether collaborative school work or independent study, this flexibility accommodates different learning styles and provides a richer experience for both teacher and student. In the bright, open corridors, students can comfortably stretch out in a nook to read, hang out on one of the benches to connect with their peers, or occupy the more structured shared learning areas equipped with wireless high-speed technology. At the heart of the school is the bright, colorful, and engaging library, providing a child-friendly atmosphere where students receive group instruction, study or read independently, and connect to online and media resources. Sustainable features in and around campus become teachable moments, inspiring students to become lifelong stewards of the environment.

The design strives to encourage a culture of belonging through colorful, playful, and intuitive wayfinding signage and navigation throughout the school. To help develop an engaging, fun, and kid-friendly navigation system, the design team looked to the community and the proud history of Des Moines for insight. Many themes emerged—from which HOA drew on the abundant native bird and marine life, choosing images of local wildlife that children would best relate to including native salmon, marine mammals, and birds. Students are greeted at the entrance to each corridor with vibrant color coded circular floor graphics and whimsical salmon. Carved into wood paneling are large, engaging marine mammals and birds to help students navigate and understand their relationship to other familiar nearby features—helping them comfortably connect to their environment.

“It felt like the priority was the functionality of the building. The overall flow and abundance of natural lighting is wonderful.”
- Karen Smith, Teacher-Librarian, Des Moines Elementary School



Highline Public Schools
Project Type:
New Construction
85,786 sf
August 2019

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