Birney Elementary School Replacement


News & updates

Goals for Birney design

The Birney Elementary School replacement project reflects the Design Advisory Committee’s goals of a creating a building that’s inclusive, engaging, healthy and exploratory. Teachers, administrators and parents served on that committee.

The design, created by McGranahan Architects, incorporates these key characteristics the committee chose for the project.

​Birney Elementary School completes schematic design

The Birney Elementary School Replacement Project has reached the schematic design stage where McGranahan Architects have put forth design concepts from their work with the Birney Design Advisory Committee (a team of Birney teachers, administrators and parents). This design incorporates key characteristics the committee chose for the project.


  • Social/emotional - A diversity of space types to inspire and to meet the variety of needs and experiences that occur every day.
  • Multicultural - Reflective and inclusive of a diversity of cultures including the deaf and hard-of-hearing culture.


  • Students - Cultivate a sense of ownership and independence through an abundance of opportunities in the core learning areas and throughout the school to move, play, make, perform and discover.
  • Families - Cafe-like area for parents with access to resources, classes, socializing with other parents, and meeting with teachers.
  • Staff - Flexibility for different teaching styles along with areas for collaboration and well-being.
  • Partnerships - A visible place to foster community connections through events and resource info.


  • Movement - An awesome playground, natural play areas and indoor or covered fitness/play opportunities.
  • Nutrition - Make health eating fun for kids by connecting the Kitchen + Garden + Food Lab.
  • Environment - Living Building Challenge equivalent for material selections and air/water quality.
  • Stewardship - A holistic approach to resource use.


  • Discover nature - Easy and usable outdoor learning areas with pathways and landscape learning zones.
  • Engage the senses - Makerspaces with areas for science, art and experimentation.
  • Spark curiosity - Views into areas of the building that offer learning opportunities but are normally hidden.

Next step: Design development

This is where the architect and project manager will work closely with Birney teachers and other TPS departments and stakeholders to refine the design and ensure the eventual finalized design meets the real-life needs of the community. This phase also includes integrating the design of mechanical, electrical and structural systems with the whole project. Design development typically takes about 4 months.

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About the project

Birney Elementary is home to three Deaf and Hard of Hearing Programs for preschool through fifth grade. Birney also offers a special education program and HeadStart preschool. Birney currently serves approximately 470 students in Tacoma's South End. The current building was built in 1962, with the addition of a gymnasium and resource room in 1972.

Students might remain on site during construction, depending on where the new building ends up being located. If needed, the school may be temporarily housed at one of the district's transition sites. Bus transportation will be provided if that happens.

Student capacity: 450-500 students
Projected budget: $30 million   
Architect: McGranahan Architects  
Design: September 2016 - March 2018  
Contractor: TBD (selection expected in spring 2018)
Construction: June 2018 - August 2019 
Expected opening: Fall 2019

This project is funded by the $500 million school construction bond voters passed in 2013.

Environmental Review

We are pleased to report that progress is being made on the construction of the new Birney Elementary School.


We have entered into the environmental review portion of the process and have issued a Determination of Non-Significance for this project, which means that this proposal will not have significant adverse impact on the environment. 


The State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) process is a state requirement intended to ensure state and local agencies consider the likely environmental consequences of a proposed project before the project begins. The City of Tacoma also requires submittal of SEPA materials as part of the building and site development permit review. 

These documents are available for public and agency review:


Determination of Non-Significance

SEPA checklist


If you wish to appeal this determination, please submit a written statement requesting an appeal, specifying (a) the determination being appealed; (b) the errors complained of; (c) the corrective action being sought (d) the reasons why the determination should be changed; and (e) whether further oral or written comment or a hearing is requested to or send written comments to Morris Aldridge, Executive Director of Planning and Construction, 3223 S. Union Ave., Tacoma, WA 98409 by 4 p.m., Dec. 14, 2017.