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Originally published March 26, 2013 at 8:15 PM | Page modified March 27, 2013 at 8:10 AM

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Feeling snubbed by Seattle Public Schools, Rainier Beach High to go green

With no help from Seattle Public Schools coming anytime soon, community groups in Seattle’s Rainier Beach neighborhood are launching an ambitious effort to renovate the area’s high school.

Seattle Times education reporter

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"Going Green" costs money, reconstruction money. Let's see what they can... MORE
Many years ago, I taught at Rainier Beach High School. The school had many difficulties... MORE
I'm sorry, but they want what? The "greenest high school in the state?" ... MORE

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Community groups in Seattle’s Rainier Beach neighborhood are banding together in an ambitious effort to renovate Rainier Beach High into the greenest high school in the state.

They don’t yet know how much that might cost, and they have yet to hold their first fundraiser, but they are committed to creating an innovative building that they say would complement Rainier Beach’s innovative programs.

The community’s aspirations were announced Tuesday at a news conference where Mayor Mike McGinn and Denis Hayes, president of the Bullitt Foundation, expressed their support, albeit not the financial kind.

The Bullitt Foundation doesn’t fund capital projects, Hayes said, but it helped the Rainier Beach community benefit from what the foundation learned in building the Bullitt Center, which may be the world’s greenest office building.

Rainier Beach High also won’t get any help from Seattle Public Schools in the near future. The school did not make the list of projects on the construction levy that Seattle voters passed in February, a fact that upset Rainier Beach students so much that they staged a walkout.

“We deserve better than what we’ve gotten from the school district so far,” said Brett Leslie, one of the walkout’s organizers.

At the news conference, Assistant Superintendent Pegi McEvoy said the district can’t afford all the renovation projects it would like to do but said Rainier Beach has received about $28 million in capital improvements since 1998, although it has not received a full renovation, as most other high schools have.

So the community is going forward on its own.

“We teach our kids all the time: Believe in yourself; believe in the things that you do,” said School Board member Betty Patu, who worked at Rainier Beach High for years before she retired.

Among the participating organizations are the Rainier Beach High PTSA, the Rainier Beach Foundation and the Rainier Beach Empowerment Coalition.

The first fundraiser is scheduled for May 11 at the Sho­Ware Center in Kent, where some of the nation’s best high-school basketball players are expected to participate in a West Coast all-star game. Current NBA players who graduated from Rainier Beach High also are expected to attend.

The school will hear within days whether it will receive authorization to start an International Baccalaureate (IB) program next fall, which would make it the third Seattle public school to join an international network of IB schools. Rainier Beach also has new career-and-technical programs, including one in which Microsoft engineers teach computer science with classroom teachers.

Linda Shaw: 206-464-2359 or lshaw@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @LShawST

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