Customizing Learning Solutions for Diverse Student Needs

Skyline Elementary School

Tacoma Public Schools

Skyline Elementary School focuses on educating the whole child and employing the equalizing power of education to create opportunities for all students to be successful. The design of the new 45,145 SF building will empower students through inclusive learning environments that celebrate differences, contribute to placemaking, reinforce a strong Pacific Northwest identity, and support independent and efficient use by all children, staff, and families of all backgrounds, cultures, races, ages, and abilities.


45,145 sf


Tacoma, WA

Year Complete


  • Contractor

    Turner Construction

  • Associate Architect

    Ato Apiafi Architects

  • Landscape Architect

    Walker Macy

  • Structural Engineer

    PCS Structural Solutions

  • Civil Engineer

    AHBL, Inc.

  • MEP Engineer

    BCE Engineers

  • Acoustical & AV Engineer

    The Greenbusch Group, Inc.

  • Transportation Consulting

    Transpo Group

  • Accessibility

    Studio Pacifica

  • Kitchen Consultant

    Bargreen Ellingson

  • Athletic Fields Design

    D.A. Hogan & Associates

  • Sustainability Consultant


  • Photographer

    Christian Columbres

Site Context

Tacoma Public Schools strongly believes in its responsibility and ability to bolster the local economy and equitable community growth. Located in a neighborhood close to the Puget Sound and Tacoma Narrows Bridge, the project reinforces that ethic in its sensitivity to neighborhood context through a single-story arrangement with a modernized gable roof form.

The building is placed at the southeast corner of the sloped site to optimize its presence and visibility to the community, strengthen connections to transit and pedestrian access, and provide separate loops for bus and parent vehicles, supporting best safety practices and promoting the building entries. The form provides equitable access and opens to the north towards an existing community track, creating a strong connection to the surrounding neighborhood.

Informed by Strong Guiding Principles

Inclusion is at the figurative heart of the school; therapy and support spaces essential to supporting that sense of belonging are centrally located to be easily accessed by all. Sense of Place is expressed upon arrival to a welcoming entry and a clear view of administrative staff. Public resources and event gathering spaces such as the gym and library are highly visible and accessible at entries for maximum Impact to the CommunityWellbeing of all students is fostered by creating clusters with beneficial relationships within learning groups and clear identities, and with easy access to outdoor learning areas. Excellent site lines from the centrally-located administrative area provide for supervision and safety, while facilitating a sense of autonomy for students. Shared learning areas are provided between classrooms to foster collaboration and Flexibility to meet a variety of learning needs.

Building Design

The unique topography of the site informed the “U” shaped building that opens to the field and green spaces at the north of the site. Protected by three sides, the courtyard serves as outdoor learning space that facilitates a variety of activities, with quieter learning happening closer to the building and noisier or more dynamic activities taking place farther from classroom spaces. Entries at the east and west funnel students into the court for morning line-up or play, or to the cafeteria for rainy day line-up.

Quality of Materials

Interior character further enforces the northwest aesthetic through the use of sculptural ceilings, skylights, and wood accents throughout. A simple palette of durable materials creates a healthy and calming environment that advances student performance and reduces distractions. Color and graphics are integrated sparingly to allow the kids to bring the vibrancy and activity to the spaces.