Academic Building for High School Boys Opens at Annie Wright

More than 600 students, trustees, and community members filled the lawn in front of Annie Wright Schools this morning to usher in a new and exciting era for the 1884 landmark school — that for more than a century — has only taught high school level courses to girls.

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Upper School for Boys academic building grand opening celebration.
Photo by Lisa Patterson

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards formally opened the new 26,000-square-foot academic building that houses Annie Wright Schools’ Upper School for Boys program. The state-of-the-art building was recently completed thanks to five years of fundraising more than $25 million.

“The new building embodies the pioneering spirit of our founders, who believed that education was central to the future of our city and region,” said Head of Schools Christian G. Sullivan. “I was excited and impressed by the plans, but the reality of the new building far exceeded my expectations. I am thrilled by this student-centered space and can’t wait to see all the different ways our students will gain inspiration here.”

Adding an Upper School for Boys program made a lot of sense in terms of attracting students and retaining them, since the school teaches both girls and boys in preschool through eighth grade. Now boys can continue their paths with Annie Wright through graduation.

Carter Nelson started preschool at Annie Wright and will graduate with the first Upper School for Boys class next year. He told the crowd that he was happy he didn’t have to move to a school across town. He also added that during the building and design process, he and other students studied architecture and added their input about how they wanted the Upper School for Boys to be. The collaborative effort paid off.

Mayor Woodards applauded the adults for consulting with the students to create the best building possible — one that the students are invested in and will care about for generations to come.

“People always say that children are our future,” Woodards said, adding that she disagrees with that cliché. “Children, they are our present.” And if you ask, they never have a problem sharing their opinions and ideas, she added.

The Upper School for Boys isn’t a new concept for Annie Wright Schools. Founders Charles B. Wright and Bishop John Adams Paddock had opened a brother school to Annie Wright Seminary in 1886 nearby. But when The Great Depression of 1892 hit, many boys had to leave school to go to work and it shut down.

In 2017, Annie Wright Schools rented space downtown and began their Upper School for Boys once again after a 125-year pause – teaching 17 male ninth graders.

Since then the program has more than tripled in size, with students now in Grades 9, 10 and 11. Next year will be the first with students in all four grades, and the student population in the Upper School for Boys will eventually grow to 120, according to school officials.

Having a brand-new building to call their own on the campus is monumental. All the Upper level academics for girls and boys will remain separate. They will come together for social activities. Dorms for girls and boys also are on campus, with separate wings for each, and common spaces where they can mingle and study.

The new boys academic building is light, bright and modern with plenty of open spaces and quiet classrooms. There are university-level science labs, a large meeting hall, and more. As the students gave tours to the community their pride was evident. The building, that will also host community events, was designed by Mithun and built by Absher Construction Company.

Other projects on campus include the new nature place space for the younger children, and an additional gym and pool project that is expected to open in October.

Photo courtesy Annie Wright Schools

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is the editor in chief at South Sound magazine.
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