History of McDonald International School

F.A. McDonald – the History behind McDonald International School

In 1910 Judge F.A. McDonald was elected president of the Seattle School Board and became a member of the committee that selected the site for a new school to be built between Green Lake and Latona. In July 1913, McDonald died, and school board members decided to name the new school after him. Four of McDonald’s grandchildren would later attend the school.

photo of McDonald School 1925
McDonald School 1925

McDonald School opened with three classes midway through the 1914-15 school year. The next fall it expanded to five classes for grades 1-4. Emma D. Larrabee was named principal in 1916 and remained in that position until her death in 1940.

School enrollment expanded and as many as 17 portables were utilized. In 1920-21, when it became a K-8 school, McDonald housed 673 students in 20 classes. In 1923, a new addition opened with 12 classrooms. Peak enrollment was in 1926-27 with 902 students. The following January the 7th and 8th grades moved to Hamilton Intermediate School. Enrollment dropped to 453 in 1945-46. It rose again to 750 in 1958-59 but fell once more with the construction of Interstate 5 to the east, which opened in 1967, eliminating much of McDonald’s service area. Enrollment dropped and stabilized for a while at around 600.

photo of McDonald 1960
F.A. McDonald School 1960

Enrollment then dropped again to 363 in 1973-74. McDonald became a K-5 school when 6th graders were moved to Hamilton Middle School. Part of the resulting extra classroom space was used for four classes of special education students.

In its final year as a regular elementary school, 1980-81, McDonald had an enrollment of only 166 students in grades K, 3-5. That February it was put on the district’s “nonessential” list, meaning that it was available for long-term lease or purchase. The building was leased to the Institute for Intercultural Learning and the John Bastyr College of Naturopathic Medicine in 1984.

McDonald was once again called into service as an interim school building in fall 1998 when students in the TOPS alternative program moved in while awaiting the renovation of their school at Seward. Stevens students moved into McDonald in the fall of 1999 during the reconstruction of their school building. Stevens reopened in September 2001. McDonald intermittently served as an interim site for Greenwood from 2001-02 and Puget Sound Educational Service District from February to October 2003, as well as a surplus leased building until 2010. That year, renovations by F.E. Tompkins Architecture began, funded as part of the Buildings, Technology, and Academics/Athletics (BTA) III capital levy. Though the McDonald school was not available for student use during this time, a school was still needed in 2010. Students who were “enrolled” in McDonald were relocated to Lincoln as an interim school site until the school reopened in 2012 as McDonald International Elementary. Enrollment peaked at 480 students in 2018. McDonald International operates as a K-5 language immersion school with instruction half the day in English and the other half in either Spanish or Japanese. Since McDonald was reopened to serve the over-capacity enrollment numbers at John Stanford International Elementary School, McDonald mirrors that international program, thereby accommodating curriculum expectations.

  • 1913: 9-room brick building. Named Bryant School on February 20; Renamed F.A. McDonald School on October I; Architect: Edgar Blair
  • 1914: Opened on January 26 as annex to Green Lake
  • 1916: Became independent school in September
  • 1922: Site expanded to 2.23 acres
  • 1923: Addition
  • 1967: Portable gym added
  • 1981: Closed in June
  • 1981-97: Leased
  • 1998: Reopened as interim site for TOPS
  • 1999: Interim site for Stevens until 2001
  • 2001: Interim site for Greenwood
  • 2001: Emergency earthquake repairs (post Nisqually earthquake damage)
  • 2003: Seismic improvements
  • 2003: Leased to Puget Sound Educational School District (February-October)
  • 2004: Leased to Seattle Police Department (intermittent lease/use until 2009)
  • 2010: School closed for renovations; Students enrolled at new McDonald International School were relocated to Lincoln as interim site
  • 2012: School reopens; Renovation (F. E. Tompkins Architecture; BTA III capital levy)