Issaquah Highlands

Property Updates:

June 13, 2018

As part of its due diligence in assessing the site for school construction, the District retained consultants to perform arborist and geotechnical studies on the site. The results of the geotechnical review were presented to the Issaquah School Board of Directors and discussed at the June 13, 2018 meeting.

Geotechnical reviews are common for prospective builders to determine how suitable the site is for the proposed type and method of construction. The District’s consultants determined that – given the size of the proposed school, as well as the property’s available building area and topographic constraints – there is not enough room to fully address potential landslide hazards through buffers and setbacks, particularly when seismic design criteria are considered.  The consultants for the District stated these natural hazards might be able to be mitigated through more expensive construction measures, such as grading, foundation structures or retention walls. For these reasons, the District has decided not to pursue the property for a school.

The District appreciates its partnership with the City of Issaquah and looks forward to working with the City to identify other properties for school sites. The District recently announced that it has acquired property in Sammamish for an elementary school. However, it is crucial that the District continue to build capacity to meet growing student enrollment. In April 2016 voters approved a school construction bond to acquire land and construct two elementary schools, a new middle school, and a new comprehensive high school.

Link to the Geotechnical Report


That’s the target date for opening the district’s next elementary—funded by the 2016 bond—to alleviate capacity concerns at Clark and Grand Ridge Elementary. While no boundaries have been established yet, we expect that the new elementary will serve all Issaquah Highlands and Overdale Park students who currently attend Clark as well as several hundred current Grand Ridge students.

Issaquah Highlands Birds Eye View of Elementary SiteIn partnership with City of Issaquah staff, we have identified a preferred location for the new elementary nearby Swedish Hospital in the Issaquah Highlands. City staff have recommended about seven acres of this hilltop be used for a school, the trees on the slope be saved as open space, and the base of the hill be zoned for commercial development.

Acting on this recommendation from staff, the Issaquah City Council will now make a series of decisions that will determine whether we will ultimately be able to build a school on the site. To move forward, we need the Council to:

  • Annex the land from King County (update: approved on Oct. 2)
  • Rezone the specific parcel to a Community Facility-Facilities (CF-F) designation to allow school construction (update: approved on Oct. 2)
  • Approve a land-use variance for the school’s impervious surface
  • Negotiate and sell the land to the district

While each step is necessary in order to build the new school on the preferred property, it does not guarantee a school will be built there. The district will still need to successfully complete all of the pre-construction work that is part of every project, including a comprehensive geological review, environmental-impact study, and city permitting. The district will also be responsible for road and infrastructure improvements in the neighborhood surrounding the school, such as widening streets as necessary to allow emergency-vehicle access.

What if the preferred piece of property does not work out? 

If we are unable to acquire the preferred location from the City of Issaquah, we will immediately begin looking for land outside of the Issaquah Highlands for the new elementary.  After more than a decade of extensive real estate searches in the area, we have determined that the preferred piece of property is the only feasible location for a new school in the Issaquah Highlands at this time. All other parcels would require significantly more money and time to acquire than is available (after negotiations or eminent domain actions with multiple developers, with a price tag reflective of commercial real-estate zoning). 

Why is this the preferred site?


  • Is primed for acquisition and construction, allowing the quickest timeline to alleviate capacity concerns at Clark and Grand Ridge.
  • Provides capacity to serve all Issaquah Highland children—including kindergartners—at a neighborhood school within the Highlands.
  • Allows all Highlands students to remain in the community and prevents the need to bus hundreds more students out of the neighborhood; walking routes remove bus and vehicle traffic from the Highlands and Olde Town corridor. 
  • Responsibly fulfills the service need created by expanded housing development in Issaquah.
  • Is well suited for a specially designed school with a compact footprint to preserve its natural surroundings as much as possible.