In 1969, an earnest and forthright 1st grade student was selected to speak at the grand opening of her new school – Valley View Elementary:

50 years later, a double dose of déjà vu swept over Karen Smith as she waited, beaming on stage, for her return to speak – at the grand opening of the new Des Moines Elementary School last week:

Partly, it was watching Sahiba Minhas (pictured, right), a 5th grade student in a flowered dress and blue tennis shoes, face the audience without hesitation. Sahiba spoke eloquently about how much she loves her new school. And then it was Smith’s turn. Again. To speak from the heart about the impact of a new school.

After the ceremony, 300+ elected officials and community members toured the new school, located at 23801 16th Ave S.

A lifelong resident of Highline, Smith attended or worked at many local schools, old and new. A Des Moines resident and member of the staff planning committee for the new school, she provided input and feedback to the architects and designers.

She knew they nailed the library when a student who had attended the old school entered the library for the first time at the meet-and-greet event and exclaimed, “Finally! A REAL library.”

Smith is exuberant about finishing her career as a teacher-librarian in the new library with its bank of high windows, flock of painted seagulls on the blue walls, giant touchscreen and variety of inviting seating, including a built-in reading nook.

“It’s hard to remain humble when I’m just Highline Proud of how far this district has come in the last 50 years,” Smith said.

“I’m very proud of the building, the library and the endless, positive comments from staff, students and community.”

The goal of the construction project for Smith: a new, larger school with modern conveniences and tools and endless natural lighting, but the same nurturing feel of small school spaces… of being like a family.

She created a welcome sign to celebrate, that within the walls of the new school, the sense of Des Moines Elementary being a family lives on:

“When you enter this loving school, consider yourself one of the special members of an extraordinary family.”


  • Rick Wisen, Principal
  • Susan Enfield, Superintendent
  • Bernie Dorsey, School Board President
  • Matt Pina, Mayor, City of Des Moines
  • Rose Clark, Co-Chair, Capital Facilities Advisory Committee
  • Kyla Blair, Vice President, Yes for Highline
  • Karen Smith, Teacher-Librarian
  • Sahiba Minhas, 5th grade student


  • U.S. Senator Adam Smith’s representative Marvin Eng
  • Sen. Karen Keiser
  • Rep. Mia Gregerson
  • King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove
  • City of Des Moines Councilmembers:
  • Luisa Bangs
  • Traci Buxton
  • Robert Back
  • Matt Mahoney
  • Jeremy Nutting
  • Vic Pennington
  • Matt Pina, Mayor

School and Bond Background
Des Moines Elementary opened on time and on budget, maintaining Highline’s long track record of delivering new schools as promised. Highline voters invested in building new schools when they passed a school construction bond in November 2016.

With a capacity for 700 students, the new school was constructed on a 17-acre empty site the district saved for this purpose. Based on community input, school board members decided to continue using the name of the old school for the new site. The old Des Moines school building was constructed in 1925 on a small 3-acre site.

In 2016, the community-led Capital Facilities Advisory Committee suggested that the 1925 Des Moines Elementary school be repurposed for community use. The district has no plans to sell it. For now, it will be used for district storage, including items that will not fit at the Olympic Interim site while the new Highline High School is under construction.