Elkin
Elkin

After 60 years shaping young minds in Madrona, Epiphany School is balancing celebrating its past with deciding its future.

“I think we’re poised to really think a little more broadly about where we are going because of some of the opportunities that are available to us and, frankly, some that are thrust on us,” said Jenn Elkin, who joined Epiphany as head of school in July 2017.

The independent primary school is in the middle of its long-term strategic planning with Crux consulting firm, which includes updating Epiphany’s mission and vision, while also working with Mithun architecture firm to determine how to more effectively utilize space available on the Madrona campus.

“Our enrollment has always been really good,” said Greg Jones, director of enrollment management and admissions. “We usually have a waiting list.”

He said the school has a great financial aid program, but is now also exploring merit-based scholarships.

Epiphany School has expanded its campus several times since the mid-90s, including the opening of Reed Hall in 2006 and Madrona Hall in 2010.

Elkin said the Madrona campus is large enough to accommodate the current educational program, but there’s no space available if Epiphany wanted to add pre-K, a middle school, or double its primary school size. The existing footprint is being reviewed to identify short- and medium-term opportunities for maximizing space, she said.

“I think, for the longer term, most definitely there are all kinds of potential great ideas to consider,” Elkin said.

Many private schools have added educational facilities in other neighborhoods, she said, and that’s not outside the realm of possibility for Epiphany.

Sixty percent of Epiphany students come from three zip codes surrounding the school, and the school would like to draw enrollment from more neighborhoods as Seattle continues to grow and diversify.

Elkin said she and Jones have been working to engage current and potentially future community stakeholders, alums, Epiphany families and those that may not be familiar with the school.

Epiphany Parish Reverend Dr. Elmer B. Christie opened the school in 1958, but the school separated from the church 10 years later. Church facilities are still available to the school to rent, but the education is secular. Epiphany was accredited by the Northwest Association of Independent Schools in 1974, and reaccredited in 2013.

“I think it’s something that we know can be confused,” Elkin said, “especially with the name.”

Epiphany students still wear school uniforms, which Elkin admits is likely another reason for the misperception. She said administration has been exploring how Epiphany’s mission statement involves innovative teaching in a caring and traditional environment, and how innovation and tradition are words that feel like “polar opposites.” While uniforms are tradition, Elkin said, they also provide a sense of equity.

“Where we go with uniforms? TBD,” Elkin said. “I think there are a lot of aspects of our history that we want to keep.”

In terms of innovative teaching, Epiphany educators recently received Responsive Classroom training, which is being implemented this year. The model focuses on academic success and social-emotional learning, where students are taught to understand their emotions and how best to react to them.

“Instilling confidence is a big part of what our teachers do, and what our mission aims for,” Jones said.

Seattle Public Schools teachers returned to work in early September, after their union and the district negotiated a 10.5 percent salary increase, avoiding a strike. Following a strike in 2015, teachers bargained for a 9.5 percent increase.

Elkin said teachers at Epiphany are on the higher end of the pay scale for independent schools in Seattle, have good benefits and receive resources for professional development, which results in a healthy retention rate.

“These are all certain things that people want to know before they come on board,” she said.

While not a public school, Epiphany does work to be a good neighbor, such as with its annual community carnival.

After Madrona Hall was completed, the campus was opened before and after school for local families to use, including Epiphany’s basketball court. That was part of the agreement reached when the school purchased four homes on the site for the $18 million project.

The Epiphany Parent Council also hosts an annual parent education lecture series that was opened up to the community for the first time last year, Elkin said.

Find out more about Epiphany and its 60-year history at epiphanyschool.org.