Bush Elementary School

Bush Elementary School exemplifies how a new school can make a real difference in the fabric of a community. When Salem-Keizer School District sold the original Bush Elementary School to the Salem Hospital, they built a new school about four blocks to the east. The new site was approximately two acres with a 2.5 acre city park to the east, separated from the school site by a dedicated street, and located in a blighted area of Salem. From the outset Soderstrom Architects recognized that a 44,000 SF school would not fit on a two-acre site. Our first task was to see how we could increase the site available to the school and still keep the public park. Through careful negotiations with the City, we were able to vacate the street and connect our site to the park. We were also able to convince the Salem Department of Transportation that angled parking around the site would function just as well as internal parking lots, which dramatically reduced the impact on the site and saved a lot of asphalt. Finally, we were able to organize the bus loop along the north edge of the property and support that function using the covered play structure. These moves gave us a very safe and defensible site with a large open space at its heart. After expanding and organizing the site, Soderstrom began a process of making the building fit the neighborhood. As the Bush neighborhood is more than 50% Hispanic, we prepared drawings and presentation material in both English and Spanish. We orchestrated five public discussions focused on the sensibilities of the neighborhood and prepared a number of design character sketches using cues from their existing housing stock. Then we employed our “live design” process to craft a building with nearly unanimous buy-in. As a result, the neighborhood is very proud of their new school.


Salem-Keizer School District


Elementary School


New Construction


Salem, Oregon


46,300 SF


Classrooms, library, gymnasium, cafeteria, stage, administrative offices

More K-12 Work

More K-12 Work