Plans for modernizing Blaine High School’s science classrooms are beginning to take shape. On Thursday, October 25, in an open meeting at the district office, architect John Stewart unveiled his vision for the building that he has designed to meet the needs of Blaine’s science faculty and student body
The 7,975 square foot building will offer students a completely updated and more efficient building for their grades 9 to 12 science curriculum. Utilizing the shell of the old building but featuring a fully renovated and remodeled interior, the new design features four classrooms that will offer combined lab/classroom space for biology, chemistry, horticulture and physics. Each classroom has been rendered to be as flexible as possible, a design element that teachers were especially interested in, Stewart said.
“Teachers aren’t standing in front of the classroom and lecturing the whole time anymore,” Stewart said.The new layout is based on input from the faculty and “the best information available.”
Such a design accommodates a multi-modal teaching model, providing space for teachers to both lecture and work with students in hands-on activities.
In addition to those spaces, a substantial integrated prep area, general science lab and standard classroom will also be created. The combined lab/classroom spaces feature ADA accessible lab stations and are expected to accommodate up to 30 students comfortably.
There were several key items taken into account in designing the new building. Stewart said that daylight was a major concern for the new design, as studies have shown that natural light increases student performance in the classroom. “Daylighting is the biggest thing we’re seeing in education as far as student performance,” he said. The new rooms will have skylights and exterior windows to maximize the amount of natural light that makes its way into the classroom.
He also addressed the issue of noise and acoustics in his presentation. The classrooms have been planned to mitigate noise from outside the classroom – hallway noise, adjacent classrooms and ventilation systems. “Acoustics is a huge element. We’re finding that sometimes students in the back of the class, who have normal hearing, can’t hear what the teacher is saying,” he said. He added that adequate acoustics is part of the Washington Sustainable Schools Protocol, a planning tool that helps designers plan high-performance schools that meet regional, district, and site-specific guidelines.
Safety also took a precedent in the design of the new building, because of the nature of the labs. The building will now have two fume hoods to draw out noxious vapors from the labs, and all rooms will have doors that allow easy exit from the building.
Smartboards will be placed in each classroom.
The building is expected to cost just shy of $2.5 million and is being funded by a $3 million dollar bond the school district received last year. The remaining funds have been used to meet other critical needs, such as new lights, new heating units in the elementary and middle schools, and camera surveillance systems in the primary and middle schools.
The school saved a significant amount of funds by reusing the roof and exterior walls. “The site was already ideal to meet state standards on location,” Stewart said noting the proximity to public transit and centrality of the school to the district.
Stewart has worked with the school district since 1992. “This is another 50-year building,” Stewart said of the design, “so we want to make sure it meets the curriculum needs.”