“Every wall is a teaching wall.”
“Every wall is a teaching wall,” said Johnny Hong, Integrus’ project architect for Sammamish High School, describing the new state-of-the-art facility. The new building boasts 72 classrooms, with 320,000 square feet, up 94,156 square feet from the existing building.
Prior to construction, Principal Tom Duenwald organized the Totem’s Design Team to determine must-haves, and the vision for the new building. Four teachers were on the team and two students. The team worked hand in hand with the architecture firm, brainstorming, story boarding and collaborating on the unique design for Sammamish. Over the last year, their vision of flexible learning spaces for students and support for Fine Arts and STEM has been quickly coming to fruition.
At the time of formation, team member Ale Flores was a sophomore at Sammamish. Flores wanted the new building “to be a place where students wanted to study,” she said. “I wanted to make sure that there were areas besides the library where students could do team work or study on their own. Everyone works best in different environments, therefore I believe that having different environments to work in is a necessity for the students.”
The facility was designed for collaboration, from breakout work stations, to roll up doors in classrooms so that classes can work together on projects. In terms of every wall being a teaching wall, writable paint turns walls into easy dry-erase surfaces. Anytime students have an idea they can explore the idea on the wall, said Hong. The sciences have one big prep room to foster collaborative work. Each science studio has individual sinks along the walls, so teams can break out and work in small groups.
Along with collaboration, the school was built with transparency for learning throughout. Instead of installing lockers, windows were installed between the classrooms and the hallways. All students at Sammamish have laptops, part of the school’s 1:1 program, so nearly all curriculum is digital. Lockers were unnecessary, and the school saw windows as a way for students and staff to stay connected with each other.
The building is designed with the future in mind. “Flexibility is still really one of the key elements,” said Jack McLeod, Director of Facilities and Operations for the district. The idea is for the building to be able to adapt to teaching needs as the years pass.
With a college campus feel, the building supports all of the programs offered at Sammamish. Science teacher Kim Herzog is excited about what the new building will offer her and her students.
“The new facility will allow for the programs to really be able to accomplish what they are designed for,” said Herzog. “We will be able to implement higher level problem-based learning activities and projects in our classes.”
Herzog also likes the atmosphere the building offers. “Overall it has more of a college building feel to it. When students are not in class the collaborative learning atmosphere will get them thinking about what work they need to do, things they can accomplish,” she said.
One of the major changes for Sammamish is moving from a one-story to a three-story building. Staff was reluctant to the idea at first, thinking that it may lead to disconnect. However, Integrus worked with the school’s design team to ensure the space is cohesive.
Students will enter the building on the second floor, where they will find many of the typical first floor spaces. These include the administrative offices, Family Connection Center, library, main gym and lunchroom. When entering school, students are never more than a floor away from where they need to go.
The third floor offers a studio environment for students with art and science studios. High ceilings, a new feature, open up the art rooms to art projects that are limitless in terms of creation space. There will be five kilns, pottery stations and an art gallery space. Students at Sammamish are asked to not only create art, but also present it. The display cases on this floor will allow an arena for students to present their art. The floor also houses two video production rooms with a sound control room and recording equipment.
The focal point of the building is the study commons, which is located in the center of the building. It is an open, three-story atrium type space, with skylights above allowing for an abundance of natural light. On the ground floor the space is nestled just outside of two engineering rooms, and a production room. This area fully supports the STEM focus of the building. There is a variety of seating and flexible gathering spaces outside the studios allowing for social and academic functions for students.
Once the facility is complete, Duenwald is charged with how to personalize the interior. The school colors are embedded into the building design, and Duenwald is considering a mural funded by graduating class donations. Duenwald said “in terms of curating the new facility we want to emphasize what the students are currently doing and what they are involved with now.” With that being said, the Totems’ history will not be lost in the new building. Several items are being preserved and will be installed once the building is complete, including a few totem poles and a teacher memorial plaque.
Sammamish’s impressive new space will open to students fall 2015 as Phase I of the construction is complete. The dining commons is scheduled for completion in fall 2016, and the school’s gymnasium is the final phase. In in its entirety, Sammamish is slated for completion fall 2017.
Although Sammamish is the last of the high schools in the district to be rebuilt, it is benefitting from the wait. Lessons have been learned and McLeod said, “Sammamish will be the crown jewel.”