New era dawns for Issaquah High School

August 31, 2010

By Laura Geggel

Classrooms, office and gymnasium fill new three-story building

For the first time in five years, Issaquah High School has freshmen, and for the first time since it moved to its current site in 1962, it has an entirely new school building.

School opened Aug. 31 to more than 1,800 Issaquah High School students. Students can see 21st century technology breathing out of every corner, and views of Tiger Mountain and the stadium from most of the school’s windows.

The roof by the library has a garden of red and green plants growing toward the sky. Students will be able to access wireless Internet from anywhere in the school once it is set up, in about three weeks.

Librarian Bill Schadt said the new library is larger than the old one. The new space can fit two classes instead of one and has 40 computers. As for the rooftop garden, “I think it will be a nice view to study near, looking at the mountains and plants,” he said.

Lights are either on timers or motion sensors, saving the school on its electricity bill. Every teaching classroom has ActivSlate and ActiveExpression, smart technology that allows students to interact more with their teachers and classmates during lessons.

“One of the things we wanted in the new science room was more integration,” chemistry teacher Jay Radmer said.

Tall chairs one might find at a high bistro table line every desk. Students voted the tall chair their favorite during a test trial last year.

Each desk has a movable footrest, so students can adjust it to fit their stature. The chairs are so tall, Radmer said he was concerned he would be unable to see over the heads of his students in the front row.

“I argued vehemently against tall chairs,” he said. “My students are 5’ 10”. I can’t see over.”

But, Radmer said he does like the expanded counter space and the computers at each lab station in the science rooms.

He proudly showed the science rooms, all located on floor level, so classes have easy access to outdoor patios for science labs. He said the science rooms actually have less storage space than before, because the school needed so many science rooms. Last year, Issaquah High School had seven science rooms and a portable science classroom. This year, to accommodate the freshmen, the school has 12 science rooms.

The three-story school has eight major staircases and three elevators illuminated by large windows inviting in natural light.

Some art survived the old school. Students will recognize the eagles flying on giant placards in the gym and the Indian ceramic tile mosaic posted in a stairway, a call to their old mascot.

Voters approved the $241.8 million bond in 2006, when Issaquah’s middle schools experienced a crowding tidal wave. But instead of opening another middle school, the district decided to save money by converting the new Pacific Cascade Middle School into a freshmen campus.

By not building a new middle school, the district was able to spend more of the bond money on Skyline and Issaquah high schools.

Originally, the Skyline and Issaquah high school remodels were designed to fit 1,500 students, but with the extra money, they were upgraded to fit 1,800 students each.

The larger school might take students a while to get used to, but new Assistant Principal Derek Heinz said the school is navigable. He walked from one corner of the building to the other in less than five minutes, the time between classes.

Granted, he didn’t have to battle crowded hallways, but still he said it could be done.

Students also said they liked the new school.

“It’s big,” freshman Jack Hayley said. “I like that you can see the area around with all of the trees.”

Senior Matthew Gaan said he was glad to see the new school after experiencing the construction, which wasn’t that bad.

“It’s really big. I feel like I’m going to get lost,” he said. “It’s really nice having a brand new school. The old building was really old.”

The Issaquah High School community faced many challenges during its two years of remodel. Principal Paula Phelps said staff and students lived without spaces including gyms, locker rooms and the commons; sports were held at a different location; and 16 teachers held classes at Clark Elementary School portable classrooms. This year, construction crews will build a new performing arts center.

Phelps said she admired the resilience of students and staff alike as the school enters its third and final year of construction.

Teachers, unpacking the last of their supplies in the week preceding school, said they were glad to finally resettle after two long years of noise and construction.

“It’s exciting to know you’re setting up a room to stay there for good,” math teacher Ben Reed said.

The nearly completed school has many awestruck as they walk through its hallways and classrooms.

“It is far beyond anything we were able to imagine,” Phelps said. “It is a fabulous gift and we are so, so thankful to the community for entrusting us with such a gift.”

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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6 Responses to “New era dawns for Issaquah High School”

  1. parent on September 1st, 2010 8:44 am

    What about not having enough lockers for all the kids? How about no tables in the cafeteria, or chairs in the library? and where are all the library books? We were not prepared for this opening, and the kids are really feeling the chaos.

  2. BR on September 1st, 2010 7:22 pm

    Parent, way to rain on the parade! I’m so happy for the Issaquah High School students. They have a beautiful new building that they all can be proud of… and you point out a host of negatives. The kinks will be worked out. The rough edges, smoothed. Take your sour sentiments and save them for later down the line… not during the first week. Sheesh!

  3. Alumni on September 2nd, 2010 11:12 am

    Wonder if it will be more practical then when they made Skyline. Before the school was even 5 years old they had to remodel becuase the library was too small and they did not make enough room for… oh yeah Books! Then they had to put portable outside the not even 5 year school because it was not big enough… And they made the inside such a maze that they had to give freshman and new students an extra 10 mins between their classes to find their next class. Go Skyline! Oh and the lockers… They did not even put them in for the first couple months until they had so many people complain about how heavy the book bags were getting. ha I love the Issaquah School district, dont get me wrong but who ever is incharge of building these new schools are just dumb. They need to start building a school that will fit their needs in 10 years. not fit their needs 10 years ago with the technology of the future. Really just a though… you want to add wireless internet all over the school so these kids can log onto their phones all day long and play on facebook and myspace. GOOD IDEA PEOPLE! And if your saying that they dont allow phones in classrooms. Your just cute.

  4. Student on September 3rd, 2010 10:49 pm

    The locker problem is being fixed… I’m getting mine next week! They’re getting the tables for the Commons this coming week. In the meantime, they have the tall cafe tables, some arm chairs, and they have set up tables under cover outside. The library will get its furniture too, and I’ve been in there the past few days (checking out text books), and it looked like all the books were in there to me! And while we may not have a few of the small things, we do have classrooms with regulated temperatures, indoor hallways (no more putting our rain coats on every fifty five minutes!), all of the latest technology for our classrooms just waiting to be used, and features to help our school be more “green” – including huge windows that not only flood in natural light, but also allow us to fully appreciate the gorgeous views that the Issaquah valley has to offer.
    I will admit, there is chaos. However, that’s only due to all of us adjusting to a new school. The new layout has taken some getting used to (going up three flights of steps to my fifth period class is a little tiring!). However, our Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors, especially, are more than used to having to adjust to sometimes difficult and frustrating situations – i.e. Freshman campus & all of the annoyances that came with our transition campus: super-small lunch room, portables, lack of a place to assemble, etc. But we always persevere, and the most important thing is, through all of this, we have not lost an ounce of pride!
    Being a Senior, I have been with this construction project from the beginning – I went to the Freshman campus, began my Sophomore year eating in our old lunchroom and attending assemblies in our old gym, and then ended it eating in a makeshift lunchroom and being herded to the Community Center for the end-of-the-year assembly. For both my Sophomore and Junior years I spent time in the poorly heated, or cooled, classrooms that I mentioned earlier, attended my English & Math classes in the “Upper Campus” (the portables) and I checked books out from a ridiculously small library. This year, I feel so lucky to attend the new school – no matter how many times I’ve gotten lost this first week. Granted, I do miss the old campus, however, it’s not coming back, so I’m learning to love the new one.
    I hope that you can see the school for what it is – an beautiful building that we have been blessed with and that thousands of students will get to enjoy for the years to come.

  5. Ben Androne on September 12th, 2010 2:52 pm

    Too many Debbie Downers who just love to complain and find anything possible to spin in any direction other than positive. Complain, complain, complain! Try to look at life from a different perspective and you’d make us all a whole lot happier–maybe including yourself. This school rebuild was a HUGE project involving an extraordinary number of people and uncanny foresight. There are bound to be some issues. Roll with it and quit trying to bring the rest of us down with you!

  6. Issaquah tragedies, triumphs define a tumultuous year : The Issaquah Press – News, Sports, Classifieds and More in Issaquah, WA on June 28th, 2011 1:09 pm

    […] High School started the year on a sleek campus after months of construction, freshmen returned to the campus and to Skyline High School, and […]

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