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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.