Issaquah High School marks formal opening with celebration

April 10, 2012

By Tom Corrigan

A crowd of students, alumni and local school officials gathered in the main lobby of Issaquah High School for remarks from Principal Paula Phelps and others. Though open to students since at least September, the district held a formal opening ceremony March 3 for the rebuilt high school. By Tom Corrigan

The building will have seen passage of its first full school year in just a few months.

Nevertheless, school district officials threw an official opening bash for the rebuilt Issaquah High School on April 3.

“As far as we’re concerned, tonight is just a party,” Principal Paula Phelps announced toward the beginning of her remarks to a crowd of 100 or so people gathered around a stage and podium set up in the school’s main lobby.

Despite a steady rain, every visitor had been greeted outside the school’s main doors by the IHS marching band and school cheerleaders.

“There’s something here for everyone to love,” student Audrey DeLuca said during brief remarks to those gathered.

DeLuca said she was referring to the building’s art and music rooms, academic spaces and sports facilities.

Her comments were echoed by student Aaron Mohs-Hale, 19, who was looking at a wooden model of the school under glass in the main office. He said the technology available throughout the school, from the mixing board in the Performing Arts Center to computers in classrooms, made the school something special and gave students opportunities they just wouldn’t have otherwise.

“I think it incorporates a lot of the beauty of Issaquah,” said Conner Wright, 17, another IHS student.

The school’s main lobby is surrounded by glass, which allows a good view of Issaquah’s mountains in the background.

The $94.9 million reconstruction largely was wrapped up last fall. Phase I of the project included 240,000 square feet. A partial list of Phase I projects includes 56 regular classrooms; improvements to the school stadium; a main gymnasium; an auxiliary gym; 12 science labs; a TV production studio; and a cooking lab.

Phase II seems to have focused on arts facilities, including the school’s Performing Arts Center. Phase II also encompassed a material science lab, a ceramics room, and a drawing and painting room. Teachers and students still are discovering new things about the Performing Arts Center, learning new ways to put the center’s technology to use, according to Marty Kelly-Peterson, theater manager.

“We learn more and more with every performance,” he said.

The rebuilt school incorporated numerous green features, including rain gardens and a green roof. The roof was planted with sedum, a large family of flowering plants. Benches placed throughout the new building were created with materials from the old gym.

Visitors to the grand opening included many alumni and former administrators. Retired Clark Elementary School Principal Marty Budzius said the building was impressive and, in his opinion, worth the effort.

“It makes a difference in the pride the kids take in the building,” he said.

Officials waited some time before holding a formal opening because they felt strongly the building needed to be complete before such an event took place, said Sara Niegowski, district executive director of communications. School leaders especially wanted the Performing Arts Center finished before the public ceremony.

When the first portion of the new building opened in fall 2010, the school had an opening aimed mostly at students and their families, Niegowski added. That earlier opening was not intended for the general public as was the more recent event. She put the cost of the recent opening at the price tag of a plaque presented to the school by Superintendent Steve Rasmussen. That cost was $65 and Niegowski said such a plaque appears in each district building. The evening’s refreshments were provided by the IHS PTSA, so the plaque was the only cost to the district.

Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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