New Culture, New School

Creating a new culture for a new Sehome High School

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  • Speechless Drama Kids For the first time in their lives, drama students touring the new theatre are at a loss for words. (Going left to right), Anica Johnston (12), Megan Gill (12), Rachel Holladay (12), Kenzie Knapp (12), and Nich Vulic (12) pose in front of the new stage in progress.

  • Hall of fame: Drama students take their first steps into the new school from the back entrance into the lower hallway. It will be the center connection between the gym, yoga, and weight rooms and hold all of Sehome's trophies and banners.

  • We're Breaking Free: The new common or cafeteria is underway. The wide open space for tables, the wide open staircase and rails all give off the same feeling one would get from the High School Musical cafeteria.

  • Up there in lights I'll be The new dressing rooms are in progress for Sehome's upcoming plays. No longer will students get ready for plays in the same space as the drama classroom. Actors are now treated with two large dressing rooms accompanied with mirrors, lights, water fountains, and an indoor bathroom. Dreams really do come true.

  • Class on the go: Here is the library with a view of the mountains previously hidden by forest and in front of it an example of the new break out spaces. Across the school are spaces with large stair-like structures designed to accommodate the class wanting to escape the confinement of the classroom for some extra mobility to get the blood flowing.

  • Setting the Standard: Students explore an example of a new classroom. They see the mobile white boards, the wide open windows to maximize natural light, and the multi-leveled chairs to be placed around the room.

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After witnessing the pile of rubble the old gym has been reduced to, P.E. students take the first leap to transitioning to the new school. The first day back from Winter Break, students explored the tallest bleachers in Washington, the surround-sound audio, the spacious mat and weight rooms for the first time.

“It reminds me of Bellingham [high school]. I really like the new equipment,” Kourtney Patrick (10) said. She goes on to say there is much about the gym such as accessibility to music, and how spacious it is for assemblies: all improvements that Sehome is fortunate to receive.

Michelle Kuss-Cybula, Principal, said the main goal universally expressed: A space to improve the culture of Sehome. Because of this goal, additions unimaginable have been realized.

One major element of the new school are its innovative and collective break out-spaces to encourage movement and connectivity from class time to down time. These spaces were a result that compromised between having one building and the atmosphere of the courtyards, the breakout spaces are composed of large steps implemented throughout the hallways, library, and commons.

Classroom snow include portable whiteboards, adjustable standing desks, and rocking chairs to encourage free movement as well as lots of healthy natural light to encourage a more accommodating work environment.

Curriculum will also be shifting with the brand new culinary arts program beginning in the Fall of 2019. The space includes stovetops and ovens with a screen at each station to project the instructor’s live directions from the front of the room.

The music and fine arts space now all share an improved theatre. The audience holds around 350 seats, a fly space, an orchestra pit, catwalks, and a booth with space for multiple spotlights. No longer will the band, orchestra, and choir have to hold concerts in out school cafeteria.

Efforts to build the school of local and sustainable accommodations were completely brought to fruition. Parts of the old wooden gym floor were implemented into the new gym  and school walls. Trees demolished for the school’s land were turned into counter tops in classrooms. Recycled metal truck fenders now create durable locker room platforms as well.

The design for natural light, outlets with power that shuts off, and solar panels all reduce electricity needs. Local businesses such as Dimensional Cable and Dawson construction were utilized as much as possible to support local business and reduce the carbon footprint that comes with extensive shipments.

Finally, the designated middle school, high school students, staff, designers, wanted to prioritize an atmosphere of inclusion to all students without exceptions. Therefore, teachers now have to option to adjust the audio of their classroom so that deaf or hard-of-hearing students don’t have to wear hearing aids.

There are now individual, curtained showers and gender-neutral bathrooms for students who don’t identify with a binary gender. There are fully stocked clothing and pantry in the counseling office at any student’s request. There will be a free pre-K curriculum offered to the children of students and staff. Finally, there is an abundance of handicap accommodations including seat options at the front of the gym bleachers and elevators throughout the building.

This school is a result of years of student, staff, designer and constructor dedication to create a new standard for educational space in our community. Teen parent, transgender, handicapped, and low-income student accommodation is not a luxury, but a standard at the least.

Sustainability is no longer an option of consideration, and learning environments are necessary to be dynamic to benefit educational growth. Our school is so fortunate to have the opportunities we now have access to and we cannot take them for granted just as we cannot thank the construction team enough.

For students concerned with the missing history of the new school, the old Sehome didn’t inherit its culture on opening day either. The student body will carry all the culture we have created from our old school and improve it even further for the new school that will last another 51 years.

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