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School construction moves forward, gains international attention

 - TOM CORRIGAN The Marysville Globe
— image credit: TOM CORRIGAN The Marysville Globe

MARYSVILLE Even as work on one new school nears completion, the Marysville School District is set to break ground June 2, on what could be its biggest construction project.

And even before the first shovel of dirt has been moved on that second project, the endeavor already has attracted notice from half way around the world.

Well underway, District Director of Capital Projects John Bingham said construction of the new Grove Elementary School is on time and on budget.

With the above-mentioned groundbreaking about a month away, Bingham added architectural work on what will be the district's second high school should be finished shortly. Along with the academic program planned for the school, that design work has attracted the attention of the British Council on Education. Bingham and Assistant Superintendent Gail Miller will travel to London this summer to speak on the new high school at the British Council's annual conference.

Sitting on 84th Street, the as yet unnamed high school will consist of five separate buildings. One will house the school's gymnasium, cafeteria and similar shared spaces. The other four buildings each will be home to one of the district's small learning communities. In the past, district officials have described those communities as "schools within schools."

The district moved to small learning communities this year. Superintendent Larry Nyland has said the idea is to engage students with topics that hold their interest and to build close relationships between students and staff. At present, the existing Marysville-Pilchuck High School integrates several small learning communities, such as bio-med, communications and a sort of catch-all community, Pathways of Choice.

At the new high school, Bingham said each small learning community essentially will be a self-contained school on a larger campus. Students will remain in their assigned building for most of the day. The overall design has been highlighted in a couple of architectural and educational journals. According to Bingham, an architectural piece is what caught the attention of British officials.

In the past, Bingham said the British conference has featured speakers from such diverse countries as Ireland and Malaysia.

"Basically, from all over," Bingham said, adding he will address the conference on architectural issues, while Miller will talk on the educational scheme of the new school. Bingham said the attention is, of course, flattering, but he credited district leadership and the community with endorsing and supporting a move away from a traditional high school.

The price tag for the new high school has been estimated at roughly $96 million. The buildings will consist of some 193,000-square-feet.

Sitting at the intersection of Grove and 67th streets and covering 54,000-square-feet, Grove Elementary will house 550 students. The total cost is set at $20 million. Like the high school, funding is coming from bond issue voters approved in 2006.

Grove will be the school district's 11th elementary school. It also will be the city's first two-story elementary grade-level building and could be a model for future Marysville elementary schools.

Bingham said when it first was introduced, the 2006 bond issue included three other projects in addition to Grove and the new high school. Those projects were renovations at Marysville-Pilchuck and replacement of Cascade and Liberty elementary schools. Those plans later were dropped, but a school facilities committee has been meeting since early this year, studying the system's physical needs. Renovations at Marysville-Pilchuck and replacement of Cascade and Liberty could go before voters in 2010.

If that happens, Bingham expects the elementary projects will be presented as following the design used for Grove. The school actually was put together with just that intention in mind, the goal being at least partly to save on architectural costs, Bingham said.

Besides being two stories high, Grove might be unique among Marysville schools in its use of modular or, in theory, portable classrooms. The new building will make use of eight of them, built in a factory north of Marysville and then transferred to the construction site. The district has made extensive use of modular or portable buildings at the options campus on the Tulalip Reservation.

But in the case of the options campus, schools are being built entirely of so-called portables. For Grove, the use of portables was blended with traditional construction methods.

"You won't even know you're in those parts of the building," Bingham said.

The portables sit on either side of the main school.

Besides the use of the portables, Bingham said the Grove design incorporates a lot of green or environmentally friendly aspects, as will the high school. For example, Grove makes use of natural light as much as possible, with high windows and skylights.

At the heavily wooded high school site, as many trees and as much vegetation will be left in place as possible. County naturalists have scouted the site looking for plants to save and move elsewhere.

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