Evergreen Elementary School Principal Hugh Maxwell can hardly contain his excitement. This fall, thanks to the passage of the 2019 capital bond, a state-of-the-art Evergreen will open its doors to students.
“He’s so excited. It’s hard to get Hugh back out when he comes to tour,” said Project Manager Jeff Greene of Greene-Gasaway Architects.
“As it (the building) becomes more completed it becomes more real and the excitement continues to grow,” Maxwell said. “There are cars lined up along the highway, but now you don’t see many people outside — they are all indoors and you know there is a lot going on.”
Maxwell focused on some of the transformational aspects of the plan. There will be a community room — how exactly it will be used is in the visioning stages — that will have its own entrance.
There is a Science Technology Engineering Art Math interspace classroom — a room that is set up for project-based learning with sinks, tables and stools. “Space is so tight now, to do projects is a real challenge. Being able to expand STEAM work will be such a gift,” he said. Amy Barber, Evergreen’s integration support specialist, is ready to make the most of the expanded opportunities.
“We are super excited about the Commons — as you enter the building it is such an open beautiful space with high ceilings and beams showing. It was hard to envision how big and light it would be by just looking at the plans,” Maxwell said. “Students will eat there, and we want to use it all day long. Tables will be there for kids to meet and work on projects. And once we can invite volunteers and parents back, it will be a place to share learning and build relationships, to amplify the strengths of our school.”
The old gym will remain and will be used for community-based programs, though details are still being worked out according to Peninsula School District Capital Projects Coordinator Vicki Smith.
The bond funded replacement of Evergreen and Artondale elementary schools and construction of Swift Water and Pioneer. Cost-saving steps and additional state funding also allowed for modernization and additional classrooms at Key Peninsula and Kopachuck Middle schools.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the project is on time and on budget according to PSD Director of Facilities Patrick Gillespie. In fact, he said, the original bond promise was to have schools open in 2022 and 2023.
Greene said that the pandemic had some impact on the project. Construction shut down for a few days until the work was deemed essential. Having school closed to most students and staff made the work at Artondale Elementary School a little easier because the site space is tight. There were some supply chain issues. The main impact, he said, was that commute times were better for the workers. The entire capital project employed between 400 and 450 people with 75-80 at the Evergreen site.
“So much of the world truly shut down, and we didn’t. For the most part we had some things to work through, but we kept on going,” Smith said.
“We were about as normal as we could have been going through the year, which was good for us,” Gillespie said. “It kept people working, and it was really nice to have something fairly normal during that time.”
The final work on Evergreen’s interior and exterior is being completed, with site concrete work and landscaping in June, modification of the well in July and demolition of the old school expected in August and September. Maxwell hopes the school will be ready for the official start of the school year. “But” he said, “we know that just one small thing can go wrong and it can put us back a week. We are hoping for the best and planning for the worst. We will adapt. We learned to be flexible this last year.”
Maxwell hopes that when the doors open it will be to in-person classes five days a week for all students. The district is still working on health protocols, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control change in recommended physical distancing for students from 6 feet to 3 will make a big difference.
“It means we could have three or four kids at a table to do early literacy learning. Those early interactions are where kids start to learn about community,” Maxwell said. “We are so thankful to the community and for all who worked on the bond. Even with the uncertainty, it’s hard to be grumpy.”
UNDERWRITTEN BY NEWSMATCH/MIAMI FOUNDATION, THE ANGEL GUILD, ROTARY CLUB OF GIG HARBOR, ADVERTISERS, DONORS AND PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT LOCAL, INDEPENDENT NONPROFIT NEWS