By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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The prototypical classroom with a teacher standing at a blackboard in front of rows of desks is no longer the most effective way to teach, he said.
“Kids are not interested in that,” he said. “How do we create space that allows kids to learn these days?”
Shea spoke about the district's plans to modernize its facilities to a crowd of more than 60 people at the meeting at SunLand Golf & Country Club.
He cited studies that have found well-regulated climates, freshly cycled air and natural light are key to creating areas that support learning.
“Do facilities make a difference in student learning? Absolutely yes,” he said, adding that the district's current buildings do not provide those environments.
“When we have portable classrooms that are 93 degrees the first day of school . . . that's not conducive to learning,” he said.
A special committee charged with reviewing the future needs of the Sequim School District's facilities will present its recommendations that the district build a new elementary school east of downtown, remodel Greywolf Elementary in Carlsborg, renovate the high school to make it one contained building and rebuild the district's athletic facilities to the School Board soon, likely prior to winter break, Shea said.
The 15-member committee of parents, retirees and business owners has been meeting since April.
The School Board, once it gets the recommendations from the committee, will decide whether it wants to pursue the new facilities and ask voters to approve a construction bond measure.
Using a photo slide show of Sequim's schools, Shea tracked the district's facilities from its first school to the present.
He spelled out the district's efforts to find new uses for the building that housed the city's second school, built in 1920 at the corner of Sequim Avenue and Fir Street.
Offices for school district administration are now consolidated inside the city's 93-year-old high school at 503 N. Sequim Ave.
The building, which was added onto in 1932, was used as a middle school after the district built its current high school in 1968. Middle school classes were moved out in the 1980s.
Shea cited the building as an example of how communities connect to schools.
“There's something about the old high school that stands out to us,” he said. “Brick never goes out of style.”
Over the past several years, the district has used the old school as a sort of laboratory for students in building trades classes. Students, with professional guidance, have remodeled most of the old school so the district can use it for administration offices.
“These kids can go out and get a job tomorrow in the building trades,” Shea said of the program.
Security an issue
The open designs of Helen Haller Elementary and Sequim High School present challenges for the staff, he said.
“It was a great thought,” he said, adding that the original sketches for the campuses showed parents sitting on benches outside classroom pods waiting for their students.
Now, with security heightened, parents wait behind painted lines and safety cones for their children.
“We can't have people just freely walking through the buildings,” Shea said.
While mass tragedies like school shootings are rare, he said, the open campuses leave open an opportunity for non-custodial parents to lead students off campus without the consent of custodial parents.
“That's my biggest concern,” Shea said.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.