QUILCENE — Over the weekend, volunteer crews put finishing touches on a new outdoor learning center at Quilcene School, repurposing a dilapidated bus barn just in time for the resumption of classes today.
Forty or more volunteers, including four students who worked every weekend, have transformed the old structure.
“This is the largest volunteer project that has happened in recent memory in Quilcene,” said Superintendent Frank Redmon.
After the old bus barn was deemed unsafe, the long-term capital plan was to demolish and replace it, but the district was unable to pass bond funding to pay for that.
So instead, the structure has been converted into “a tree-lined walkway to the school and a new home for the district’s environmental education program,” according to a press release. A community maker space is planned for the future.
Students and community members planted native trees and shrubs to line a new pedestrian corridor connecting the bus drop-off with the school entrance.
“The transformation almost has to be seen to be believed,” Redmon said. “The transformation from a barren parking area to a tree-lined pedestrian zone will benefit our students and community for generations to come.”
The old bus barn had roll-up doors. The doors are open, with part of the 49-foot-by-60-foot space for outdoor education inside.
“We want the space to be flexible and adaptive so teachers can find many ways to incorporate it into classroom training,” Redmon said. “It’s a place for them to flow their classroom from indoors to outdoors.”
Community groups, including Count Me In for Quilcene (CMIQ), supplied funds to cover food and refreshments for the volunteers and to purchase materials that couldn’t be donated.
“After our school bond issue failed this spring,” said Linda Herzog, CMIQ board president, “people came together and said, ‘We have to do something positive for the kids.’
“This project has been a big, ‘Yes! We can do this,’” Herzog went on. “And to think that the first work party was just three weeks ago. It’s a total makeover.”
The project manager was Steve Murakami.
The structure has been repainted and been given a new concrete floor, ready for outdoor education programs. Planters have been planted. The outdoor pavilion was finished except for the metal roof, which is being custom-made.
During the school year, students are expected to design and paint a mural for walls of the old bus barn.
“The all-volunteer support for this project has been amazing,” Redmon continued. “We’ve had dozens of pro bono hours from big-name architects and project managers, a long list of suppliers donating materials, and over 100 students and community members shoveling dirt and swinging hammers.”
Among those working on the project was Brandon Johnson, an alumnus who graduated in 2019, left the area and then returned to work as a machine operator at a local business owned by another alumnus.
The business donated the use of the excavator Johnson operated.
“I love the fact I can come back and help,” Johnson said.
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].