SEQUIM — Progress at Greywolf Elementary School — both in and about its classrooms — is getting plenty of attention.
Last week, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray made a stop on her tour of Olympic Peninsula organizations to learn more about the Carlsborg school’s academic successes along with how well its kindergarten students and staff are adapting to classrooms in its cross-laminated timber building.
Earlier in the day Oct. 11, Murray visited the Cedarbrook Early Learning Center in Port Hadlock, talking with parents and child care providers to publicize a bill she has introduced, the Child Care for Working Families Act.
“When you pass policies [in Washington, D.C.], you want to see what happens on the ground,” Murray said.
At Greywolf, she talked with Principal Donna Hudson along with reading and math specialists about the school’s successes in improving learning at the school.
Earlier this year, for the fourth consecutive year, Greywolf was honored with a School of Distinction Award for being among Washington’s top improving schools.
Greywolf students showed sustained improvement throughout a five-year period in reading/English language arts and math. This year’s awards included a double honor in the categories of High Progress and Special Recognition for Math Growth.
In addition, Greywolf and Neah Bay Elementary School were among 54 U.S. schools to achieve a 2016 National Title I Distinguished School designation.
Hudson told Murray that staffers have shown great resiliency despite struggles they and other educators across the state face each year.
“We have lots of reasons why we can’t be successful. We want to say, ‘What can we do?’ It’s the way we do business here,” Hudson said.
“The enthusiasm and teamwork really make a difference for kids [here],” Murray said.
Murray also toured Greywolf’s modular cross-laminated (CLT) building that houses four kindergarten classrooms. She said she was impressed with how open the building feels from the large windows providing natural light to glass doorways to each classroom to sliding doors that open space between classroom spaces.
“This is exactly what they need,” Murray said, noting the era of classroom portables is on its way out. “The old model of staying in a classroom is not going to work.”
The CLT buildings are part of a pilot project overseen by the Department of Enterprise Services to address classroom sizes and pioneer the use of the new construction practices in Washington state.
“I’m so pleased with this place,” kindergarten teacher Carla Drescher told Murray. “I thought it [the natural lighting] would be a little distracting, but it’s not.”
Hudson said Greywolf has had to transition computer labs into classrooms in the past several years, most recently when the school received a 100-student bump in enrollment since the 2015-16 school year.
“I don’t know what we’d do without the CLT classrooms,” Hudson said.
Before she left, Murray visited with students in Kelli Mishko’s kindergarten class, accepting a card from the youths — one she says she’ll put up in her office in Washington, D.C.
Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at email@example.com.