Mercer Island School District board continues work on school designs

The Mercer Island School District Board of Directors held their annual board retreat late last month. As part of the two-day retreat, the board received updates on the educational specifications process from the architect team.

The team is currently in the information-gathering portion of the process, working with a group from both the elementary school and the high school on what teachers and staff would like to see at the school, and doing site visits of other schools in the area. The team has held several community meetings and will hold several more listening sessions this summer to gather public input on the plans. Mahlum, the architectural firm handling the process, said the things that it has heard from the community about the elementary school are that there needs to be a new school; there also needs to be more detail about the megablock master plan, a look at traffic, the environmental review and more development of the districtwide master plan.

The team has looked at elementary schools on Bainbridge Island, in Sammamish, Kirkland and did a virtual tour of a school in Springfield, Ore.

When discussing the site, to be located on the land now occupied by Youth Theatre Northwest and the old North Mercer Gym, the ed spec team said it would like there to be a separate car pick-up and parking area, and coordination with the other entities on the site, such as the high school, PEAK and the pool. The team would also like to improve safety and flow around the megablock, and work on joint use of facilities.

Within the school, the ed spec team would like to see a separate gym and cafeteria, which gives the school an option to divide the gym space. In the library, the team would like to have room for up to 13,000 volumes, which would be three-quarters oversized, allowing for space for flexibility. In the music program, the top choice was not to have to share space with the stage, and to have open space for flexibility and enough room for up to 50 students. In the core instruction areas, the team would like to see project-based curriculum and space that would allow for shared work spaces and small group activities outside of the classroom.

In the ed spec process, the next steps include studying the building’s footprint on the site, as well as studying existing foot and bike paths and doing a traffic study.

By the numbers

What is needed to ‘right-size’ Mercer Island High School? It is nearly at its maximum utilization, currently at 96 percent.

• In 2013, the high school had 1,378 students using 28,341 square feet of general classroom space.

• In 1995, the high school was at 85 percent utilization with 1,200 students using the same amount of classroom space.

• In 2018, the district expects enrollment at the high school to reach 1,518 students. To achieve an 85 percent utilization level, the amount of space must increase by 30 percent to 36,850 square feet.



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