BRUSH PRAIRIE — As Anna Tran and Olivia Dompier have discovered, there’s more to building a classroom than slapping a couple desks in a room and calling it good.
The pair of 13-year-old Laurin Middle School eighth-graders pored over graph paper Friday, pondering where to put sinks and bathrooms, whether a water fountain is necessary, and what materials are needed.
Around the room, other pods of students are making similar decisions, sketching doors, designing landscaping and selecting cabinets for an imagined future version of their own school.
These students in a hands-on science elective course are designing a new Laurin Middle School. Battle Ground Public Schools will in the Feb. 13 special election ask voters in the district to approve a 21-year, $224.9 million bond measure. The bond will build new schools and repair aging facilities.
Laurin Middle School, the district’s oldest school at 52 years old, is among the campuses slated for full replacement.
“Before this, I didn’t realize how much work architects and builders go through,” Anna said after deliberating with Olivia about how far to extend tile around a sink.
According to the district, Laurin Middle School is among the most desperately in need of repair. A district study rated the school “poor,” and the school’s open design, typically called California-style, isn’t secure. A district blog post notes that in the gym, where water leaks from the ceiling, a bag has been rigged up to the ceiling, a garden hose attached to that and a large garbage can below to collect water.
Joan Smith teaches the elective class. In past, students have engineered catapults, designed roller coasters, built towers and developed emergency-preparedness kits. With the bond election coming up, the timing seemed ripe for this engineering challenge. Now, students are divided into groups imagining the demolition, design, construction and landscaping of the very school they’re currently in. They’re working to stick to a budget, though there’s room for more imaginative designs. Representatives from LSW Architects visited the school earlier this year to speak to the class, bringing the real world into the classroom.
A sign hung on the whiteboard reminds them of their goal: to “design a school that respects the diversity of students while respecting and enhancing the environment and surrounding landscape.”
Smith said she wants her class to consider students of the future, some of them these student’s siblings, in their design. Though the district plans to use its prototypical schools model — a pre-designed layout that carries from new campus to new campus — the students’ dreams for their new campus may influence the way space is used in the new building, Smith said.
“They can take pride in it,” Smith said.
Jordan Wright, 14, watched as Anna and Olivia work. He’s on the construction team, learning about different building materials, what kinds of things to include and for what reasons. He offered suggestions for tiles and sinks to the girls.
“With every answer there’s another problem,” he mused before moving on to calculate the prices of building materials.