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New schools in Clark County: ‘Warm and invited’

New La Center Middle School designed to embrace students, accommodate growth

By , Columbian staff writer
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Seventh-grade students pause for the Pledge of Allegiance as they have their homeroom in the library, which is still being unpacked, at the new La Center Middle School. It's the first new school building in the district since the early 1990s.
Seventh-grade students pause for the Pledge of Allegiance as they have their homeroom in the library, which is still being unpacked, at the new La Center Middle School. It's the first new school building in the district since the early 1990s. (Photos by Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

LA CENTER — Lauri Landerholm jokes that leading up to the first day of classes in La Center earlier this month, she pegged herself a principal without a place.

That’s because contractors at the new La Center Middle School worked right up until the first day of school Sept. 7 to ensure its grand opening for students.

And that left Landerholm office-less throughout August.

“I had nowhere to print for a long time,” the ninth-year principal said.

Landerholm now has her new office, but that flexibility of working elsewhere for a time was well worth it in exchange for the beautiful, brand-new, 81,000-square-foot middle school, now located at 2001 N.E. Lockwood Creek Road. It’s the district’s first new school building in 30 years.

“It’s going to be a chance for all kids to own their building and take pride and responsibility to keep it in great shape because it’s beautiful,” Landerholm said. “I think it’s going to be a center of community pride for a long time.”

La Center Middle School is one of eight schools in Clark County to open replacement buildings this fall. And while construction often is happening at larger neighboring districts such as Evergreen and Vancouver, it’s new business in La Center.

The new school is the first in La Center since the high school was constructed in 1991. La Center Elementary and La Center Middle were built in 1961 and renovations at each campus happened in the mid-2000s.

Finding space for the district’s nearly 1,700 students became a growing puzzle for district leaders in recent years. The biggest relief came when La Center voters passed a 2018 bond measure by nearly 66 percent for a new and larger middle school. The new school is designed to hold 550 students.

Construction began in May 2020, and features a fitness area and gymnasium, shared learning spaces and two of Landerholm’s favorite features: learning stairs inside the center commons and floor-to-ceiling windows in the library that are part of what she calls a warm and inviting experience for students.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Landerholm said. “I want these kids to feel warm and invited.”

Other Clark County replacement schools that opened in fall 2021

Ellsworth Elementary

512 S.E. Ellsworth Road, Vancouver

District: Evergreen Public Schools

Size: 62,000 square feet

Architect/Contractor: LSW Architects/Petra Construction

Cost/funding source: $25.1 million/2018 bond measure

Students served: grades K-5

Capacity: 550 students

Year previous building opened: 1958

Fun fact(s): The existing school was occupied adjacent to the new construction, providing a unique opportunity for student learning.

Marrion Elementary

10119 N.E. 14th St., Vancouver

District: Evergreen Public Schools

Size: 62,000 square feet

Design firm/Contractor: LSW Architects/Perlo Construction

Cost/funding source: $23.9 million/2018 bond measure

Students served: grades K-5

Capacity: 550 students

Year previous building opened: 1958

Fun fact/did you know? During construction, Marrion students and staff were temporarily housed in the former Image Elementary.

Legacy High School

13300 N.E. Ninth St., Vancouver

District: Evergreen Public Schools

Size: 28,000 square feet, plus additional 12,700 square feet of shared space

Design firm/Contractor: Mahlum Architects/Triplett Wellman Contractors

Cost/funding source: $27.4 million (entire Legacy/Hollingsworth/Transitions alternative learning campus)/2018 bond measure

Students served: grades 9-12

Capacity: 200 students full-time, 100 online, GED/open doors 75, red-entry 32

Year previous building opened: 1987

Fun fact(s): The school includes a new Career, College and Technical Education program, including a commercial culinary kitchen for students to learn life skills and provide training for careers in restaurant/hospitality.

Hollingsworth Academy (formerly 49th Street Academy)

13400 N.E. Ninth St., Vancouver

District: Evergreen Public Schools

Size: 15,500 square feet

Design firm/Contractor: Mahlum Architects/Triplett Wellman Contractors

Cost/funding source: $27.4 million (entire Legacy/Hollingsworth/Transitions alternative learning campus)/2018 bond measure

Students served: grades K-12

Student capacity: 50 students

Year previous building opened: 1988

Fun fact(s): Academy is named for Dorothy Hollingsworth, the first Black woman named to Seattle School Board and elected to the state Board of Education.

Transition Program

13500 N.E. Ninth St., Vancouver

District: Evergreen Public Schools

Size: 8,460 square feet

Design firm/Contractor: Mahlum Architects/Triplett Wellman Contractors

Cost/funding source: $27.4 million (entire Legacy/Hollingsworth/Transitions alternative learning campus)/2018 bond measure

Students served: 18-21 years old

Capacity: 70 students

Year previous building opened: rented/leased storefront facility

Fun fact(s): Students will have learning opportunities in a real-work environment since it shares a campus with the new district administrative office.

Walnut Grove Elementary

6103 N.E. 72nd Ave., Vancouver

District: Vancouver Public Schools

Size: 86,306 square feet

Design firm/Contractor: Bassetti Architects/Triplett Wellman Contractors

Cost/funding source: $33.6 million /capital projects, 2017 bond measure

Students served: grades pre-K-5

Capacity: 720 students

Year previous building opened: 1952

Fun fact(s): Learning stairs open up and overlook the library; each classroom has a quiet nook, attached small group spaces and co-op to support various learning styles and students’ needs; several specialized classrooms have garage doors that open up to the courtyard.

Jim Tangeman Center (formerly Fir Grove/Vista)

3200 E. 18th St., Vancouver

District: Vancouver Public Schools

Size: 22,600 square feet

Design firm/Contractor: LSW Architects/Tapani Inc.

Cost/funding source: $10.2 million/capital projects, 2017 bond measure

Students served: grades K-12 on Individualized Education Plans

Capacity: 80 students

Year previous building opened: 1955 (purchased by VPS in 1995)

Fun fact(s): Individual classroom with separate spaces for elementary, middle and high school students; five trees were removed from the site and repurposed to create the natural play area in the playgrounds.

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