The second installment of the Peninsula School District’s Facilities Bus Tours on Saturday involved four buses and a gathering of concerned, interested citizens who, split into groups, toured our three high schools, the four schools on the Key Peninsula, the four middle schools and the Gig Harbor elementary schools.
I was with the high schools’ tour group where we first had an extensive walk-through of Gig Harbor High School, led by Assistant Principal Andrew Frost and aided by PSD facilities director Patrick Gillespy. It was a huge learning process. I thought I knew every nook and cranny of our schools because, in covering school activities for the Gateway column Kids’ Corner, I’m “everywhere.” Not so!
I had no idea how many additions to the GHHS structure had been made since its opening in 1977. Nor did I realize that the school’s several facilities, adequate at time of opening, have since been overwhelmed by increasing needs, regulations, technology and other then-unpredictable changes.
“The tour of several schools made it evident to me that even with amazing teachers and staff and willing students, the PSD has challenges to address created by the architecture and age of school facilities as well as in student learning environments to maximize students’ potential and prepare them to thrive in a rapidly changing world,” said fellow traveler Tom Borgen. “It takes a community to make great schools and the districts open and collaborative approach to involving all who want to be engaged is appreciated.”
“Schools looked different in 1979 and 1991 when GHHS was originally built and remodeled,” explained Frost. “Facilities need to be compatible with the collaborative style that makes students more successful in school, college and the workplace. Today was an opportunity for people to see that we need some updates in our facilities to ensure students learn at a higher level.”
Our equally eye-opening tours of Henderson Bay and Peninsula high schools were led respectively by principals Brian Tovey and David Goodwin.
Peninsula Schools Education Foundation Board member Patricia Scott said, “Our citizens’ group toured Evergreen, Vaughn, Minter, and Key Peninsula Middle School. The school facilities were welcoming and it was clear that they were strong community centers sharing their facilities with children-based programs and community programs and meeting places. The staff used the spaces in positive and creative ways to enhance education and fully utilize the spaces but it became clear that there were on-going issues with multi-use spaces and older designs, such as unused built-ins, that limit the use of space for today’s educational needs.”
“I am so grateful for the continued involvement of so many who want to see our school district continue its success and the success of our students and staff,” PSD Superintendent Rob Manahan said. “Saturday’s tour was gratifying to have 24-plus individuals take the time to see how our facilities are meeting the needs of our staff, students, parents and the community. The purpose of the tour and our facilities planning committee is to examine and evaluate how our schools are meeting these needs. In may ways, our facilities are supporting the learning and professional work within our schools. In some instances we saw some gaps that need to be filled. The committee will put together a recommendation on how the district might fill those gaps. I have been impressed with the creative contributions the committee has already made in terms of how we can address many of the needs immediately through our current resources.”
The district is offering additional tours from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 4 5.