Kids were still finding their way around the new Wainwright Intermediate School on Monday morning, but initial student reviews were positive.
Sixth-grader Annie Edland likes the color scheme: vibrant green, orange and yellow. She also likes the large whiteboard screens that display what’s on her teacher’s computer.
Classmate Desmond Hall is enjoying the wide open spaces that are part of the Fircrest school’s design. Lots of glass walls let in daylight, even on a snowy December morning. But Desmond says he also likes that there are spots for students to work independently when they need to concentrate.
Amauri Bradley, also a sixth-grader, is happy about one of the perks of being a middle schooler: “I’m excited to finally get my locker combination.”
The $35-million, 65,000-square-foot school opened for the first time Monday, after experiencing a monthslong construction delay. It had originally been scheduled to open at the start of this school year. But Monday’s opening was about a month sooner than the school district had projected in the fall.
I think it’s going to be an awesome thing to find out what’s inside.
Student Taylor Lemieux
Teachers were busy Monday explaining to kids how the new building works, along with some of the ground rules for the new space. There’s an elevator, but it’s only for students who can’t use the stairs. Don’t press the elevator buttons, they warned, because the elevator works only if you have a key.
Teacher Audrey Wilson told her students they were welcome to use the drinking fountain in her classroom whenever they needed to. But if they want to fill their water bottle at the bottle-filling station in the hallway, they need a hall pass.
Even the likeness of Gen. Jonathan Wainwright — the school is named for the World War II hero, who died in 1953 — is still finding its way in the new building. The general’s portrait was part of a welcome-to-Wainwright assembly Monday morning. But Principal Donna Basil said they’re still looking for the perfect spot to hang his picture.
Basil, who’s been planning for the new school for five years, said she was “joyously overwhelmed” on opening day. She said teachers and other staff members worked nonstop over the long weekend (there was no school last Friday) to make the move from nearby Whittier Elementary.
“They’ve been amazing,” Basil said of her staff.
Tacoma School Board President Karen Vialle attended the opening assembly. She said the wait to open the new Wainwright was worth it, because the new school with its “state-of-the-art learning environment” will be the envy of other school districts.
“We had a few hiccups,” she said, referring to the delays. “But when you walk in today and see these smiling kids and happy teachers and everyone — it’s a good day for Tacoma Public Schools.”
It’s a good day for Tacoma Public Schools.
Tacoma School Board President Karen Vialle
Wainwright is designed as a combination of upper elementary and middle school grades. It will eventually house fourth- through eighth-graders, but the school opened Monday with about 270 fourth- through sixth-graders. For now, the third floor remains closed to students but will be used later as more students and grade levels are added in coming years.
The delayed opening, announced last spring, caused an outcry from parents who learned that their sixth-graders would have to spend the first few months of the school year in the remodeled basement of Whittier.
But mom Samantha Lemieux said Monday morning that she didn’t mind the wait.
“I think they worked hard to get everything done,” she said as she arrived at school with her son, fourth-grader Taylor Lemieux. “I think they worked hard to get it quickly back on track. I’m excited to get in there.”
Taylor was jazzed as well: “I think it’s going to be an awesome thing to find out what’s inside.” He’s looking forward to using the school’s clay kiln. And he loves the rolling chairs, designed to help students re-adjust their position and stay comfortable during the school day.
Parent Leandra Armstrong, who has a fifth-grader at Wainwright, said she was impressed with the building.
“It looks like a mini-college,” she said.
For the Potter family, the new Wainwright is the continuation of an old family tradition. Sixth-grader Morgan Potter started school as a kindergartner in the old Wainwright building, which dated from the 1920s. She remembers the red brick exterior and white interior walls. Her mom, Kelly Potter, also attended Wainwright — as did Morgan’s grandfather.
Were they sad to see the old building torn down?
“Very,” answered Kelly Potter. “It was very sad. But — new things, moving on.”
Check it out
Wainwright Intermediate School will host a grand opening ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 25.