New high school poised to open its doors

The new Vashon High School includes large open spaces, natural wood and abundant light. - Cameron Walker Photo
The new Vashon High School includes large open spaces, natural wood and abundant light.
— image credit: Cameron Walker Photo

After more than a decade of planning and a year and a half of construction, the new Vashon High School building will open to the public this weekend.

Students will serve as tour guides at a community open house Sunday and lead groups through the 80,000-square-foot structure. Those who attend may also choose to explore on their own, said VHS principal Danny Rock. Docents will be on hand to explain significant features of the building, and as a backdrop to the day’s events, teen musicians and adults who are VHS alumni, employees or parents will perform.

Rock, who began his tenure at the high school this year, said he is excited for students to begin classes in the building next week, and he feels that the new space is a respectful one for learners, noting that it is environmentally sound, expansive, beautiful and utilitarian.

“I feel honored to work in an environment like this,” he said.

Moving into the new high school was a large task, Rock said, with teachers packing up their belongings in the weeks preceding winter break and a moving company stepping in as soon as the break started to get the job done in time for classes to start on Jan. 6.

Once students and staff are settled in the new building, Rock said he will be interested to see how the new environment influences learning.

“I am most looking forward to seeing how students and teachers use the flexible and collaborative spaces,” he added.

Superintendent Michael Soltman has high praise for the finished building as well, saying that it reflects the community’s high regard for education and environmental sustainability. The building was made possible by a $47.7 million bond Vashon voters approved in 2011, and the school board chose to include several green features during the building process.

One of the hallmarks of the building is its “porosity,” according to Brian Carter of Integrus Architecture, the firm that designed the building. The term refers to the intermingling of the indoors and outdoors, which the building does in several ways, including the use of abundant windows, doors that roll up to the outside and inclusion of wood harvested from the school property.

Each classroom in the high-tech building is outfitted with a voice amplification system as well as a projector that the teacher will control via a laptop, Rock noted. Students will sit in chairs with wheels, something Rock said has been proven to help with the learning process.

“Students don’t require an ideal space to learn, but with it, there is that much less resistance,” he said.

The open house will take place  from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday. Additional tours will be offered at 11 a.m. Saturday mornings through February.

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