The new Alderwood Elementary School opened at the start of the 2021-22 school year, debuting a thematic nod to the surrounding environment, from the siding to the windows to the library book drop. Vertical lines on the exterior of the school mirror the surrounding trees including those in the abutting wetland. A variety of window sizes mimic sky peaking through leaves and the articulated base acts as the roots, grounding the building. Many of the interior details and trim in the main entrance and staircases were crafted from Alder wood.
The hallways are designed to meander like a river in homage to the nearby Nooksack. Upstairs classrooms feature a shed-style ceiling, which slants up towards the outside windows providing abundant natural light while giving a cozy feeling near the reading nook in the hallway window.
“Seeing students exploring their new building has been incredibly fulfilling,” said principal Micah Smith. “Its thoughtful connection to the green world around us and the positive, light feel of the instructional spaces create an exceptional environment for learning.”
The modern, two-story building replaces a one-story building from 1956. The difference is striking. While the original building’s library was windowless, the new library has floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing the evergreen and deciduous trees of the wetland below. At least one student has admitted they were distracted by “all the trees!”.
Other overheard students’ comments include, “I love the new chairs!” “It smells like a new car!” “I really appreciate the new appliances!” “These monitors are so cool!” and “Is this really our gym?”
“My excitement comes from knowing I had a small part in providing this building for my ‘friends’ as the teachers call their students,” said Brian Smart, capital projects manager. “I love watching and listening to the staff, teachers and kids. I have had lots of questions about the building, its parts and pieces, and been asked why my head is bald.”
Still to come is the installation of the Alderwood story pole, carved by a member of the Lummi Nation and originally installed in Marietta school before it was later donated to Alderwood. Other features include an outdoor instructional area next to the wetland and outdoor seating for lunch. The play area for the Pre-K and Kinder classrooms includes a bike track and a giant caterpillar.
Construction continues with the outdoor areas, especially the playground, set to be completed in mid-November, along with the ball field. In a time of construction delays, labor and supply chain issues, opening in time for the start of school despite the many unfinished parts, is a reason for celebration.