Modular building designed around students’ needs
Methow Valley sixth-graders had a sort of mid-year graduation, returning from winter break to classes in a new facility dedicated just for them.
The two classrooms in a new modular building are a central part of a middle-school program launched this year that’s focused on the academic and social needs and interests of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.
The building has been customized with extra windows for natural light and ventilation. Even on a chilly January day, all windows were open for maximum air flow as a COVID precaution, and students and teachers wore jackets and hats indoors.
The students are happy to have their own space after migrating between the elementary and high schools since the start of the school year, sixth-grade teacher Carrie Fink said.
The modular building was supposed to be ready at the start of the school year, but it was behind schedule. Site preparation expected to be done over the summer was derailed when the campus became a fire camp. Supply-chain issues further delayed the building. The extra windows tacked on another three months, Methow Valley School District Superintendent Tom Venable said.
The district will add a second modular facility with two classrooms for next school year, which will enable them to add a third sixth-grade class, plus another room for projects and small-group activities, Venable said.
Although students may have been disappointed by the delay, one told Venable, “I was really excited about our new classrooms, but this is better than I could have ever imagined. It was worth the wait!”
The district had been contemplating a dedicated middle-school program for years, but it came together quickly after the Dream Big event the school district held two years ago to brainstorm new initiatives.
Sixth-grade students will get most instruction in their own classes in the new building, but can take electives at Liberty Bell High School. Seventh- and eighth-graders have additional experiential and outdoor learning opportunities, fewer class periods in a day, and more electives, Liberty Bell Principal Crosby Carpenter said.
Not only will the program address the special academic and developmental needs of middle-schoolers, but it will also help the elementary school accommodate a student body that has doubled in the past decade.
Staff and students have already had input into the design of the interior space. For the outdoor space and landscaping, Carpenter will work with middle-school students, staff, parents and interested community members to generate ideas. The district envisions a high-interest area that will promote the physical and social-emotional health and well-being of middle-school students, Venable said.
The modular facilities were the most economical solution. Each building has two classrooms and costs about $300,000, compared with almost $2 million for similar buildings with four classrooms. Federal COVID funding helped make the program feasible,