Photos by Patrick Robinson
The Louisa Boren Junior High Building on Delridge Way is receiving a face-lift in anticipation of Seattle Public School's first K-5 STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program coming to West Seattle this school year. PLEASE CLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE FOR A PHOTO TOUR

SLIDESHOW: K-5 STEM at Boren getting polished for the school year (UPDATED)

Students heading back to school on Sept. 5

Ed. note - for updated information from Dr. Shannon McKinney, principal for K-5 STEM, please scroll to the bottom of the story.

One of the first things you’ll notice at the Louisa Boren Junior High School building on Delridge Way S.W. is a new exterior paint job – a mixture of yellow and grey that actually carries on into the building itself, which will house Seattle Public Schools first kindergarten through 5th grade STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program.

The colors were decided upon by architects who work with Seattle Public Schools because they had that technological feel, according to SPS Capital Projects Manager Jeannette Imanishi, who is in charge of getting Boren ready for K-5 STEM students in September.

PLEASE CLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE FOR A PHOTO TOUR

With only weeks to go before students start filing in, Imanishi and her crew are working feverishly under the guidance of principal Dr. Shannon McKinney to convert two classroom wings and support rooms (cafeteria, gym, administration) into a technological haven intended to give around 250 young students an early head start in mastering the STEM disciplines. There will also be two playgrounds to ensure physical activity is part of the curriculum.

The building, opened in 1963 as Louisa Boren Junior High School and serving as an interim site for Chief Sealth International students in recent years, was in need of some polish that Inamishi headed up.

“We had a relatively limited budget, but not a lot had to be done except for a facelift,” Inamishi said of the interim space that will likely be used for K-5 STEM for two years. The program may move to a new location beyond that.

A cost-saving measure clearly apparent upon walking into the revamped space is what happened with the floors: Asbestos-riddled tiles that used to line the halls were all removed and instead of installing new ones, Inamishi and her team decided to polish the concrete underneath. Facilities crews have a massive polisher that goes over the concrete eight times with an increasingly finer grit until the roughness is replaced by sheen.

The inner courtyard will house a play area for special education and kindergarten students while the larger playground to the south of the building is expected to be done sometime after the school year begins (they need to move a number of portable classrooms to different locations to free up the space).

Portables and additional wings of the school (not being used by K-5 STEM) are also getting a new paint job so they will be ready to activate at a moments notice for other overcrowding or emergency needs, SPS Facilities Communications Coordinator Tom Redman said during a tour of the facility on Aug. 13.

The different wings of the school are color coded as a wayfinding measure, Imanishi said, so kids, parents and teachers alike will be able to navigate their new environment.

While the classrooms are still waiting for desks and technological infrastructure, new paint jobs are up and carpet is down. Among other features, Imanishi said each room will have interactive white boards and projectors.

McKinney said the current classroom breakdown consists of the following: three kindergarten (K), one K/1st grade split, one 1st grade, three 2nd/3rd split, 1 4th grade, one 4th/5th grade split, one transitional kindergarten, one preschool and one K-2nd grade autism room.

Since only a portion of the 120,000 square foot is activated for K-5 STEM, new walls (with lockable doors) have been installed to keep the students from wandering into unused areas of the school.

With Boren being an interim site for the program, Imanishi said certain features originally designed for junior high students will require some tweaks. Combination locks on the lockers will be removed in the coming weeks so youngsters can access them with ease, and step stools will be found throughout – from bathroom sinks to drinking fountains – so the little ones can gain access.

An Apple computer lab with powerful Macs is coming together as well, at the special request of McKinney, Imanishi said.

"My experience with Apple operating systems and Apple programs/applications led me to this platform," McKinney said.

While Imanishi said the school is currently well built to withstand the possibility of earthquakes, she plans to make additional upgrades to the structure next summer when funds and time become available.

Redman said Imanishi has several school projects she is working on simultaneously, and the work at Boren was delayed until enrollment projections illustrated enough interest to start the work.

“The flexibility – I don’t know how they do it,” he said of Imanishi and her fellow project supervisors. “It is a day and night thing … she worries all the time and all I know is that when little changes and big changes come through it is like moving a big train with architects, engineers, permitting, the city … the community.”

Imanishi said she has been working with Dr. McKinney very closely during the entire process.

“She is basically my customer,” Imanishi said. “She has been great to work with and she is chomping at the bit, she wants to get in here so bad to start working.”

Updated information from Dr. Shannon McKinney added on 8/16:

Concerning enrollment, McKinney said at last count there are 259 students enrolled at K-5 STEM.

"Depending upon the 'domino effects' of students deciding not to enroll and moving in students from the wait lists, the student body may change, but I do not expect much of a fluctuation in enrollment numbers," she said.

All teachers have been hired with the exception of a special education resource teacher and special education K-2 autism program teacher.

Looking back on the work of the design team (a combination of administrators, teachers and community members)in recent months, McKinney said, "The design team finalized the curriculum support materials for our school ... At this point, the responsibilities for school-wide input on specific decisions has been transferred from the design team to the building leadership team, which is in the 'formation' stage."

"I am so excited to make K-5 STEM at Boren my educational home," McKinney said. "I'm very happy with the remodeling and preparatory progress thus far and what has been done to the existing structure to accommodate our unique educational program.

"Since joining Seattle Public Schools, I have felt that being the principal of a new K-5 STEM school is a very special opportunity and to this point, I've experienced nothing but positive energy and support."

To read more about the K-5 STEM teaching theory and Dr. McKinney, please check out the following Herald stories:

Parents' conundrum in choosing new K-5 STEM elementary

Dr. Shannon McKinney appointed as principal for K-5 STEM at Boren

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