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August 5, 2011     West Seattle Herald
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August 5, 2011
 

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10 Friday, August 5, 2011 West Seattle Herald New Denny Middle School is modern, green and built to maximize learning By Patrick Robinson and Ty Swenson The new Denny Internation- al Middle School at 2601 S.W. Kenyon Street will officially open in a ribbon cutting ceremony Sept. 6 at 1:00 pm. and it will mean a major milepost has been reached in the Seattle Public Schools remod- eling plan for Sealth International High School and Denny. The $50 million remodel and new construc- tion plan has taken three years. The new Sealth International High School opened last September. The West Seattle Herald was provided with a tour of the new school by Robert Evans, the Proj- ect Manager and Principal Jeff Clark, who said, '"'This is going to be an amazing educational facility and the fact is that Denny has out- standing kids, an amazing group of teachers and I know I'm biased, but I will say I think this is going to be the best school in the state and this is exactly what our kids and community deserve?' Not all Denny teachers have seen the new building, but Jeff said a teacher who recently got the tour's "honest reaction was tears of joy." "Being the principal of Denny is my dream job," said Clark, "I absolutely love it every day. The reason for that is I believe pub- lic middle schools are essential in helping us as a society to prepare all of our kids for college. It is such an important transitional age for them and we have an amazing team of people who are dedicated to doing that. "We are one of the most diverse schools in the state in terms of both racial and linguistic diversity and we celebrate and honor that and see that as an additional important tearningexperience for the kids." "Our solid focus on academics is leading to real growth results that we can measure and we are really trying to give every kid a ticket to college graduation. That's what we are all about. We think it's a social justice issue, a civil rights issue, its our chance to make it happen for all of our kids." .The 140,000 square foot struc- ture is modem in many aspects and built green with features such as butterfly roofs that take drainage into storm systems that filter runoff into drainage swells. Eventually that water flows into the adjacent Longfellow Creek. Evans said, "We've done every- thing we can from a design stand- point to make sure it is a very com- fortable educational environment." (not too hot, not too cold). A lot of thought went into the design of the school. Contractors were asked to use low volatile organic compound adhesives resulting in less noxious smells or dangerous fumes. Gray wall material in the hall- ways - "a ton of tackable surfaces" to post the kids work, from art to math. Three times the amount of tackable surfaces as previously used and the new material is self- healing so it will hold up to years of tacking up kids work. During the planning and con- struction process the community expressed concern over the com- bined Denny/Sealth campus. Clark explained, "One of the (communi- ty) concerns was simply that some people thought it was going to be like University of Washington with a bunch of buildings and kids wan- dering everywhere and kids getting lost and this is clearly not that - this is a middle school that is built on middle school best practices that is connected to a high school. We do have some programs that have been shared for a number of years now including our award winning music program." Denny has it own gym, lunch- room and library, "We have our own setup for middle-school. At the same time, I see this as an opportunity. With planning and preparation we can do things like train high school seniors to become tutors and work with our kids under the guidance of a teacher. I also see a possibility of a new pro- gram where high school kids could take a course to learn about what it takes to be a teacher and during the day actually become a teacher's assistant." The lighting at Denny is ample with every room getting natural light. Natural lighting in class- rooms "has a big impact on kids consciously and subconsciously so we are really excited about it, said Clark. "Our goal is to make our kids as comfortable as possible so they can learn as much as possible and I think this building is really going to help out with that." The north recreational area for middle school kids has Astroturf which will hold up for a long time and a garden area referred to as the Wetlands Restoration classroom (theresa greenhouse there too) that will be used to teach kids in sci- ence classes about horticulture. Just as at Sealth each classroom has its own heating unit and some have AC where that's appropriate. The new school features 'Team- ing Areas' - common areas with podium's to teach. Group of teach- ers work with kids and their fami- lies so they can all get to know each other. Each grade has these teaming areas. Clark said "A place where a group of teachers can share stu- Photos by Patrick Robinson The new signage and reader board out in front of Denny Interna- dents and that gives them an oppor- tional Middle School speaks to its modern construction. The new tunity to know kids well, know" building is set to open Sept. 6 with a ribbon cutting ceremony. A their learning styles, get to know community celebration is potentially set for Sept. 24. their families. It is conducive to relationship building" The student body at Denny reflects the community of course with A white, tA African American, A Asian, A Hispanic with some Native American population. The international aspect of the school is reinforced with Spanish, Arabic and Mandarin language programs offered. In the new gym, dozens of win- dows and skylights let in as much natural light as possible. Acoustics make it work as a classroom just as well as a gym (as in less echo). A new high quality sound system hangs from the ceiling, and on the wall are wireless scoreboards. Upstairs, looking over the gym is a fitness room with mirrored walls. "Teaching kids about health, nutrition and fitness is a part of our program ... and this flows beauti- fully into our element of that mis- sion?' Actual construction is 95-98 percent done, according to Clark. At this point it is all about getting the furniture, desks, shelving and teaching materials placed. Evans expressed his gratitude to Bassett Architects, Contractor - Absher Construction, DK Archi- tects and everyone else involved from the construction and school- ing side in "making this new Denny a reality." Patrick Robinson can be reached at pr@robinsonnews.com Ty Swenson can be reached at policeblotter@robinsonnews.com. Ty Swenson Denny International Middle School Principal Jeff Clark and Proj- ect Manager Robert Evans. VCA West Seattle (206) 923-3551