I recently took a trip to visit DLR Group's Seattle office, meeting the brilliant minds designing schools in the Pacific Northwest and checking out local schools along the way. One such school was Marysville Getchell High School in Marysville, Washington. This school was one of the first out of DLR's Seattle office and was the 2011 James D. MacConnell winner. This award is not a design award but instead focuses on how the facility functions and meets the educational needs of its users'. Marysville Getchell was actually on my radar well before I started at DLR due to its unique model and operations and of course, its beautiful design.
Marysville Getchell (MG) is actually four high school academies: the Academy of Construction and Engineering, the BioMed Academy, the International School of Communications, and the School for the Entrepreneur. The MG campus consists of five individual buildings, one for each of the academies and a shared commons building with dining space and athletics/fitness facilities, all interconnected and nestled under a thick forest. School had not yet started when I toured so I wasn't able to see these spaces in action but I did get to poke around a bit and chat with some administrators who had stuck around on a Friday afternoon. I found there are actually two stories to tell about the school - one of its initial design intent and use and one of its current transformation. The original story has been told countless times and here's a great video showing it off along with the space. Check it out!
I am much more interested in its current transformation. In light of shifts in district administration and budget concerns, some facets of the facility are shifting this upcoming school year. Due to the cost of maintaining separate principals and management of effectively four different high schools, administration across the campus is being centralized with one principal overseeing the entire campus. With the reduced number of staff supervising the independent buildings, the comfort level with dispersed dining is lessened and students will be consolidated into 2-3 areas during lunch. As of now, they are still sticking with the educational portion of the academy structure but it will be interesting to see if the unity and relationships the small learning community model builds hold strong without the staffing and social/dining hours and schedule to back it up. I am hoping to touch base with the administration throughout the year to see how the new organizational style is going.