Centralia STEM Facility

The Centralia School District was awarded over $3.6 million to fund the construction of the STEM education facility from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. This is a preliminary rendering. 

The Centralia School District has released a conceptual video showing what the new STEM facility on the high school’s campus will look like in the future.

The district is choosing to incorporate the theme of alternative sustainable energy into the building design, with future hopes of adding solar panels to the building’s roof. 

With approximately $3.6 million in state grant funds, a $430,000 commitment from the school district and about $103,000 in donations, which included a $54,000 pledge from an anonymous donor, the building is still about $1 million shy of what is needed. 

“Currently, it’s all conceptual numbers,” Phil Iverson, director of facilities and maintenance for the district, said. “We are looking at finding additional funds, but first we have to get an idea of exactly where we are at.”

Iverson had a meeting scheduled for early this week to help better pinpoint the finances of the project.

“From there we have to determine if we can proceed,” he said. “Do we have enough money to go forward or do we come back together as a group and decide what needs to be taken out of the project, or what can we do that is maybe lesser than what we are hoping to get?”

The conceptual design of the building so far includes 16,000 square feet, which includes four dual purpose labs and classroom at 1,300 square feet, and two larger ones at 1,680 square feet.

It also includes a 1,300-square-foot multipurpose exhibition room that could be used as a learning space or to host community events, such as small conferences.

Mike Stratton, science instructional coach at the high school, said the space could showcase some of the students’ scientific work. As of right now, the exhibition room is one of the things that may be cut if more funding is not found. Outside learning spaces currently built into the plan may also be cut. 

The outdoor learning spaces are attached to the sides of the buildings where aquaculture, hydroponics, earth science and erosion lectures could be taught. 

“The outdoor learning spaces is where we extend the learning beyond the four walls to areas outside of the building ... and connect it to the outside world,” Stratton said. 

The outdoor spaces are directly connected to the lab classrooms. Power and water would be available in the areas. 

Each of the lab/classroom combos are built to be “flexible learning spaces,” with furniture that is easily moveable.

Despite the range in size, the classrooms are currently designed to fit 28 students, with the large classrooms providing additional space to accommodate the needs of molecular genetics and chemistry rooms. 

The new STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — facility offers more space. The current science rooms are “ridiculously inadequate,” Ed Petersen, communications and public relations coordinator for the district, said. 

The classrooms provide more space for the STEM classes, with the smaller ones being one-third bigger than those currently being utilized, Stratton said. 

Tim Penman, a physical science teacher at the high school, said the building would be a life science center, but would not include space for physical science like robotics. 

He said there’s potential to add an additional wing for the physical sciences in the future. 

The specifics of some of the building are not yet concrete, but Penman said overall the plan has been approved by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. 

The addition of the STEM building may also potentially allow the district to remove four portable classrooms. Currently the high school has 13 portable teaching classrooms and two physical education classrooms housed in portables. 

Iverson said the facility will be a high performance building that meets LEED — or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — silver standards, tying in the theme of sustainable energy. 

As the district proceeds, Stratton said, conversations are happening at the board, district and community levels. 

“The bigger goal is to make sure we design and build a building that is adequate for what we need,” Petersen said. “That’s the right thing to do as opposed to just rushing it.”

Iverson said the building is a great opportunity for the district because it will be a college level facility.

Centralia High School principal Josue Lowe agreed. 

“This is a piece for Centralia High School that will be an amazing center for us,” he said. “Even if things are cut out of that building, it is going to be dramatically better than anything we have on this campus, especially when you look at the conditions of our existing science department, so the opportunity for our students and staff is going to be boundless.”

School board member Bob Fuller said the goal is to have a building that is going to fit the needs for everyone, students and staff included.

The district hopes to be teaching in the new facility by February 2018. 

With a potential bond in the works, Stratton said the location will not disrupt plans if a bond measure is passed to renovate the high school.

“One of the things I’m excited about is as we move toward remodeling or a new building, this will work in that plan,” he said. “It’s been thought through to ducktail with our plans of a potential bond.” 

The Centralia School District was awarded over $3.6 million to fund the construction of the STEM education facility in May from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The Chehalis School District was also awarded $5.5 million through the preliminary STEM grant, and the School Construction Assistance Program to build a new STEM wing onto W.F. West High School. 

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