Park Place Middle School principal Terry Chesire speaks at the new school’s celebration on Tuesday, Sept. 4.
Park Place Middle School principal Terry Chesire speaks at the new school’s celebration on Tuesday, Sept. 4.

Park Place Middle School Puma Christian Aguilor has waited patiently for two years to hear his clarinet sound in the remodeled band room and his sneakers squeak on the new basketball court during P.E. The eighth-grader was among hundreds of community members who celebrated the end of the building’s remodel on Tuesday.

Principal Terry Chesire has seen a handful of renovations in his career.

“By far, this is the most complex,” he said. “Any time you are managing a construction project with students on site and school going on, it is amazing what it takes to make that occur.”

The modernized two-story structure looms above most of the neighborhood’s homes. The exterior stands out with its sharp edges, straight lines and rich shades of blue.

Park Place is one of three Monroe School District schools that were leveled and rebuilt from the ground up within the past two years. A celebration will be held at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at Salem Woods Elementary, and at 10 a.m. Saturday for Frank Wagner Elementary.

The three projects are part of a multifaceted plan funded by a facilities bond, which 62.75 percent of the school district’s voters approved in April 2015. The resulting revenue totals about $110 million. The rest comes from $640,000 in mitigation fees from home developers, and $21.3 million in state construction assistance, according to the school district.

Park Place’s portion totaled $62.3 million of the $132 million cost to complete all six phases according to Chesire. The Salem Woods overhaul cost about $16.6 million, and Frank Wagner’s cost about $11.4 million.

The design process for each of the three schools included input from staff, students, parents and the community, according to the school district.

The bond also funded the second of a two-part undertaking that provided new ballfields at Monroe High School. The school district covered $1 million for the first phase, which started months after the bond was approved, and the bond revenue paid for the roughly $3.3 million second phase. Completion of the ballfields was celebrated last year.

The slew of projects is expected to have an impact beyond basic facility improvements. The new ballfields are estimated to generate 1,350 overnight stays in the city per year, giving the area an economic boost.

Chesire called his new building world-class. It is a testament to the community’s desire to uphold the values of a Park Place Puma — pride, excellence and character, he said. 

“To you, I don’t have the words to say thank you in the right way,” he said.

Chesire took time during Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony to acknowledge everyone who played a part in the process.

For two years his students had to brave the elements, perfect route-finding skills and learn throughout random power outages and alarms. They went outside last year for every P.E. class, regardless of the weather. They navigated reconfigured walkways, and were flexible when their lunchroom was relocated.

“Our eighth-graders endured two years of some pretty interesting things going on,” Chesire said.

He thanked staff for working to ensure their students’ education sustained minimal interruptions, the custodians for the heavy lifting, and assistant superintendent of operations John Mannix and capital projects director Heidi Hanson.

Bothell-based Cornerstone General Contractors, Inc., was responsive and thorough throughout, Chesire said. Seattle-based Integrus Architecture expertly blended the school’s past with its future, he said.

That is apparent in the little details that can be seen throughout the school.

Chesire noted the old basketball court’s floors were built into the new gymnasium’s walls. A resident created a series of panels that depict the community’s history, which are installed on the second floor, he said.

MSD superintendent Dr. Fredrika Smith said she is confident in the project’s impact.

“It’s really clear the students who are here now are ready to pick up and set history in motion into the future, and fill the school with some great leadership and great memories that we will be talking about for generations to come,” she said.

Before members of this year’s ASB cut the ceremonial ribbon, former Monroe School Board member Katy Woods invited the crowd to check out the new features for themselves.

“Please go in the school and take a look — it is just beautiful,” she said.

Language Arts and Digitools teacher Suzy Swanigan sat in her homeroom while kids and families wandered the halls. She had met with her incoming sixth-graders all day, who were part of her new pod.

The new hallways are designed with a group of classrooms lumped together. The setup makes it easier for teachers to collaborate, Swanigan said, and offer more support to their students across all subjects. It also strengthens the kids’ sense of community, because they work with most of the same peers throughout the day, she said.

Swanigan said the building, coupled with the new implements from the 2014 Technology Levy, has positively impacted her ability to instruct. All of her students have access to a Chromebook, meaning they never have to fight for a spot in the computer lab.

Having constant access prepares them for how the world works today, she said. A new surround-sound system helps keep students focused on the lessons, Swanigan said.

Coming into an updated school, Swanigan said she feels a strong sense of pride. As a parent, it also ensures her daughter is safe as she navigates enclosed and monitored hallways.

“You feel good about walking into the building,” she said.

Seventh-grader Araceali Garcia and her mother took the tour together. She said she wasn’t sure about all the ways the new school will change her education.

“I’m excited,” she said.