North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Construction complete on new M-P Commons


Christopher Andersson

The south side of the recently completed M-PHS Commons on Dec. 16.

Marysville-Pilchuck High School's new Commons and cafeteria building is finished with construction and students will have a proper eating area again soon.

Since the school shooting that occurred at the former cafeteria on Oct. 24, 2014, students have been eating in classrooms and various other areas around the campus.

The district took a survey of student and parent opinion, both of which showed that students did not want to return to the former cafeteria.

The Marysville School District secured $5 million in funding from the state legislature and additional matching funds from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to make sure that the students would not have to go back.

Earlier this year, in April, construction of the 16,000-square-foot facility began and now only the finishing touches remain on the project.

The commons area features large glass windows on the south side of campus near the school's gym.

"They [the students] are really excited about it," said Emily Wicks, communications coordinator for the district.

The new M-PHS Commons building contains digital message boards, a 13-by-16-foot projection screen and a new sound system.

A cafe area provides a connected, but smaller more private, place where students can eat.

"Some of the kids that were on the [M-P Commons design] team mentioned they wanted some breakout spaces, so it wasn't just a big box. People that didn't want to sit with 300 kids could come here and sit with 40 kids," said Greg Dennis, facilities director for the district.

The area will also come with cafe-style tables and seats.

The space can also be used as a smaller meeting area.

"This can also be used for a basketball team that could come here to watch video before or after a game," said Dennis.

Students also expressed a desire for outside eating like the previous cafeteria had. Dennis said there is space for that eating area, although exactly what kind of tables the district will add will be determined later.

The kitchen is built similar to a "food court model," said Dennis, with multiple windows each containing different food being served.

"We had two members of the food service team on the committee [to plan the Commons] and they helped us identify the best ways to do things," said Wicks.

That includes new equipment for the kitchen and more prep area than was in the former cafeteria.

The new cafeteria also features many energy-saving features.

The large windows help with lighting throughout the building.

"The health department has to do an annual inspection for lighting levels, and this passed without the lights on because of all the natural light," said Dennis. "That's a big energy saving when you don't have to burn those lights."

Even when the lights are on they don't take as much power though, because the Commons is the first building in the district to use all LED lights.

"That's obviously a huge energy savings, and a maintenance savings as well since you don't have to replace the bulbs for 25 or so years," said Dennis.

In addition, high-efficiency boilers will help keep the upkeep costs down.

Although the new Commons is slightly bigger than the previous cafeteria, Dennis expects a sizable reduction in the energy costs.

The DECA class, which runs the "Student Store" in the cafeteria, will now have a room right in the same building as the cafeteria.

"This is the one piece that wasn't an immediate replacement to any room in the other cafeteria," said Dennis.

Previously the class would have to walk across the campus if they needed to get to the Student Store for any reason.

"This is a great opportunity for the DECA students to have this connected, they were very excited when they got to have a tour," said Wicks.

A window in the Student Store now opens directly to the gym as well, so they can sell directly from the store at athletic events.


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