Briarwood Elementary School reopens reshaped, refreshed

Thirsty students take advantage of water during a recent walk-a-thon at the re-newly constructed Briarwood Elementary School in East Renton. - Tracey Compton/Renton Reporter
Thirsty students take advantage of water during a recent walk-a-thon at the re-newly constructed Briarwood Elementary School in East Renton.
— image credit: Tracey Compton/Renton Reporter

It’s a Friday afternoon at the recently re-constructed Briarwood Elementary School in east Renton and students are circling the building for a Parent Teacher Association walk-a-thon. The sun is shining, pop music from a stereo is pushing students forward and their Principal Drew Terry gives out fist bumps and high-fives, naming each student who passes.

Briarwood opened its doors and campus to a whole new environment this school year, after replacing a 50-year-old building and reshaping its grounds.

The school is off to a great start, Terry said during a recent interview and tour of the kindergarten-through-fifth-grade school.

“So our people have been waiting for a while and they’re just thrilled to have this brand new school,” he said.

Construction started in April 2011 and took 15 months. The new building was built on land adjacent to the old building.

At some of the other elementary schools in the Issaquah School District, to which Briarwood belongs, there has been some overcrowding with some schools more crowded than others, Terry said.

“They built this school to handle about 580 (students),” he said. “So, we’re about 100 away from what they would consider to be interior capacity. That means without the portables.”

Currently Briarwood has 470 students.

The district built the new school with proceeds from a bond measure that passed in February 2006. This construction project is the last project paid for with this bond.

With the new campus came new furniture, materials and design features. It’s a two-story structure with 28 classrooms in wings around the library, the hub of the school. The library plan is open with the ceiling opening to the floor above.

Staff got to weigh in on the design and as a result were given custom workstations, a larger staff lounge and one of two outdoor staff seating areas in the district.

Terry has taken advantage of the outdoor space, preparing barbecues for staff, which he said they really appreciate.

The previous building did not have interior hallways. The school was a series of buildings with classrooms that weren’t connected and only accessible from outside doors.

Briarwood is a magnet school for science and technology and now has a broadcast room for fourth- and fifth-grade students to create their own productions of school announcements.

“They’re actually going to have the ability to create newscasts to show the whole school,” Terry said.

Typical classrooms have active boards with projectors and special pens to allow teachers to go over lessons in a whole new way. Windows have over-hanging shades and there are energy-saving lights that conserve.

On the third day of classes this year, Terry planned a special assembly for students to mark the importance of the new school. He invited a motivational speaker who told the students to never give up, encourage others and do their best.

Terry coordinated the speaker’s message with his own yearly talk about the rules and goals for Briarwood.

“I want to send this message out that this place is a gift,” he said. “And we want to take care of it, because it has to be here for 50 years like our last school.”


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