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Originally published Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 12:17 AM

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New state-of-the-art Lynnwood High opens today

A new $100 million Lynnwood High School opens today, its two-story glass entryway rising to a point and classrooms equipped with state-of-the-art technology. Light streams into a spacious commons area called the "agora," the Greek word for marketplace or civic center.

Times Snohomish County reporter

Lynnwood High School principal Dave Golden spent a lot of the past decade trying to persuade prospective students and parents to look past the school's crummy, flat-roofed building, the extension cords crisscrossing the library, the unmistakable dank smell on the ground floor where sump pumps ran 24/7 to keep an underwater spring from seeping into classrooms.

That's not going to be a problem anymore.

The new $100 million Lynnwood High School opens its doors today, its two-story glass entryway rising to a point, like the prow of a swift ship. Light streams into the spacious commons area that's being called the "agora," the Greek word for marketplace or civic center.

The classroom wings are equipped with state-of-the art technology, from carbon-dioxide sensors to wireless microphones for teachers and lights that automatically dim as daylight brightens. A stream and wetland on the grounds will serve as a hands-on science classroom.

Last week, as workers set saplings into the bare ground outside and lifted artwork into place within, students, teachers and administrators seemed almost giddy that the gleaming new school was a reality.

"There's a definite 'Wow' factor," Golden said. "We've always had great kids and a great staff. Now we have an environment to match."

Bond measure

Some wondered if the new school would ever be built. The Edmonds School District's three other high schools, built hurriedly in the 1960s for the growing suburbs, had all been replaced by 1998. But district voters twice turned down bond measures to build a new Lynnwood High, the district's most economically and ethnically diverse high school.

A construction bond measure finally passed in 2006, after the district proposed leasing the 40-acre site of the old high school across from Alderwood mall and moving to a new site the district owned on North Road, about a mile east of the city. The district promised to use the revenue stream generated from the old site to pay for future construction projects.

But the move to the new location caused its own heartache. The school is located outside the Lynnwood city limits and will have a Bothell address. The old high school's 20-acre athletic fields were heavily used by the community, including for signature civic events such as Fourth of July fireworks and the annual Easter egg hunt.

City leaders say that long-range plans include annexing North Road, though many jurisdictional hurdles must first be cleared.

"We'd love to have the new high school in Lynnwood. It's part of our identity," said David Kleitsch, economic-development director for the city.

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"A comfortable place"

Teachers last week were still "test-driving" their classrooms. Ceiling-mounted projectors connect to teacher's laptop computers. Every educational "neighborhood" — different wings of the school — has its own laptop computers for student use and carts where the computers can be secured, recharged and updated. An enhanced amplification system connects teachers' wireless microphones to ceiling speakers so students can hear more clearly.

There's also a biotechnology lab, a computer-assisted design lab, a media production studio, a computer-graphics classroom, an industrial-size kitchen for culinary arts, and radio and TV studios.

"It's high-tech, but it's not overwhelming. It still feels like a comfortable place to go to school," said Marissa Gamm, a senior who last week was helping with freshman orientations.

Special-education teacher Martha Orvis, who uses a wheelchair, exulted over the huge improvement in accessibility in the new school compared with the old building, which was built in 1969, before the Americans With Disabilities Act.

"Elevators! Ha! They work!" she said. From her wheelchair, she now can automatically open the door to her classroom, to the outside of the building where she gets picked up and dropped off, and to the teachers lounge on the second floor.

Making use of wetland

Biology teachers Brenda Torres and Susan Russell were already planning ways to incorporate the adjacent wetland and stream into their lessons. Students will be able to conduct baseline studies of the flora and fauna and do water-quality sampling at the site's large stormwater-retention pond, they said.

"It really fits nicely with our teaching on ecology and biodiversity," Russell said.

No one was more enthusiastic last week than the district's capital-projects manager, Ed Peters. He talked about the green features of the building: durable materials meant to last 50 years and a passive ventilation system that maximizes daylight and fresh air. He was even excited about the sleek new boilers that provide efficient heat throughout the building.

"Our goal was to beat Washington state energy-efficiency codes — which are high ones — by 50 percent, and we did that," Peters said.

Lynnwood parent and alum Madeline Herzog said the contrast between the old school and the new one couldn't be greater. She said the old school was confusing to navigate, with clusters of dark, same-looking buildings and "random" room numbers. In the new school, she notes, the academic wings and hallways all lead back to the agora.

She described the building as a thoughtful design built with students in mind.

"I'm thrilled with the new building," she said. "Every time I think about it I smile."

Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or lthompson@seattletimes.com

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