Plans take shape for new Davis school

The building, which has roots that date to 1906, will be demolished and a new school built.

Children pass plans for a new Davis Elementary School in the hallways of the old school in College Place.

Children pass plans for a new Davis Elementary School in the hallways of the old school in College Place. Photo by Matthew Zimmerman Banderas.



Students pass in front of rows of portraits in the hallway of Davis Elementary School as Principal Chris Drabek talks over detailed plans and drawings for construction of a new school.


The College Place School Board will hold a special meeting and public workshop Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. to review and discuss the latest high school designs. The meeting will be at the district board room, 1755 S. College Ave., above the Sager Middle School gym. The public is invited to attend for a first look at the new high school layout. The design will show a broad overview and general layout of the redesigned Meadow Brook Intermediate School and Sager campus. The schools are being reconfigured, with some new construction, to serve as the district's new middle and high schools.

COLLEGE PLACE -- Change is fast approaching for Davis Elementary, which will be rebuilt into a larger, modern facility starting next year thanks to a bond measure approved in April.

Starting as early as spring, and going on through the upcoming school year, a new Davis will be built on space adjacent to the current building. The project is expected to wrap up by summer of 2014, when demolition of the old Davis will take place and provide space for the school's new parking lot. The new Davis Elementary should open its doors by fall 2014.

Conceptual designs for the new school, including an exterior view and detailed interior designs, have been on display in the Davis lobby following the finalization of designs this fall, and can also be seen at

The project is expected to go to bid this spring, with late April as the earliest for breaking ground, said Davis principal Chris Drabek.

The $38.5 million project, approved April 17, marks a complete overhaul to the city's public schools, and will also establish a new College Place high school. The bond's approval reflects a community desire to see College Place have its own high school, and end an era of students attending Walla Walla High School.

But the bond was also about addressing persistent maintenance and design problems at Davis, parts of which were built in 1906.

Davis, the city's oldest public school, went through a series of remodels in the '50s and '80s. Parting with the old building will be bittersweet, but there are things Drabek said won't be missed.

"We don't need it to rain inside any longer," he said of the school's leaky roof.

Lights that malfunction -- or fall right off, as was the case recently with one panel -- also won't be missed. The new Davis will use natural light with banks of windows throughout, such as in its new commons area.

Fewer doors with outdoor access and new sidewalks around the school are aimed at improving safety.

"We're looking forward to sidewalks and safe walking to and from school," Drabek said.

A new parking lot will be a key addition. Cars and pedestrians now create unsafe conditions outside the school's entrance on Ash Street. Cars will access the new school through the parking lot and driveway off Ash Street, and can exit at Whitman Drive along what is currently Birch Avenue. Buses will drop off and pick up on the opposite side of the school, on Second Street.

To keep a connection to Davis's roots, the school's original school bell, now in the school's courtyard, will be incorporated into the entryway of the new building. The new Davis will also preserve the school's outdoor science learning courtyard.

When it is finished, Davis will be a 74,000 square-foot, two-story school that will include fourth and fifth grades. This year's third-graders will remain at Davis as fourth-graders, and will then be the school's first fifth-grade class in 2014-15. Davis has traditionally taught students through third grade.

Younger students will have classrooms on the main floor, with upper grades upstairs. Classrooms will also share learning space directly outside the rooms. Spaces include kitchenettes for a variety of projects, and projectors built into the ceilings for presentations or guest speakers.

For Drabek, the incorporation of flexible space in the new building is one of the most anticipated improvements from the current building.

Drabek goes on to point out the various areas in the new Davis Elementary designs where students can take part in collaborative learning with other classrooms or grades; enjoy special projects or presentations; or take part in individualized learning.

Drabek explains how learning has evolved from an industrial age of learning, to an information stage, and is now entering a creative age.

"Right now we're still looking at and living in educational facilities designed for industrial-era learning," he said.

It is a shift that has moved classrooms away from rows of desks facing a teacher standing in the front, to more team-structured learning, where children can sit in small groups in a classroom with different stations for learning and exploring.

"We are looking at educational environment as everywhere," Drabek said. "A school-within-a-school concept."

Drabek said a key highlight of the flexible space model of learning is freedom to adapt to changing times and learning strategies.

"Because who knows what education will look like in 50 years?" he said.


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