In 2009, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic High School opened as the first Catholic high school in Southwest Washington. Now, six years later, the student body has multiplied and it can barely fit into its current facility (811 NE 112th Avenue). It was intended to serve as a temporary location for 10 years until enrollment justified a larger, permanent facility in Southwest Washington.
Right now, the school’s building has capacity for 155-160 students, but with creative scheduling it has been able to accommodate 165 students, said Tricia Roscoe, president of Seton Catholic College Prep.
“Our double-digit growth has led us to accelerate our plans for the new campus in order to accommodate continued growth. We want to add our own athletic facilities, instead of continuing to lease them from other public and private schools,” said Roscoe. “We weren’t anticipating to start building [the new location] likely for two more years, but we have to move forward now.”
The development team chose to build the new campus with tilt-up concrete construction (each piece of the building is a poured concrete panel). The building will require minimal maintenance and is resilient to storms and insects.
“Tilt-up is also cost, effective, durable construction and we are able to create wonderful aesthetic appeal, said Roscoe. “We are doing a board form treatment, which is a cool way to create wood grain texture.”
Phase 1 of the $20 million capital campaign to fund the project – as well as supporting its annual fund for scholarships and other programs – is scheduled to open fall 2016. The long-term master plan includes additional two-story classroom buildings, an auxiliary gym and other facilities.
Because the school is private, it doesn’t receive any federal or public funding, and instead has to raise the funds through capital campaigns, which represents a significant opportunity, said Roscoe.
To date, the school has received about $6 million in gifts and pledges toward the $16 million needed for the property acquisition and phase 1 of the campus, Roscoe said. Phase 1 will serve up to 300 students and will have 10 classrooms, a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) center, a gymnasium, a fitness center, football and soccer fields, a running track, a chapel, commons area and a cafeteria.
“The campus is designed to meet the needs of the kids, the faculty and the archdiocese with hands-on, project learning,” said Ed Little, founding president and principle at Seton Catholic College Prep. “When you walk in the building, there are big, open spaces.”
Vancouver-based LSW Architects, known for designing schools throughout Vancouver, created the floor plans of both phases of the project to feel large and open. The 12-foot tall entryway – with wood grain-imprinted concrete walls – and the 300-seat chapel serve as the focal points of the building.
When students walk through the front doors, they will climb a monument U-shaped staircase made from steel and pre-cast concrete, which leads to the second floor chapel – a multi-use space for religious services and performing arts. Faculty can easily section off the chapel with a movable curtain.
Depending on philanthropy received over the coming months, the chapel may have perforated wood acoustic ceilings and wood paneling near the altar to add warmth to the space, said Jason Olson, the LSW project architect working with Seton Catholic College Prep.
Besides the focal points, the first floor features a main common area for activities, community gatherings and dining. The gym, with standard gym-style maple floors, will seat 600 people. The chapel and the majority of the classrooms, including an oversized fine art classroom, will be located on the second floor. The art room will have space for a kiln, built-in displays for student work and project storage.
Along with regular classrooms in Phase 1, Seton Catholic College Prep has plans for a STEM center in two 1,400-square-foot classrooms – a “wet side” for biology and chemistry projects that require air and gas, and a “dry side” for robotics, engineering and technology.
Students in a STEM classroom will be able to view their peer’s programming projects and experiments projected from computers on one of four flat-screen monitors positioned around the room.
“We’re putting in flexible furnishings in the classrooms, which we can move around for lecture- or group-learning styles,” Roscoe said. “Wireless information will be shared all around us, opposed to face-forward [only].”
All classrooms will have large sliding whiteboards for writing material and projecting images and video. Other design features include long lasting, durable materials.
“It’s not a “Cadillac” high school, but it’s durable long-term,” said Little.
For example, instead of carpet, the school has opted for easy-to-maintain VCT (vinyl composition) tile in the majority of the building. STEM classrooms have stainless-steal sinks and chemical-proof tabletops.
Even though Seton Catholic College Prep isn’t going through a formal process of receiving LEED certification, it has elements that will help save energy.
The building will be situated in an east-west direction so it can harvest as much daylight as possible and limit electricity. Lighting controls will turn lights off when they sense enough natural light. Four skylights – two in the upstairs hall and two on the north wall of the gym – will add even more natural light. And the windows on the south side of the building will have an external sun shade device to prevent solar glare and heat gain.
Seton Catholic College Prep has applied for an $85,000 grant to install solar panels to harvest energy. As part of the STEM curriculum, students would be able to monitor how much power the panels save and how energy conservation can be applied in the real world.
Seton High School’s formal ground blessing/ground breaking ceremony will take place Saturday, October 24 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The ceremony is an RSVP-only event and only open to Seton Catholic College Prep students’ family members; the Board of Directors; and business, community and media partners.
Rendering and site plans courtesy of LSW Architects