Above: Fir Grove/Vista serves approximately 70 students. Recently, staff members and architects met to discuss the future of the building.
Facility does not fully support teaching and learning needs
The current home of Fir Grove/Vista was built in 1955 as a Seventh Day Adventist school. Vancouver Public Schools began renting the facility in 1990 in order to offer a structured academic and mental health experience to Clark County’s children with severe emotional and/or behavioral disabilities. The district purchased the building in 1995.
Approximately 70 students from first to 12th grade currently attend Fir Grove/Vista. The building, however, does not meet the needs of Fir Grove’s staff, students and families. The school has many facility-related challenges:
- Building design: The facility does not adequately support Fir Grove’s teaching and learning styles, with little to minimize distractions, allow spaces to be adapted for different purposes, give students places to move or provide sensory and tactile experiences. Teacher workspace also is limited.
- No dedicated community space: Unlike many Vancouver schools, Fir Grove/Vista does not have an onsite Family-Community Resource Center, where families can engage with the school and connect to resources for basic necessities, housing, health care and other services.
- Aging, inefficient systems: The building’s heating system is obsolete, and other mechanical systems are approaching the end of their useful lives. The building’s single-pane windows are not energy-efficient.
- Accessibility: The building, particularly its restrooms and doorways, do not provide proper access for people with disabilities.
To address these challenges, Vancouver Public Schools is planning to replace Fir Grove/Vista with a new building.
District and school staff members met in a symposium on Nov. 30 to begin planning by discussing the school’s needs and envisioning its future. Said Principal Daniel Bettis at the symposium, “We have an opportunity right now. We have an opportunity to dream big. We have an opportunity to support our students and our families.”
As a result of their feedback, planning teams of professional architects and staff members created two concept designs for the future of Fir Grove’s building.
A Nov. 30 symposium involved approximately 40 staff members in a discussion about future learning needs. Their feedback revealed a few key themes:
- Student choice: providing opportunities to explore the arts, trades, science, PE and activities that teach life skills and independence
- Flexibility: offering spaces that can be adapted for one-on-one as well as group work and a variety of activities appropriate for students in kindergarten through 12th grade
- Community: creating a hub to bring together parents and the community to engage families in school and connect people to resources, as well as instill a sense of pride and ownership
- Sensory needs: giving students tactile experiences, makerspaces, places to decompress and areas for movement
- Safety: combining a welcoming atmosphere with security