Yellow school buses pulled up along Everett’s Rainier Avenue and their loads of kids poured out — and through the doors of a totally transformed school. Amid the chatter and nervous first-day giggles, middle schoolers were clearly wowed by their new digs.
“This is like a high school,” one boy said as he got his first glimpse.
North Middle School’s $50 million modernization project isn’t complete, but enough is done that students were able to start Wednesday in a new two-story classroom building. Many of them spent last year in portables.
With its central outdoor courtyard, a commons enhanced by natural light and an upstairs library, the spacious building is a welcome contrast to what it replaced — an outdated one-story structure with a long hallway. With about 30 classrooms, it also has an art room complete with a kiln, breakout areas for learning and administrative offices.
Opened in 1981, the former building was demolished to make way for its state-of-the-art replacement.
“It is a brand new school,” said Jeanne Willard, an assistant superintendent with the Everett School District. “This is very exciting,” Willard said as she greeted students at the door.
Inside, North Middle School Principal Mitch Entler had a high-powered helper as he directed kids to their assigned classrooms.
Congressman Rick Larsen, who represents Washington’s 2nd District, had in hand a list of students and their first classes of the day. Kids approached Larsen to ask where they needed to be, seemingly unaware that his workplace isn’t at North but in Washington, D.C.
Later, the principal guided the Democratic representative through wide hallways decorated in blue and natural birch, and explained how the school — with few entry points — is more secure than its predecessor.
With 770 students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, the new North at 2514 Rainier Ave. is the third school on the site.
The original North Junior High School, opened in 1925 and demolished in 1979, was similar to South Junior High on the 3500 block of Rucker Avenue. Both “salt and pepper shaker twins” were designed by architect Earl Morrison, according to “Everett School District: The First 100 Years,” by local historian and district retiree Larry O’Donnell. The old South Junior survives today as the district’s Sequoia High School.
Staff members were as excited as kids to start the year in the new space, where the school’s North Star — its mascot — is displayed on a wall in the commons. Willard said the star is made of wood reclaimed from the previous building.
“It’s such a fresh start for these kids,” said Beth Beecher, a student support advocate at North. “It’s beautiful,” she said, adding that the old building ”was run down.”
Money for North’s project came from a $150 million bond measure voters approved in 2016. The work, done by Spee West Construction of Edmonds, includes renovation of the gym, band and choir building, which continues, playfield upgrades and a new parking lot.
North Middle School, where 60.5% of students qualify for free or reduced price lunch, serves a diverse population in north Everett. Before the modernization, its dated facilities couldn’t compare with other middle schools in the Everett district.
At Gateway Middle School, just 11% of students qualify for free or reduced price lunch, and at Heatherwood in the Mill Creek area it’s 22.5%, according to 2018 statistics from the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Ed Glazer, retired as a middle school history teacher in the Everett district, is back at North part time. He now works with English language learners and as a parent liaison. Glazer recalled North students visiting other local middle schools for sports or other events, and being discouraged by what they saw as disparity.
“What’s here now, the kids in this community deserve it,” he said.
“North is home,” said Justin Bailey, a paraeducator at the school whose daughter, Anika, is an eighth-grader there. “It’s amazing,” he said while looking around the commons. “They knocked it out of the park.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein @heraldnet.com.
North open house
Everett’s North Middle School, 2514 Rainier Ave., will host a community open house 6-8 p.m. Oct. 17. Visitors are welcome to see the new two-story classroom building and other renovations.