Marysville Getchell Campus

  • Client

    • Marysville School District No. 25
  • Project Type

Design Achievement - Set among second-growth trees, forest wetlands, and with sweeping territorial views, the Marysville Getchell Campus comprises four schools that excite a student's senses with an innovative learning environment. DLR Group's design of the new high school campus enables great flexibility in the administration of student-focused learning. Responding to the District's adoption of a new, small learning community (SLC) model, the design arranges four independent SLC buildings and the Campus Commons, which houses shared activities such as dining and physical education, around a second growth forest. Within each SLC building, a series of interconnected learning spaces support the educational approach described by the District's Five Guiding Principles: Relationships at the Center; Focused Learning; Identity and Purpose; Community; and Accountability. Generous glazing and intriguing outdoor learning spaces create a sense of connection to nature and community. It's this openness and connectivity that make every space a learning space at Marysville Getchell High School Campus, and which encourages student growth as global citizens.

Scope Summary - This project comprises design and construction totaling 195,000 SF on 43 acres to serve 1,600 students in grades 9-12. Scope of work includes the design of four SLC buildings and the Campus Commons. The Campus Commons unites the campus by providing shared services including fitness and P.E.; a kitchen and servery; a commons/ cafe; and support spaces. DLR Group provided architecture, mechanical engineering, programming, educational specifications, and interior design services.

Phoenix Rising
Marysville School District has achieved one of the most incredible turnarounds in educational history. After a state-record 49-day teacher strike in 2004, angry tensions between the community and school board, and school overcrowding aggregated over 15 years of bond failures, the District and community rallied under the leadership of a new superintendent to heal old and deep fractures and redirect attention toward improving student learning.

The District's new educational approach saw a dramatic increase in extended graduation rates within the program's first three years.

A School at the Heart of Change
The new Marysville Getchell High School Campus embodies the District’s reinvigorated focus on student learning in small learning communities. Typically, specific curriculum needs drive educational specifications, but when design of this school began the District was only just beginning to develop its new SLC educational program—a program that would evolve from a visionary set of Five Guiding Principles.The project team took this opportunity to critically reexamine the fundamental principles of educational environments. It created a universal architectural program and design driven by the Guiding Principles and focused entirely on evolving needs in student learning.

Take a tour of this CEFPI James D. MacConnell Award-winning high school, including students’ thoughts about their involvement in the process and what the school means to them now.

Universal Learning Spaces
The team’s primary focus on the Guiding Principles instead of traditional programmatic assumptions led to design solutions incredible flexibility. The learning environment is capable of adapting to changing specifics in educational program and curriculum needs, based on a distillation of educational functions down to eight universal learning spaces:

  1. Core Learning: instructional space
  2. Specialized Learning: curriculum-specific space
  3. Applied Learning: real world application of learning
  4. Project Learning: interdisciplinary, interactive projects
  5. Science: labs and grounds as powerful learning tools that promote inquiry-based learning
  6. Learning Commons: resource/research area, and interactive/interdisciplinary support spaces to Core Learning
  7. Social Commons: informal gathering space
  8. Admin/Student Services: administration


Design Solution
The architecture organizes these functions into a three-story, shell and core building for each of the four SLCs. The shell and core solution draws most load bearing structure and plumbing out to the exterior walls, with electrical and HVAC routed through floor and ceiling. This shell and core concept maximizes interior connectivity and allows interior walls to be easily reconfigured as necessary over time to adapt to changes in educational program.

The architectural expression further responds to the site with perceptual lightness. An earthy masonry base rises from the ground, transitioning to airiness through steel beams and extensive glazing within which the containers of core educational spaces float. Roofs appear to hover over the buildings. Structure (expressed visibly as part of a program to allow the buildings to serve as educational tools) expresses balance, gravity, and the wind.

Finally, building arrangement creates outdoor in-between spaces where the school offers opportunities for outdoor learning and community connection. Raised boardwalks connect each building while respecting the site’s natural contours. The effect is to touch the ground lightly and gently intervene with the landscape. Students, staff, and visitors engage in a procession of social, physical, and educational interrelationships.

The Community Commons
A single building houses shared functions such as the fitness center, campus dining, administrtation and events spaces where students, educators, staff, parents, and community members can connect as a whole community.

Site - The school site is characterized by second-growth forest, steep grade changes from east to west, extraordinary views of Elliot Bay, and neighboring wetlands. With surrounding old growth stands giving way to rapid residential development, the client and project team focused on preserving the site’s natural integrity by creating a school that promotes stewardship of its surroundings.  

Preserving wetlands, old growth trees and forest understory was paramount to the siting of the school. Befitting its sSLC educational model, composing the school as a campus of distinct multi-story structures reduced the total building footprint for minimal site impact. Connected by boardwalks, the buildings nestle into the preserved landscape and sloping topography, while their orientation maximizes daylighting.  

Outdoor spaces, including outdoor an amphitheater, decks, and viewing platforms provide endless learning opportunities where students, staff, and visitors engage in social, professional, and educational interactions.

Energy - In addition to embracing the preservation of the natural site and maximizing natural daylighting with careful building orientation and high efficiency glass, this project integrates other significant energy reduction and efficiencies systems. Rather than using a mechanical cooling system, a sustainable approach of operable widows and shading by the forest canopy is used to cool buildings. Occupancy sensors and dimmable lights are installed in classrooms and offices. All air handling units are set to economizer cycles and hot water tanks are minimized.  A high-efficiency HVAC system was selected to exceed local energy code requirements by more than 20 percent.

Materials - As with every school project, the design team focused intently on durability and ease of maintenance, choosing roofing and carpeting products with significant 20-30 year warranties. Polished concrete flooring was employed in high traffic areas and ceiling materials were minimized through design choices to expose ducts and ceiling structure. The insulated window units are regionally fabricated and local materials and manufacturers sourced.

Careful to preserve as many trees and forest understory as possible, the root-balls of the few trees logged were given to a county program and used to build up fish habitats in local rivers.  The use of native, drought tolerant species in the landscape eliminated the need for irrigation. Much of the wood and brush was chipped on-site for mulch.  

Water - Storm water runoff is significantly reduced by thoughtful design elements and the use of pervious materials. Wood mulch and crushed stone paths wind through campus and follow the natural contours of the landscape. Wooden ramps span steep grade changes and boggy areas, with pin foundations mitigating site disturbance. Water permeable grid paving products are used in other hardscape elements, while parking lot sizes are reduced to minimize paving and encourage the use of public transportation and ride sharing.

In addition to the inclusion of rain gardens in the parking lots, two school campus buildings return roof water run-off to the surrounding wetlands rather than the storm water systems.  Buildings feature dual-flush toilets in staff restrooms.

Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) - The design creates an interior experience that connects students, staff, and visitors to each other, and also to the verdant, natural surroundings. Each school building is designed without a corridor; learning areas are planned instead around commons and living room spaces. Unimpeded by walls, light penetrates the interior through many large windows, while views of the outside from within are equally uninterrupted.  Sunshades minimize glare through operable windows.

In classrooms, offices, and labs, dimmable lights and task lighting allow users to adjust light intensity. The use of low-emitting materials maintains healthy air quality, while carbon dioxide sensors in classrooms provide staff a reliable means of gauging room stuffiness.

The buildings each satisfy Washington Sustainable Schools Protocol (WSSP) acoustical requirements, using acoustic gypsum board ceilings and walls to deftly muffle the ever-present ambient sound within an inspired, vibrant high school.

Regional / Community Design
Community is one of five guiding principles of Marysville School District and, accordingly, Marysville Getchell High School is designed to function as a community building in the midst of a residential neighborhood. The building arrangement creates outdoor in-between spaces where the school functions as the community at large.

The athletic fields and gymnasium are shared with the community. The property is unrestricted to neighbors and visitors who wish to visit the wetlands and forest. School buildings are available for community gatherings after hours and on weekends.

Living room spaces inside the school buildings encourage student and community interaction.  Included in the design are parent-volunteer areas, and presentation spaces intended to be used by community leadership and local businesses invited to give student presentations.

Awards & Recognition

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  • James D. MacConnell Award

    Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI)
  • Merit Award

    American Institute of Architects (AIA) Washington Council
  • Exhibition Project - The Edgeless School

    American Institute of Architects (AIA) New York
  • Award of Merit

    American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE)
  • Best in Competition, Design in Concept

    International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Northern Pacific Chapter
  • Grand Prize

    National School Boards Association (NSBA) and American Institute of Architects (AIA) Exhibition of School Architecture
  • Polished Apple Award

    Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI), Washington
  • Award of Merit (unbuilt)

    Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI), Washington
  • Grand Prize

    School Planning & Management magazine Education Design Showcase
  • 2011 Judges’ Choice Award

    School Planning & Management magazine Education Design Showcase
  • Citation

    American School & University magazine
  • Outstanding Design

    American School & University magazine Educational Interiors Showcase
  • Grand Award

    American School Board Journal, Learning by Design
  • Merit Award

  • Award of Merit

    Illuminating Engineering Society (IES)
  • Award of Distinction

    Washington Association of Landscape Professionals (WALP)

Marysville Getchell Campus

Marysville School District No. 25