It’s that time of year again: changing leaves, cooling weather, “bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils…”*

School is in session, and I’m learning a lot.

I’m standing in a sea of people. Our kids are all lined up patiently, anxiously waiting for the teachers to arrive—it’s kind of like the scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where everyone is eager to get a glimpse of Willy Wonka. The teachers appear! My daughter’s first-grade teacher walks down the line, meeting all her new students—her firsties. After the brief introduction to her teacher, my kid looks at me and quietly says, “You can leave now, Mom.” In a very proud moment, I choke back my tears, scoop up my four-year-old (who still wants all of the mom hugs), and walk back to my car. The first day of school is off to a good start.

Rewind to Fall 2018. I had just learned that SPVV had been selected to work on the new elementary school for the Mead School District up on Five Mile. I had just wrapped up design documents on the adjacent new middle school—Highland—and was eager to work on the next project. I love K-12 projects. Having completed over a dozen revitalizations, additions, and new schools in the last six years, you could say that school projects are my jam.

The design of the new school went smoothly. There were some interesting nuances to the site—a 75′ gas easement we couldn’t touch, less than ideal native topsoil, and a desire by the District to minimize the developmental footprint on the site. I love a good challenge! Little did I know then that my children would end up attending this very school.

My family moved to the Five Mile area in the spring of 2020, after the elementary school went out to bid. I now transition from designer to parent/user. It’s an intriguing shift in the dynamic. I find myself very observant of how students, teachers, and parents move throughout the space. I see parents seeking shade in the shrub beds and young kids running through the landscape, and I’m not even mad! They are using the landscape—not for the intended use, but it is to be expected. We choose hardy, tough plants to withstand abuse and try to predict walking patterns to minimize “cow paths” in the lawn. The landscape won’t be perfect; it rarely ever is at schools, but they are well-loved and enjoyed, and that’s what matters the most.

Today I ask my daughter, “What did you do at school? Did you have fun at recess? Make any new friends?” She responds, “Recess is so boring! There’s nothing to do!” What?! I have never heard those words in my entire life—recess is THE best part about school! Alas, the playground equipment has been delayed. No, not COVID, but a factory fire of all things has prevented my daughter and her new friends from the sheer, unbridled joy of clambering up and down the play equipment at recess. Some things still need to get ironed out, but the new Skyline Elementary is already a gem to our community.

*Shoutout to everybody who got the You’ve Got Mail reference.