A look inside Spokane Public Schools two new middle schools opening this fall

SPOKANE, Wash. – Hundreds of Spokane students will walk into new middle schools this fall. Countless hours of work are being poured into both Yasuhara and Flett Middle Schools, schools that’ve been in the process since Spokane residents passed a bond in 2018.

“Two years ago, if you’d ask me what this was like, I don’t think I could really understand. But watching it come out of the ground and be real is pretty amazing,” said Stephanie Lundberg, the principal of Yasuhara Middle.

Yasuhara Middle, which is located in northeast Spokane, will be welcoming around 340 students this fall.

Both Flett and Yasuhara will only have sixth and seventh graders in its buildings for the 2022-2023 school year. Eighth graders will stay at their current schools.

“We’re allowing any seventh grader to finish out their time at their current middle school rather than moving them partway through,” said Matthew Henshaw, the principal of Flett Middle, which is located in northwest Spokane.

Henshaw says he’ll have around 400 students when they open this fall.

Sixth graders moving into middle school is also new. They’re currently in elementary schools.

Both Henshaw and Lundberg have been going into their feeder elementary schools to talk and get to know their students who will be coming to their schools.

“Meeting with teachers, meeting with students, making ourselves available to get to know each of those cultures within those buildings, to make sure that when our kids come up to us, that it’s a smooth transition,” Lundberg said.

When walking into the new middle schools, it’s apparent how different it is compared to other schools built 10 or 20 years ago.

There is a lot more light flooding in and everything feels more open.

At Yasuhara, Lundberg said all the elective or specialty classrooms are connected to the commons area, making sure students can see what’s going on in classes.

Flett Middle School will also have big open windows for students to see into rooms. The principals say this could spark interest in students to try new things eventually.

“Allow the students to see what all the electives are offered at the school and be open and bright and be a place that is conducive to learning,” Henshaw said.

Hallways are also a thing of the past. Both Henshaw and Lundberg’s schools have open common areas in what they’re calling neighborhoods. So there are classrooms surrounding an open area, and they’ll have different types of seating.

“There’s lots of different ways of learning. There’s lots of ways that we can get information and experiences to our kids. We wanted to provide that within one building,” Lundberg said.

Each class in those grade neighborhoods also have glass sliding doors or walls that could open up to allow more people in.

READ: Spokane Public Schools announces opening dates for new middle schools

The middle schools are also different from each other, too.

“The layout of the building is going to look slightly different based on the experience that the staff brought to the team,” Henshaw said.

With two new middle schools opening this fall, there’ll be many people also needed to help students grow. SPS said staffing is based on enrollment, saying that it will be able to fill positions. Some sixth-grade teachers already expressed interest in moving into the new schools.

While more work still needs to be done on their schools, Henshaw and Lundberg are excited to be the first principals in their respective schools and start traditions.

“As you walk through the building you’re now able to imagine kind of the spaces that we really tried to be thoughtful about for students coming to life. I just can’t wait to see those kids having a great time in those spaces,” Henshaw said.

“It’s been incredible. It truly is an honor and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to start a brand new school. Really build a place for our kids and our community and our families to really have a place they can call their own,” Lundberg added.

Spokane Public Schools also has two other middle schools that will open up next fall, Peperzak and a replacement of Sacajawea Middle School. Sixth graders on the north side will be moving to middle schools this fall; on the south side, they’ll be moving sixth-graders to middle schools next fall.

READ: Spokane Public Schools board considers changes to fix bus issues