Former John Muir Outdoor School campus transformed
By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news
After months of renovations and new construction, TRAILS Outdoor School celebrated its grand opening Thursday, Nov. 17, unveiling the space in an open house that evening, about a month after Ashland Middle School celebrated the completion of its renovations.
The two projects, with a total price tag put at $35,347,376, renovated Ashland Middle School and TRAILS Outdoor School, formerly known as John Muir Outdoor School. Renovations included the library, art/exploration room, outdoor “ready” space, music room, and administrative offices. Improvements were also made to the safety and security features, HVAC systems and technology infrastructure.
AMS and TRAILS Outdoor School projects were closely related and therefore hard to distinguish singularly cost-wise, as mechanical, heating/cooling, communication and irrigation systems serve both schools, according to Steve Mitzel, executive director of Operations at Ashland School District.
“This is like a homecoming,” Mitzel said, for the school and staff at TRAILS, in an interview with Ashland.news. “They have their own space, their own school, a lot of their own services here. Historically, they were nestled right in the middle of the middle school and so they always felt like they were just a part of that campus and this is definitely an independent space for them that they can call their own.”
Students handed Mitzel and many of his contracting and design staff handmade cards and pictures to acknowledge their work in the project.
“All the ups and downs of the construction project, and to get 80 to 85 high-fives in one day from kids and you get letters and pictures, it just makes it all worth it,” Mitzel said.
Students, teachers and media gathered with Principal Jennifer Parks in a community gathering space at the school for the unveiling.
“There isn’t a window in this entire school without an epic view,” Parks said, during the ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil the new space..
She noted the room that hosted the gathering, which has a garage door, was also a shortcut to the new rock wall on the K-8 school playground.
“TRAILS stands for Trust, Respect, Awareness, Interdependency, Leadership and Stewardship. To me, the process of this bond money project, from design to completion, epitomizes … those values,” she said. “At TRAILS Outdoor School, we value the outdoors, the arts, collaboration, responsibility and kindness. We guide students to become resilient, independent learners, who give back to their community. And for these things, the TRAILS School community would like to say, ‘thank you’ — Thank you for this beautiful school building. This space will make a difference for our students each and every day.”
Ashland Schools Superintendent Samuel Bogdanove also shared comments with those gathered, calling the new space “an incredible gift” from those in the community who approved a $107 million bond. The bond proceeds are going to renovate not only AMS and TRAILS Outdoor School, but also Helman Elementary and Ashland High schools.
During a tour of the new school, Ashland School Board Chair Victor Chang said he’s enjoyed watching the process leading up to completion.
Chang described how the construction of the new TRAILS Outdoor School helped further distinguish it from AMS, while remaining on the same campus.
“We knew that the TRAILS community really wanted that,” Chang said.
Chang was part of a group of school board members and staff who toured the building following the unveiling.
Laurie Green, who teaches fourth and fifth-graders, was at one of the stops on the tour. Green showed off her new room, which provides an array of alternative seating styles that fit students needs, whether that is group or individual seating.
“These kids are so excited to be able to come in, to have seating options, to be able to move around and work together,” Green said.
Reach Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at email@example.com.