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With a little of the old and a little of the new, modernized Franklin Elementary sparkles with fresh life

October 13, 2018

Asked to name one thing that excites him most about the newly modernized Franklin Elementary School, principal Buz Hollingsworth quickly rattles off three.

He could have named 30; his new school looks that good.

Then again, this has been everyone’s school since it was built in 1909 – from the children of pioneers to the pioneering APPLE program that calls Franklin home.

Thousands have passed through its halls, and its spot in the National Register of Historic Places was secured as much by its contribution to early education in Spokane as the classic broken cornice at Franklin’s main entrance.

The cornice and the stone columns are still there on the South Hill school, but now they have company. The Franklin Elementary School Modernization and Addition is just one of many projects paid for by the $205 million bond Spokane voters approved in 2015.

At $26 million it’s not even the most expensive, but it’s certainly the most eye-catching.

A project that began two years ago is nearing the homestretch. Workers are putting the finishing touches on the new Franklin, which will welcome back more than 500 students after winter break.

For 18 months, Hollingsworth has overseen operations at “Camp Franklin,” located at the old Jefferson Elementary School on Grand Boulevard.

“We can’t wait to get back,” Hollingsworth said.

When they do, it will be a treat.

The old building, which is located on 17th Avenue a few blocks west of Thor Street, is still wrapped in 109-year-old bricks, which could never be replicated in 2018. However, architects and craftsmen have complemented the old with a sharp-looking brick exterior.

Inside, the old hall is joined to the new by cherrywood moldings and stairs, and the modern touches, apart from the ultramodern classrooms, are discreet.

“I think we had most of the finish carpenters in Spokane working on this,” said Greg Forsyth, the district’s director of capital projects and planning.

The students will even get lockers, a rarity these days.

“I love how they’ve complemented the historic with the new,” Hollingsworth said during a tour last week. “It has the personal touches and breakout spaces where we can work with kids and honor our parents who work with kids.”

Thanks to its volunteer-driven APPLE program, Franklin has an outsized group of parent volunteers, and it wasn’t forgotten in the modernization. In the past, evening student events were conducted in three shifts. A new multipurpose room can hold up to 750.

Their children will be served from a new kitchen that will employ scratch cooking, a growing trend in public schools.

Nearby sits a new gymnasium flooded by natural light that shines from the north side of the building.

“I don’t think I’ve even seen that many windows in a gym,” Forsyth said.

Like a proud parent, Forsyth couldn’t contain his enthusiasm at the 36,000-square-foot addition.

Classrooms are bright, even more so thanks to light-colored walls and an abundance of windows. If it’s too bright, roll-down shades are ready.

One can only imagine what the children of 1909 would think of the new classrooms, which include an interactive smart projection system.

Students can tap a board, and their movements are captured by a camera that allows them to manipulate images on the board.

“What’s interesting is that you can have two students at the board doing interactive learning,” Forsyth said. “It’s very innovative and user friendly.”

The project also includes new parking lots, irrigation, plantings and playgrounds.

ALSC Architects of Spokane performed the design work. Garco Construction of Spokane is the general contractor.

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