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Kalama ES1_Web

Kalama Elementary School

  • Client:

    Kalama School District

  • Completion:


  • Location:

    Kalama, WA

  • Type:


  • Size:

    80,000 SF

  • Construction Cost:


Honoring Community

Celebrating History While Supporting Contemporary Needs

The City of Kalama has a rich history as a port city at the intersection of shipping, logging and railroad transportation. Designed to celebrate community history while delivering a flexible, contemporary K-5 educational environment, Kalama Elementary School offers a comforting sense of place, pride and belonging for students, staff and its community.

Kalama Elementary

Where Rails Meet Sails

Kalama sits at the intersection of the Columbia River, the Northern Pacific Railway and the local timber industry informed the exterior expression of the school. The round windows at the kindergarten classrooms evoke the ships that have called into port for generations. Diagonal steel at the entry canopy and covered play area is an abstract expression of old railroad trellises and the sides of the rail boxcars. Material selection was informed by Kalama’s historic high school and community history, with the integration of brick at the first floor, exposed wood at the entry canopy and metal panel and exposed structural steel.

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Flexible, Adaptable & Future-Proof

Facility flexibility and adaptability of learning spaces was a design imperative that supported both current needs and future changes in program and instructional delivery methods. Organized into small learning communities by grade level, program spaces are efficient, multi-functional and flexible. Tackable surfaces, white boards, interactive flat panel displays, casework and a mix of hard and soft movable furniture all support a wide variety of program needs and group sizes. 

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A STEM Lab at the heart of the building offers space for project-based learning and exploration. The lab integrates a kitchen, kiln, white boards, display cases for student work, green screen and interactive flat panel. Operable partitions at some of the flex classrooms allow quick configuration for small group learing, while large partitions between the gymnasium and commons/ cafeteria, and at the music room/stage provide flexibility at a larger scale for both scholastic and community events.

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Breaking Down Scale

While a three-story building can appear intimidating to young students, special care was given to create a sense of intimacy within the context of the larger school. Organized as a four-track school with a flexible classroom added at each learning community, there are a total of five classrooms per house. Each learning commons provides flexible break out space for small group and applied learning activities.

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Transparency between circulation and learning spaces enhances the vitality of interior spaces, connects students and programs and facilitates student safety and facility security through passive supervision from classrooms and other learning spaces.

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Recognized for Excellence

This project was recognized for excellence with a Merit Award by the Washington Chapter of the Association for Learning Environments (A4LE), and third place recognition in the Primary Education category of the Oregon Daily Journal of Commerce's Top Projects awards.  

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Take A Virtual Tour

This virtual tour walks you through the architecture and provides some interesting background on the community history and character that shaped Kalama Elementary School's design.

Kalama ES12_Web

Next Project

Kalama Middle and High School