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Turning a Vision Into Reality

Alameda International Jr/Sr High School: Turning a Vision Into Reality
Posted on 08/29/2023
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In 2015, Alameda International Jr/Sr High School principal Susie Van Scoyk listed “a state-of-the-art facility for the community” as part of the school’s five-year visioning process.

"Be audacious," she told others at the time. "You never know what might happen."

Some $30 million later, Van Scoyk’s dream is a reality. While parts of the school have been opened for student use as previous phases were completed, the 1,200 students who arrived at school in August experienced the entire, completed project for the first time.

"I mean, in some ways they've seen a lot of this," says Van Scoyk, "but this is really going to be a chance for them to see it all come together. It’s a dream come true."

Alameda International, located just south of Belmar Park in Lakewood, serves students in grades seven through 12 and offers an International Baccalaureate (IB) approach to educating students. The IB program "aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect."

The notion of “inquiry” is at the heart of the school’s pedagogy (The school’s motto is “Inquire, Inspire, Act.”). As a result, the centerpiece of the renovations and new construction is a two-story open library in the heart of the school. Sunlight streams in through huge windows.

The library boasts a designated makerspace with available tools including 3D printers, laser cutters, a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine, photo printer, a sound engineering studio and a sewing machine. There are supplies for knitting and crochet, woodburning and painting. There’s  a green room for video production and a piano for students and staff to play. Flags represent the variety of international students who attend the school and red lines in the library carpet point to far places of human ingenuity, such as Kitty Hawk and Stonehenge. 

Alameda International Jr/Sr High school library

“Even the kids mention that the library has changed the culture of the school,” says Van Scoyk, noting that the old library was dark and hidden at the end of a hall. “They come to read and study, but it's also a community hub … There’s an incredible vibe to the library.”

All that’s missing is a coffee bar, but Van Scoyk said she is working on that. In fact, the library is referred to as the “library commons.” 

The transformation of the school also includes a new performing arts wing with rooms for band and choir. Colorful acoustic panels—done in rich jewel colors—adorn the ceilings. The rooms are light and airy. 

The color scheme extends to the classrooms, where students sit at tables of varying heights. Teachers don’t command a desk at the front. Rather, they move from classroom to classroom, too. The feeling of the classrooms is “very communal,” says Van Scoyk, “like an open office space.”

Outside, there are new football and soccer fields and many outdoor spaces for students and staff to relax in the sunshine or catch a breather.

Von Scoyk says the school’s new look makes her emotional. When a new wing was opened for students, as one of the renovation phases was completed, she had purposely kept students from seeing it until it was ready.

“The students were like, ‘do we really deserve this?’ and ‘Is this really our school?’ Some were in tears just because it was so beautiful,” says Von Scoyk, who has been in education for 37 years and who started building the IB program at Alameda in 2010. “But I told them, ‘of course you deserve this, this is for you.’ You know, we talk about equity. Well, there's equity in facilities too. There's equity in your environment and that's what this has really brought to this community.”

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