As students at McKinley Elementary School start the school year next week, they may notice something different. The new-construction smell may hit them as they walk through the school’s doors, a cue that something exciting happened while they were gone.
Administrators, carpenters and designers renovated a previously unusable room into a multi-purpose maker space that Santa Barbara Unified School District staff unveiled in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday.
“We’re really looking forward to maximizing the result of all this hard work,” McKinley’s principal Dr. Elena Garcia-Yoshitomi said. “This will give us space for all of our students to become creative — using all that creativity going from science, technology, engineering, art, math, and robotics, to energy and electricity.”
She envisions a variety of classes in the space, like fiber arts to model-bridge building and more.
The district utilized Measure J (2016) funds to make the project a reality.
The area is shaped like an “L” with a clear Skyfold door connecting the two legs. The larger side could fit two classes whereas the smaller room could fit one.
A hallway with bathrooms and cabinetry is attached.
The space is equipped with ethernet ports every few feet, so devices such as 3D printers can be directly connected to the internet. Large televisions with built-in overhead sound will aid teachers’ presentations.
The project’s designers at KBZ Architects said the largest task was finding a place for the elevator. The second floor was previously inaccessible by Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, so installing a new elevator was integral to the project.
The solution was to have the elevator open outside, and designers were able to focus on durability and history for the rest of their specifications.
Former superintendent Cary Matsuoka attended the ceremony to see the transformation that began when he led the district.
“The next generation has to learn so many different things, collaboration and project management. We call it maker spaces — because they’re gonna want to make the future,” he said.
The upcoming school year will be McKinley students’ second year of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) education.
It will be the school’s first year with all kindergarteners enrolled in dual-language-immersion study.
The program utilizes an area’s native Spanish speakers and teaches all subjects 90% in Spanish and 10% in English during kindergarten and adds more English each year.
“I’m so excited to hear my English-only students speak Spanish,” Dr. Garcia-Yoshitomi said. “I’m ready to hear a student that doesn’t speak Spanish at home going home and teaching or reading in Spanish to their siblings. Like, this is just going to be amazing.”
She is also excited to see kids in the maker space, working on STEAM projects, while speaking Spanish.
“So when students are learning collaboration in a dual-language environment, in addition to expression in other modalities, our students are going to have that advantage,” she said.
“You have Amazon offices in Panama. You have Google in Paris. Our students are going to be able to excel in those competitive spaces.”
This will be her third year as principal at McKinley.
When asked if the ideas are ambitious she responded, “Our students deserve us to be ambitious for them.”
Santa Barbara Unified’s first day of school is next Tuesday.