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New state-of-the-art classroom building opens at Pacific Beach Middle School

The new classrooms at Pacific Beach Middle School provide enough space for Mandarin teacher Yan Yan's extensive library.
The new classrooms at Pacific Beach Middle School provide enough space for Mandarin teacher Yan Yan’s extensive library of Mandarin books.
(Milan Kovacevic)

When students returned to Pacific Beach Middle School on Aug. 30, they were the first to experience the new two-story, state-of-the art classroom building— the highlight of a $40 million project to modernize the campus.

Principal Kimberly Meng said the new classroom building provides state-of-the-art learning spaces for 21st century thinking.
Pacific Beach Middle School Principal Kimberly Meng said the new classroom building provides the students state-of-the-art learning spaces for 21st century thinking.
(Milan Kovacevic)

On a recent weekday, Principal Kimberly Meng provided a tour of the building and the campus, part of which still has various projects under construction.

“This is a labor of love so I’m happy to show if off,” Meng said.

Planning for the school modernization project began about 10 years ago, Meng said. The project was done using funds from Propositions S and Z.

One of the collaborative learning spaces in the new classroom building awaits the delivery of chairs and other furniture.
One of the collaborative learning spaces in the new classroom building awaits the delivery of chairs, couches and other furniture.
(Milan Kovacevic)

The 26-classroom building has a number of areas where students can gather, Meng said. Several cooperative learning spaces located outside classrooms are designed to give students a place to take a breather between classes, catch up on their reading or collaborate with classmates on a project.

Some of the spaces are still awaiting the delivery of couches, chairs and other furniture within the next month or two, Meng said.

A large wooden staircase that spans the middle of the first floor greets students when they enter the building. Students can gather on the steps to talk, do homework or even watch a film or presentation — a projector is designed to drop down in front of the staircase.

For the students, the classroom building is a huge difference from the former one that was built 80 years ago, Meng said.

“They come in and see this is built for them,” she said. “These are learning spaces for them. With that it has created a level of ownership.”

Meng described how the large staircase was something of a playground for some students at first.

“Within three days kids were going up the right side and down the left side and weren’t horsing around,” she said. “They got used to it and feel it’s a special building to them. It’s really an amazing, special place.”

One wall in each classroom is entirely dry erase. In this classroom, students have written phrases in Mandarin.
One wall in each classroom is entirely dry erase. In this classroom, students have written phrases in Mandarin.
(Milan Kovacevic)

The classrooms are large, about 1,000 square feet, and each has a white wall that is completely dry erase, so students can write mathematical equations, Mandarin phrases or other work on them. Another wall in the classrooms is all tack board, so students can hang work on it.

Mandarin teacher Yan Yan said her new classroom at Pacific Beach Middle School is the best one she has ever had.
Mandarin teacher Yan Yan said her new classroom at Pacific Beach Middle School is the best one she has ever had.
(Milan Kovacevic)

Mandarin teacher Yan Yan said she appreciates the space and the light in her new classroom.

“I can have a library,” Yan said. “I have over 1,000 Mandarin books at different levels and in a variety of topics so students can explore more Mandarin after they have done their classwork.

“We can use the walls, the students can put their creations there,” she said. “This is the best classroom I have ever had.”

Pacific Beach Middle School has been part of the community for almost 90 years. The school first opened its doors as a junior high to 84 students in 1931 at 1234 Tourmaline St. In 1950, the junior high moved to its current location at an old elementary school site between Diamond and Felspar streets on Ingraham, and the school added a cafeteria, gymnasium and the two-story classroom buildings on Diamond.

In 1984, Pacific Beach Junior High School became Pacific Beach Middle School, for students in grades 6-8. In 2007, the school became an International Baccalaureate World School working in conjunction with Mission Bay High School. The school now has 650 students.

Next to the classroom building is the future site of a plaza that will feature a stage, café-style eating and Chinese garden.
(Milan Kovacevic)

With the classroom building done, Meng is now focusing on construction of a plaza-like space that will feature a stage, café-style eating and a Chinese garden. The garden will fit in well with the school’s Mandarin immersion program, she said. “It’s an opportunity for kids to sit in that authentic setting to process the language.”

Meng said she expects all of the construction to be completed by January.

The school modernization project has also added new safety features, including a public address system, front entrance and emergency notification systems. Another addition was school-wide air conditioning, Meng said.

Other new spaces include the administration office, supply room, work room, staff lounge, kitchen, health office, classroom spaces and remodeling of the school’s 300 building.

“I can’t thank the public enough for what they’ve done for this space,” Meng said.


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