A step above

As the first round of construction closes, the Learning Stairs becomes a resource for both students and teachers.


Photo by Hillary Currier

Students finish lunch on the learning stairs and head to their final class of the day.

By Olivia Young, Online Editor

Story originally published in the November 2019 edition of The Paw, our quarterly magazine.

     The learning stairs are a new addition to Tigard High School in the new north wing. They’re a series of large concrete steps that have become a space for students and staff to utilize as they please.

     One teacher that has used the learning stairs to his advantage is Visual Merchandising teacher Chris McIsaac, whose classroom is directly at the top of the stairs. Due to his location, he’s been able to see how different people use the increasingly versatile space.

     “I’ve seen groups who have done activities near the learning stairs with the big open, and I’ve heard choir come out sing.” McIsaac said.

     “This area is open to anybody and everybody who would want to use it,” Associate Principal Tyler Davila said. He, along with the rest of the school’s admin, have worked closely with the bond project, which includes the creation of the learning stairs.

     “Early in the year we held a breakfast here, and Mr. Bailey was able to address the whole staff while sitting on these stairs, which was pretty cool to see.” Davila said.

     The area around the learning stairs will be changing as the school continues to be built. Ultimately the big, white wall at the bottom of the stairs, will be knocked down and lead the way to a bigger common space. 

     “I’m really excited for the time when this wall comes down, and we have everyone in one location… as opposed to the two seperate areas,” Davila said.

     Director of Operations and Bond Darin Barnard agrees. He’s been working with the bond project since the beginning, first as the principal at Tualatin before taking on the director job. He worked closely with former Tigard principal Andy Van Fleet on the construction of both Tigard and Tualatin.

     “The learning stairs will look and feel different as the commons is expanded and completed this year,” Barnard said.

     “I like the learning stairs because it allows an open space for lots of people to hang out and do different activities there,” senior Summer Thompson said, “This was a great addition to our school, since it gives the students…another place to have lunch.”

     Fellow senior Emma Vu agrees. “I like how there’s more seating and areas for people to eat lunch, but also sit during passing time.”

     However, the creation of these steps has not come without some challenges. One notable challenge is the noise. Since they’ve become such a central social hub throughout the school day, this creates a surplus of noise and distractions for students who are in the classrooms by the stairs. Classes such as McIsaac’s have experienced these noises and distractions.

     “It definitely can be distracting. It gets loud during lunches,” McIsaac said.

     Davila recognizes that this can be a roadblock for students and teachers. 

     “Since it’s centrally located, having a class here, depending on what you wanted to do, may not be the best space,” Davila said. 

     Regardless of the limitations, the learning stairs are the architectural symbol of  a new era at Tigard. Barnard sees the learning stairs as a new focal point of the school and hopes that they will continue to serve as a multi-purpose gathering space, both formal and informal.

     “This space is envisioned to be the heart of this student-centered space. The versatile nature of the learning stairs offer an opportunity for gathering, teaching, socializing and performing in a highly flexible, amphitheater-style environment.”