Recently, Sequoyah purchased its first property, 500 S. Pasadena Avenue. It was formerly home to Pasadena Community Christian Fellowship (PCCF), and will now house Sequoyah’s administrative operations including admissions, athletics, the business office, communications, development, Field Studies, facilities management, parent engagement, Summerhouse, and technology.
Last year K-12 students named the existing buildings the Mycelium Room and the Foxes’ Den. The Mycelium Room will contain workspaces for admissions, athletics, facilities management, the business office, communications, development, parent engagement, technology, and Summerhouse. The Foxes’ Den will house Field Studies. While these names were chosen in the 2021-2022 school year, the larger community has not yet had a chance to visit the property–though that opportunity will arrive later this month. The main reason that the property hasn’t been officially opened to the public is that it has undergone some renovations, undertaken by Dake Wilson Architects.
The first thing to clear up is that they’re not new buildings. Interim Head of School Mike McGill noted, “at this point, we are just rehabilitating the two buildings that were there which were in really, really rough shape.” The first thing Dake Wilson Architects took care of was safety. Architect Brian Wilson said, “the building was built [in the] 50s or 60s.” Wilson explains that this means that legally the building “had to go through an abatement process which is part of state law, where a company comes in, and properly removes and disposes of any asbestos that they find.” Once the abatement was done they continued with construction rather quickly. Wilson noted, “we have moved really fast on…[an] architectural scale.” However, Wilson noted that the planning is usually the longest part of the process, adding, “a lot of that has happened in years past, behind the scenes.” Regarding the intensity of the remodel, Wilson said that there [was] “a lot of the infrastructure stuff … [that] you don’t see. And then the stuff that you will see is more cosmetic. It’s new desks and workstations for people.” Of course, the cosmetic elements are what the community will interact with every day. When asked about making the campus more “Sequoyah,” Wilson said that “Sequoyah has its own culture and aesthetic … and I tried to eke that out wherever I could.” He did this by adding natural light and warm spaces to create an environment that McGill described as “a wonderful place to work.”
The Mycelium Room was the first of the two buildings to be occupied, with people moving in the week of December 12, 2022. Michael Barak, Interim CFO, describes the previous business office, a house known to the Sequoyah community as “St. John’s” as “just an old house where we ran out of room…so everyone is kind of crammed in a few bedrooms.” Barak compares this to the Mycelium Room which “will be well-managed office space…people will have proper offices, proper doors, proper privacy.” The Mycelium Room will also provide spaces for meetings and give Carolyn Stirling, Director of Admissions, a space to interview prospective students and parents. Laura Gowen, president of the Board of Trustees, describes Stirling’s office as having “a little outdoor patio with a beautiful mature tree…so when you’re sitting in the admissions office, you see this lovely outdoor space.” Kim Diaz, Assistant Head of School/K-8 Director, describes the Mycelium Room as “a nice space where you can pretty much contact almost anybody that does office stuff.” This is a perfect explanation of what Dake Wilson Architects has done–they’ve created a space where everyone is excited to work.
The Foxes’ Den will house the Field Studies Department. Assistant Director of Field Studies David Cutler-Kreutz explained how Field Studies will be affected by this change. First, Field Studies is currently being housed in multiple places on multiple campuses, so condensing them to one building will make it easier for everyone involved. Once the building is complete, camping trips will depart and deissue at the Foxes’ Den, meaning less commotion for those who work at the K-8. The move will also make it easier for Director of Field Studies Brian Eagan and Cutler-Kreutz; as Cutler-Kreutz explains, Field Studies doesn’t “have any kind of space to [prepare] any items,” which can make it very hard to pack for trips. A specific problem this has caused is “a lot of times food will get blasted by the sun while we’re packing it out. And then that means, of course, we are all…eating food that’s been kind of hammered by the sun. This means that the food goes bad more quickly.” But Cutler-Kreutz explains that, to everyone’s delight, “in the new space… we’ll be able to pack our food inside.” The Foxes’ Den will also create a space for camping equipment to loan out, making it more accessible to everyone. Overall, once the Foxes’ Den is in use, it will enhance everyone’s camping experience.
While the new property currently has a clear purpose, its long-term future presents many additional possibilities. According to Gowen, “The long-term plan for the [new] property is to engage the entire community in understanding what would be best for Sequoyah to secure its future as a K-12 institution.” Some proposed ideas include “a black box theater, science labs, administrative offices, a gym,” but “further research and input from the community and developing the buildings would require a capital campaign.” Barak elaborates on this hypothetical capital campaign, saying the current ballpark figure would be “$10 plus million dollars.” McGill says that the current vision is seven years but “the ultimate plans need to be figured out by the Board of Trustees, and the new Head [of School] and everybody else. The idea is [to take] a pragmatic vision for the school.”
In the immediate future, the most you’ll do to interact with the new buildings is probably use the approximately 42 parking spaces for overflow. But over the next few years, it is expected that the Mycelium Room and the Foxes’ Den will become a vital part of Sequoyah that streamlines campus operations and makes new families feel welcome. As of today, there will be an official opening event on January 26, 2023, for the entire Sequoyah community. But for now, the new campus is only a shining light of what Sequoyah might become.