MOUNT VERNON — A new building going up at Jefferson Elementary School has the Mount Vernon School District as one of five innovators in school construction in the state.

Construction on the school’s new detached cross-laminated timber classroom building began Tuesday, causing excitement among the students as they watched cranes move the walls into place.

“This has been quite the entertainment factor for us,” Principal Tim Newell said.

The district is one of five throughout the state to have received a $1 million grant to construct new classrooms using cross-laminated timber — prefabricated, solidly engineered wood paneling — as part of a pilot project promoted by Gov. Jay Inslee.

The project was brought to the district’s attention by state Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon.

The four-classroom building will help the district lower its class sizes, particularly in the lower grades.

“School districts have been under increasing pressure to find space to decrease class size,” Mount Vernon School District Superintendent Carl Bruner said.

Easier to install than traditional material, cross-laminated timber can be made from small or damaged trees that are less likely to be used as lumber, said Brian Hatfield, director of economic development for the Forest Products Sector of the state Department of Commerce.

“You take something that was damaged and turn it into a positive,” Hatfield said.

The governor and his administration have made cross-laminated timber projects a priority, Hatfield said, and last year’s budget allowed for some experimenting.

“Whether it’s reducing our carbon footprint or (creating) jobs in timber towns, everyone has a reason (to be using cross-laminated timber),” Hatfield said.

The material is more environmentally friendly, efficient and durable than the mobile portable buildings used by most districts, including at other schools in the Mount Vernon district, Hatfield said.

“Standard portables are not meant to be permanent solutions,” Bruner said. “(The new method) is going to wear better.”

Construction on the new building is set to be completed by mid-May, and students will begin using the classrooms at the start of the 2017-2018 school year.

— Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141,

kwanielista@skagitpublishing.com

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