Delle Willett | Art on the Land
Founded in 1988 as the first of its kind in the nation, the Monarch School has continuously served the educational needs of San Diego’s homeless children ranging in age from 4 to 19 attending grades K–12.
Its innovative structure as a public-private partnership between the San Diego County Office of Education and the nonprofit Monarch School Project makes it an impressive model for other facilities across the nation.
Previously located in Little Italy, the school found a new home in the Barrio District in 2013. Through amazing private contributions, the Monarch School took over a large warehouse space on Newton Street and began the $16 million renovation required to meet the needs of the 350 students who would attend school there.
This LEED Gold-awarded school is geared toward eliminating the barriers to education by simultaneously addressing the social, emotional, and nutritional needs of the students and their families.
In addition to the educational curriculum, the outdoor spaces offer a beautiful place to call home for a majority of the day. Site amenities focus on supporting the mental and physical health of the students, and include active play courts, a vegetable garden, open play fields, climbing equipment, tricycle paths, an amphitheater for large gatherings, and a peaceful park-like area with native Sycamore trees and granite boulders that allow students to take a break when needed.
This urban oasis features large shade trees, colorful vines, flowering shrubs, and edible plants, all that bring nature into the daily lives of the students, further supporting the school’s mission.
“Outdoor play space is imperative for the learning and development of Monarch students,” said CEO Erin Spiewak. “Rarely do our students have the opportunity to run, play, or exercise in a safe and welcoming environment. Monarch’s outdoor design allows them this opportunity.”
Marian Marum (Marum Partnership) provided the landscape architectural design for the campus.
In addition to her design services, Marum helped coordinate the donation of all site furnishings, including musical play pieces, benches, tables, bike racks, and even garden soil. These donations came from vendor companies that attended the 2012 American Society of Landscape Architecture national conference in San Diego, and help enrich the experience, unify the outdoor spaces, and contribute to a greater sense of school pride.
Monarch is a high-performance school in many ways, achieving LEED Gold designation for energy and water conservation. LEED points were achieved by incorporating high-efficiency equipment and fixtures inside the building, as well as low water-use plants and a high-efficiency irrigation system with a “smart” weather-based controller. Effective storm-water management in the landscape also contributed to the LEED Gold designation.
Marum founded Marum Associates in 1984, and transitioned it into Marum Partnership in 2001. She has received numerous awards for design and service excellence over the past 30 years that demonstrate her sense of dedication and professional skill.
She has helped shape San Diego’s Downtown environment over the past three decades through her participation in Partners for Livable Places. She earned her LEED AP credential in 2009 and lectures extensively on sustainable design and water conservation. She is the founding chair of the Stewardship Committee for the American Society of Landscape Architects; has participated in the design of numerous LEED building projects; and actively participates in the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and ASLA.
Marum remains focused on striking a balance between protecting San Diego’s natural resources and enhancing the quality of its built environment. Learn more at marumpartnership.com.
—Delle Willett cut her teeth traveling as the daughter of a career Navy man. A graduate of USD with a BFA in hand, her career in marketing and public relations has flourished for over 30 years. An active volunteer for various local organizations, she currently works as a freelance publicist and writer when she’s not traveling the world with her husband, a retired airline pilot. Delle can be reached at email@example.com.