The Design Committee for the new elementary school has been meeting weekly and following a design schedule created by the architects. One of the first steps in the process was to tour several elementary schools.
Because our school district has not built a new elementary school since 1937, we needed to start with the basics. In order to have the opportunity to tour several modern schools in one day, especially those similar in size to the 700-student school we are planning, it was advantageous to travel to the Seattle area. The group had a long day, visiting five very different schools and having the opportunity to observe schools in action:
- Different library configurations
- End-of-day traffic flow
- Location of SpEd services
- Recess traffic to outdoors and supervision of outside play
- Students dining
- Use of moveable walls
- Variations of teaching wall designs
- Options for student storage
- Front offices, admin offices, and conference room relationships
- Bus & vehicle loading & unloading zones
- Types of flooring and other building materials
- Issues with space and lighting
- Issues with storage – general “stuff,” lunch tables, unused spaces or spaces used not as intended
- Electrical outlet shapes and locations
- Effect and location of floating smells (ex – food from staff break room going into library)
- Gym sizes, setups, and materials
- One roof had internal damage simply because of the angle with which it was designed
- Ideas for incorporating themes and colors into the design
- Incorporating repurposed elements from prior schools into artwork or decor for new school
Although the team felt this trip would be helpful, we didn’t realize just how crucial these tours would be to the design process. We were able to get some really good ideas that we would like to replicate, and also identify features that we felt would definitely not work for our district. It gave the team real-world experience to help us interpret details of a physical drawing or photo and conceptualize a physical space. It also gave us ideas for future remodels, which is a lasting benefit.
We were able to speak with principals, nutrition services staff, custodians, a school nurse, music teachers, special ed staff, librarians, and several grade-level teachers (including a very enthusiastic kindergarten teacher).
As the design process unfolds, we plan to pull in subject matter experts from our own district to help guide decisions. This will include, for example, technology, Special Ed, teachers, the School Resource Officer, etc.