New high school design unveiledThe Jefferson High School (JHS) cafeteria was filled with people last Thursday night – district residents, students and staff members – eager to hear about the proposed new high school project and to see a preliminary conceptual design and 3-D model.
By: Celeste Beam, Alexandria Echo Press
The Jefferson High School (JHS) cafeteria was filled with people last Thursday night – district residents, students and staff members – eager to hear about the proposed new high school project and to see a preliminary conceptual design and 3-D model.
The information presented was based on information gathered during a three-day workshop that took place November 16-18. Nearly 70 participants took part in the workshop, including parents, students, community representatives and JHS staff members.
The team of presenters at Thursday’s meeting included Claire Anderson, teacher at Discovery Middle School (DMS); Pat Kalina from Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission and community member; Lisa Klinkner, a junior at JHS; Sara Kosters, teacher at JHS; Tim Bush from State Bank and Trust and parent representative; and Greg Klepetka from Integrated Health and parent representative.
John Pfluger and Meg Parsons from the Cuningham Group, one of the consulting firms involved in the project, were also part of the presentation, as was District 206 Superintendent Terry Quist.
Anderson explained that one of the purposes of the three-day workshop was to come up with a clear vision of what the new proposed high school would look like. She said the group members were asked what their “highest hopes” for the project were and the answers provided some pretty clear themes – one being that the project is successful and another is that the building serves as a functional environment.
When the group first formed, Anderson said ground rules were set and then they began. They watched videos, they talked with students about what they wanted to see in a new high school, they thought about what “the world’s greatest high school” would look like and participated in activities; one being “think outside the block.”
Bush talked about the timeline and said that the district will continue to gather public input until spring. The board would probably take action sometime next fall and a possible referendum could be brought forward in September.
Kalina said the large group was given information about the site of the proposed new high school and then they were broken into smaller groups, given colored blocks and asked to “build” a school. The colored blocks represented different areas of the school:
• Red – Commons/cafeteria areas.
• Yellow – Administration space as well as space for media.
• Green – Academic space for “big labs,” such as industrial tech.
• Blue – Classroom space.
• Purple – Auditorium and fine arts space.
• Orange – Phy ed space including gymnasium and locker rooms.
Even though each design was different, Klepetka said it was interesting to note that the schools were all placed on the site in the same position, facing the same way.
Klinkner talked about how the group worked with students to get their input and how the students talked about how they would like to see a central location in the school where students can cross paths throughout the day so they feel connected with one another. She talked about how students would like to see common areas or “lounges” where they can work on homework or use the space to decompress.
After the designs were reviewed, two final designs were chosen – the first one showed a long and narrow building, the second one showed a more compact, multi-level school centered around a commons area.
The second concept was unanimously chosen, noted Klepetka.
After the team finished presenting information, Pfluger and Parsons talked to the large crowd.
Pfluger described the second design as having an almost butterfly effect. He said there were some challenges with the model but the consultants came up with a sketch or diagram of what the school could possibly look like, which was drawn by Dan Miller from JLG Architects.
He explained how it was a more open-design concept and that there wouldn’t be hallways – or at least what is considered a normal hallway with full walls. Some of the classrooms would have typical walls, while some would have half walls or movable walls.
Some classrooms, said Pfluger, will look like regular classrooms and some won’t.
“There will be great flexibility,” he said.
QUESTIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE
After the conceptual drawing and computerized 3-D model were shown to the audience, Superintendent Quist opened the discussion up for questions.
One person wanted to know how many elevators would be installed in the school if it was three stories high. He was told there would be at least one elevator.
Another person asked about a community auditorium. Quist said there would be a “strong commitment” to have one as part of this project.
“It’s not just a school, but an arts center, as well,” said Quist.
Another question was asked about the auditorium and how many seats it would have. Quist said the number of seats is unknown at this time, but that it could range anywhere from 300 to 1,200.
“We haven’t defined that yet,” he said.
Someone asked, “If there are no hallways, how do you move students?”
Pfluger responded by saying there would be different kinds of spaces, not what is typically thought about, as in the traditional 10-foot-wide hallways with full walls.
Someone wondered where the lunchroom would be and was told it would be in the commons area, which would be in the heart of the school.
Another person asked about lockers and Pfluger said, “I think there will be discussions about that – where, how many and if there will be lockers.”
“What about a pool?” asked another audience member.
Quist said that at this point, he doesn’t think there will be a pool included in the plan, and that the pool at DMS fills the district’s need.
The cost of the project was never brought up. Not one person asked how much it was going to cost.
One person did, however, ask about pledges or donations, to which Quist replied, “We are currently looking into a capital campaign. We are going to explore and move ahead with that option.”