New Albany News

New school building

Draft design emphasizes creativity, flexibility

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More than 60 people gathered last week to get the first glimpse of a draft design plan for a new 150,000-square-foot, two-story school building in New Albany.

Architects from Moody-Nolan, the Columbus firm hired to lead the construction project, unveiled the design to community members April 4 at the 2-5 elementary building.

The draft design was developed over the course of several weeks and incorporates feedback from community members.

New Albany-Plain Local officials plan to use the draft as a basis for discussion to develop the final design plan, and modifications are likely during meetings to review the plan, district spokesman Patrick Gallaway said.

The school board and members of the superintendent's facilities advisory committee reviewed the draft plan during an April 8 workshop.

Superintendent April Domine formed small groups to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the draft plan.

The new school building is planned between the 2-5 elementary building and New Albany Middle School, with corridors connecting to both buildings.

According to the draft plan, the building would be oriented east to west, with three north-to-south-oriented wings -- one on both ends and one in the center.

The gymnasium would be built on the west side of the building, close to the middle school gym. It would have a mezzanine that includes a track.

The building would be Georgian style, mostly brick with white accents, and walls of glass separating its three wings.

The draft plan calls for at least six outdoor learning spaces on all four sides of the building and rooftop gardens accessed from the second floor.

Curtis Moody, a partner with Moody-Nolan, said the outdoor learning spaces could become part of the building, if needed.

The draft plan also divides classrooms for 1,200 students into four "communities," said architect Brent Wilcox, Moody-Nolan's project manager. Each community would have 12 classrooms for 25 students and one teacher.

Wilcox said individual study areas, group study areas, teacher preparation spaces, labs and storage closets would be situated around a central space that could be used for presentations or performances. At least two rooms in each community would incorporate acoustic design elements for music classes.

Wilcox said the walls between classrooms would be adjustable so adjacent classrooms could be used together.

"In a traditional classroom, the only flexibility you have is within that classroom's four walls," Moody said. "In this building, you will have the ability to use (a classroom) differently if you choose to, and that's the benefit."

Domine said the communities would be different from 1970s open-concept schools in which classrooms were separated by bookshelves and acoustics were a problem.

She said classrooms would be separated, but the flexibility to move walls would give teachers opportunities for creativity.

As a former teacher, Domine said, she is most excited the classrooms would be built so teachers could see the common areas and monitor students studying individually or as a group.

The center of the building on both floors would house a cafeteria, media and art displays and centralized restrooms.

Wilcox said the cafeteria would have food stations and less of a cafeteria line feel.

Domine said that could help younger students feel more comfortable.

"It will not be institutional or industrialized," Domine said. "For younger children, it should feel less overwhelming."

Parents have asked what the building would be called, as it is intended for students in grades 2 to 8, and if younger children would be separated from older students.

Domine said the building currently does not have a name and the community sections would divide the students if needed.

Kirsten Hollenbaugh, parent of a third-grader, asked how the district would determine which grades and teachers would use the building.

Domine said district officials still are evaluating the best way to use the new building, which would determine who is assigned to it. She said some teachers might want to use the building because of its flexible space, but others might want to stay in the more traditional buildings.

Ann Gunzenhaeuser, parent of a kindergartner and a preschooler, said after the meeting she is concerned that students who are not assigned to the new building could feel disadvantaged because they are in a less progressive building.

Domine said during the meeting that teaching would be the same in all district buildings, regardless of the design.

Also at the April 4 meeting, Buzz Foresi, an associate with the Edge Group of Columbus, presented three options for traffic movement and bus loops at the new building.

Two options call for buses to drop off students in grades 2-12 on the north side of the new building, with student drop-off and pickup areas on the south side of the campus.

The third option reworks the middle school bus loop for high school and middle school buses and adds a bus loop north of the new building for grades 2-5.

All three scenarios add 700 to 900 parking spaces to the campus.

The building and site improvements will be funded by a $45.1 million, 2.59-mill bond issue local voters approved in November 2012.

District officials hope to break ground this spring and open the building by fall 2014.

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