Design of the Dublin City Schools' fifth middle school is basically complete, and the district began construction activity this week, said Jeff Stark, the district's chief operating officer.

Public-information officer Doug Baker said the district likely will break ground on the project in March.

Stark said the unnamed building is set to open in August 2021. Elford Inc. will serve as construction manager.

Dublin Board of Education members Feb. 10 approved a guaranteed-maximum-price amendment for $42,253,983 for build-out and site construction.

The district's new middle school will connect to Abraham Depp Elementary School, 9105 Gardenia Drive in Jerome Village, now under construction and set to open for the upcoming school year.

"These would be the first Dublin elementary and middle school that are connected to one another," Stark said.

The schools will be connected by a shared kitchen that serves two independent cafeterias, providing a "modest cost savings" to the district, Stark said.

Each school will be operated independently, but the connection provides "a literal path to future curriculum collaboration," he said.

The middle school will be 2 stories tall.

Gary Sebach, principal and director of architectural design with OHM Advisors, the architect for the project, said aside from John Sells Middle School, all other district middle schools are 1 story tall.

Stark said a 2nd story was discussed early because of constraints involved in fitting an elementary and middle school on the Jerome Village site.

Sebach said the district's middle schools are designed with separate pods for each grade level. The new middle school was able to be laid out in this manner as well, he said.

Sixth-grade classrooms will be on the first floor, and seventh-grade classrooms will be on the second floor above those, Sebach said.

Also on the first floor will be arts-related offices and special education. Eighth-grade classrooms will be on the second floor above those, he said.

The district uses pods for grade levels in its middle schools because the design creates a team or small-house sort of feel for students, said Tracey Deagle, deputy superintendent.

The setup also helps teachers better meet students' educational, social and emotional needs and provide them better support.

The new middle school includes 38 standard classrooms, 10 small-group rooms and 21 speciality classrooms for such things as art, science, music, special education and a media center, Sebach said.

Three enclosed outdoor areas are also part of the school, Sebach said. One is for dining, the second is off the media center and a larger one is to be used for learning, he said.

Glass garage doors on classrooms also will allow teachers to work with students inside and outside the classroom, Deagle said.

Whereas students and teachers are finding ways to collaborate in the district's other buildings, this one was designed specifically to include collaboration spaces, she said.

"We're going to design for it because we know it's something that we do routinely," she said.

Deagle said the district likely will name a principal for the new building in the spring.