Architects unveiled plans to the Douglas County School Board Jan. 20 for a future Parker elementary school designed to mirror changes in educational philosophy.
The 1,000-student elementary would be built on land the Douglas County School …
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The 1,000-student elementary would be built on land the Douglas County School District already owns on Pine Drive east of the Parker Road and Mainstreet intersection. A construction timeline hasn’t been set and funds aren’t yet available for building the structure.
Described by DCSD as a 21st-century learning preK-8 magnet school, and a learning environment for the future, the concept design created by Anderson Mason Dale and Alan Ford architects is unlike any other DCSD school. That departure from tradition is very intentional.
“All of our growth we’ve done over the last 20 years has been prototype design — the same blueprint with a few variations,” school board president Kevin Larsen said. “There are efficiencies in that; you don’t have to have an architect do it all over again. But we thought, `Let’s just have something completely from scratch incorporating our ideals and vision.’”
The resulting design depicts a building divided into neighborhoods to encourage interaction and collaboration among grade levels. Classrooms are large, open and flexible, with furniture that moves to allow students to sit or stand and create new spaces within a single room.
“Student-driven learning is a shift,” architect Cathy Bellem said. “It’s more about interaction.”
The building emphasizes a connection to the outdoors, based on research that shows it reduces stress and enhances learning and social interaction.
“Movement became a fundamental piece of how we approach the design of the school,” Bellem said. “If you move, your brain creates chemicals that build connections and enhance learning.”
A central outdoor courtyard would be a focal point of the school, along with an indoor walking loop and fitness components, so “movement can become part of the culture every day,” Bellem said.
The design includes open ceilings and walls, ample wireless connectivity and a strong emphasis on security.
Though it is still only in design stages, the project already has two years of meticulous research behind it.
“We spent over a year just understanding what the common themes are for 21st-century learning,” said Rich Cosgrove, DCSD’s director of planning and construction.
That included touring Google and Apple and meeting with more than 40 teachers and staff members.
Anderson Mason Dale/Alan Ford’s concept design was the winner among three proposals submitted by firms participating in the district’s design contest. The district paid $75,000 for the three finalists’ designs; $25,000 to each firm.
Beyond that, Larsen said little money has so far been spent on the project.
“Depending when in the future we’ve got funding for it, it’s in a ready state,” he said.
DCSD currently has $275 million in unfunded capital expenses, including repairs on current buildings and needed new construction. It’s held a series of community meetings to let the public know about those needs and explore funding options.
Regardless of that lengthy unfunded list of current needs, Larsen said the district has to keep an eye on the horizon. The proposed magnet school is in an area identified for high future student growth.
“At some point, if this county continues to grow, you want to have prototypes and ideas ready,” he said. “We always have to look to the future.”
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