Kelly Kiser, Michael Chai, Dee Dee Finison, Lisa Earby, Randall Stephens and Carolyn Ingram met with faculty to compile a wish list for their respective schools. Suggestions were made based on two viewpoints. Faculty considered what already works in their schools and what they feel is missing.
“We focused a lot on safety and flexibility,” Earby said of faculty. “Other major design considerations included collaboration, interaction, and communication between students. We also looked at integration of the arts, fitness, and other academic areas.”
Questions to consider for the new elementary facility were presented to the board. Faculty wanted to know the maximum enrollment, future technologies, the possibility of a magnet school, and if the facilities would be used by the community. How these questions are answered should affect the building’s layout, they said.
Common items were written on each list. Faculty from all six schools agreed the following were important: large windows to provide natural lighting, shared bathrooms between two classrooms, large classrooms at least 900 square feet in size, built-in cabinets along with a large closet for storage space, traffic flow for pick-up/drop-off, secure entrance and exits, adult bathrooms, designated art and music classrooms, and outdoor classrooms, among other considerations.
A common theme throughout the suggestions dealt with space.
“Classrooms are no longer just rows of desks. They are learning environments which need space,” said Dawn Robinson, school board member.
Faculty from Blythe-Bower stated large classroom spaces allow for a variety of instructional groups. Finison, Mayfield’s principal, also cited the need for space in terms of growth.
“Mayfield was built for three classrooms per grade level. I now have four classrooms per grade level, with first and second grades having five,” Finison said. “We use every space available in this building.”
According to reports, Mayfield was built to handle a projected growth of up to 450 students. The current population hovers between 560-565 students. Designated rooms like art, music, media labs, and a counseling office have been turned into classrooms.
Principals suggested making a large core space with room to expand classrooms without encroaching on designated areas like art, an auditorium, or the gymnasium.
Knowing your audience was another deciding factor behind the faculty wish lists.
“The room in the back of our library was supposed to be a media room,” Finison said. “What happened was someone thought the library shelves would be stacked on top of each other like in the middle and high schools. Well, kindergarteners cannot reach the top shelves, so we had to put all the shelves down to be at eye level. That took up a lot of space, so the media room was used to house the library tables for instruction.”
School board officials asked faculty and principals to brainstorm due to their experience with elementary schools and younger students. Each suggestion has the support of years behind its appeal. Faculty members of the six schools have seen firsthand what does and does not work.
Five of the six schools mentioned their desire for a large auditorium of adequate size. Mayfield’s auditorium currently fits less than half of the school’s population at a time. Christmas performances have been held at Lee University’s Conn Center. Roughly 900 parents and relatives have been in attendance at one time. Chai said Arnold is lucky to have the second-largest auditorium in the city. He cited the need for built-in lights and sound.
Additional considerations were given to gymnasiums, conference rooms, and technology.
“They hope we will look at what education will look like in the future, and not just current trends and costs,” Earby said.
Technology needs and concerns were expressed by five of the six schools.
- E.L. Ross advised streamlined and integrated technology with multimedia systems, computers in classrooms, a computer lab equipped with a multimedia system, and reliable wireless Internet.
- Blythe-Bower suggested classroom setups be made with the use of technology, like Activboards, in mind.
- Mayfield requested technology that is easily accessible.
- Arnold stated the media center needs to be sized enough for classroom lessons. In addition, media centers should have available and up-to-date technology.
- Yates cited a need for iPads and updated technology.
Sufficient multiple outlets were suggested for the new building.
“As technology has grown at Stuart, electricians have had to come in and added additional outlets,” Stephens said.
A suggestion was made by the principals to consider mobile technology as well. It is believed students will feel more comfortable taking a test in their own environment. This will become more of an issue in upcoming years as standardized testing transitions from paper to keyboard.
School board members remained active throughout the presentations. They asked questions and made suggestions based on the faculty wish lists. The meeting is one of the first in what board members hope will culminate in a new elementary school.