“It is all about how believable the architects are because I believe all the architects are going to build what we tell them to and they are all good, or else they would not be in the bottom six,” said Dawn Robinson, school board member. “I like to know their body of work they have done.”
Presentations were made by Red Chair Architects, Michael Brady Inc., Cope Architecture, Upland Design Group, The Lewis Group Architects and Kaatz, Binkley, Jones & Morris Architects.
Each group received 30 minutes to make their presentations. An additional 15 minutes were used for questions. School board members peppered each 15 minute portion with questions for the architect. Reoccurring queries included geothermal capabilities, use of the full 19.9 acres of land at the Georgetown Property, school safety, innovative designs, lighting and structure.
Presenting firms brought their designs, handouts and confidence.
Michael Brady, of Michael Brady Inc., explained what set his group apart from the other six presenting.
“We’ve always been a leader in the way things are done,” Brady said. “We were the first ones to start using higher insulation levels on the roof. We were the first ones to start using more daylighting and windows in the classroom.”
As part of his presentation, Brady also presented innovative seats which could be used as part of the school’s furnishings.
Peggy Pesterfield, school board member, said there were a lot of good ideas presented throughout the day.
“I like the reinforced walls and the storm center. I thought that was very important because of the weather these days, the unpredictability and our past experiences in Cleveland with tornadoes,” Pesterfield said. “I want some place the kids can go where I know they will be safe. I wish we could have that in all of our schools.”
Dr. Murl Dirksen, school board member, was interested in how the architects incorporated the Georgetown property’s natural features into their designs.
“I’m really interested in the site location and the natural environment we picked out because we have a lot of potential there,” Dirksen said. “We are using programming inside and outside.”
Both Cope and Upland Designs discussed building outdoor classrooms and learning environments.
Board members agreed the presentations, good or bad, gave them information to consider.
“Every time they give one of these presentations its like, ‘oh yeah, that’s important too,’” Dirksen said. “I think we will have a nice list of things we are going to be looking for in designing the perfect building.”
Pesterfield wants the school to be aesthetically pleasing.
“I want the appearance to be inviting,” Pesterfield said. “I want it to be something we are going to be proud of 20 years from now.”
Steve Morgan, school board member, said he wants the school to have street appeal.
“Cleveland City Schools takes pride in building a school building that will last 50-75 years ... and still be good stewards of the tax payer’s money,” Morgan said. “There has always been a heavier responsibility to spend wisely.”
Additional members from the system’s administration were on hand to hear the presentations. Dr. Martin Ringstaff, director of city schools; Paul Ramsey, energy education specialist; and Hal Taylor, director of maintenance and presentation, listened to all the presentations.
Taylor paid particular attention to the design of the building for maintenance purposes and the school’s parking lot layout.
“We are looking for traffic flow. For instance, we’ve experienced how traffic could maybe be better at Cleveland Middle School where we are having to mix buses and cars,” Taylor said. “I am looking for that in the designs and maybe bringing up we need to look at something easier to work with (for the final design).”
He said he was making a pros and cons list of each presentation. These will be shared with the school board to give them an additional perspective when they make their decision.
Lanis Cope, Cope Associates Inc. president, said his firm brings their experience to the table.
“You learn something on every school, and I’ve been designing for 40 years, so I’ve learned a lot. More importantly, I’ve learned what not to do, and I’ve seen a lot of different viewpoints,” Cope said. “What is the impact operationally? What is the impact first cost? What is the impact maintenance cost? There are a plethora of decisions which have to be made when designing, and we don’t make them in a vacuum. We make them with the school board to help educate them about decisions and their implications.”
Cope said there are also educators on staff to help with design.
“We think it is vitally important to view the design of a school, not only from an architect’s standpoint but from a builder’s standpoint with our construction administrators, from a principal’s standpoint with our educators on staff and as a board member,” Cope said. “It is a different viewpoint. You have to respect all those viewpoints.”
Richard Shaw, school board member, focused on school safety.
“How are you going to get in and out of the place? That was my biggest thing,” Shaw said. “What are we going to do to make the school safer, and how are we going to get people on and off the property?”
He was optimistic about the day’s presentations.
“There are so many things you can ask in these meetings. Luckily, everybody asked different kinds of questions. I just stayed in the [safety] area,” Shaw said. “It was a good exercise. Everybody was treated fairly and got a chance to make their presentation.”
“I’m not an expert on construction,” he said. “I don’t think any of us are, but I know what schools need because I’ve been around them for a long time. I was happy to be able to have these people make these presentations. They are all good; that is why they were chosen to make presentations. They are all competent, but it was about what they had to offer individually.”
School board members are expected to make a decision on their chosen architect in the next several weeks.