Middle school project making progress

By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

The South-Western City Schools District may have had to alter most of its plans this year in order to slow the spread of a novel coronavirus, but the one thing the district did not have to modify was the timeline for its middle school build project.

When COVID-19 began, the project’s leading architects and designers began to fear that the state mandated safety restrictions could put a halt to the project that has been two years in the making. Those fears, however, turned out to be unfounded.

According to Michael Dingeldein, the director of architecture and planning with the Community Design Alliance, those safety restrictions allowed his company and Schorr Architects to make the middle school build project their primary focus.

“We have made huge progress,” he told the board of education at its Sept. 28 meeting.

Throughout the spring and summer, Dingeldein said they have reached near completion on the final guaranteed maximum price set and a large part of that is due to increased collaboration with school personnel.

During the design process, he explained, the firm seeks feedback from administrators and teachers on how they envision the space of the building. In the typical process, he added, the number of staff they collaborate with can be limited but this collaboration proved to be much different.

“We met with twice as many staff as we could have in person,” he said, referring to a Goggle Hangout page deputy director Dave Stewart established between the parties.
He said their recommendations have helped make the design of the four new middle schools “truly spectacular.”

The design of the middle schools will be similar to new schools throughout the district, he said, but they will differ somewhat from the design at the elementary, intermediate and high school levels.

“There will be no doubt it’s a South-Western City School, but they are going to have its own kind of identity,” said Dingeldein.

Each school (Brookpark, Finland, Norton, and Pleasant View) will be approximately 120,000 square-feet and feature three large group spaces and eight “breakout rooms” for small gatherings.

“These are really interesting,” he said of the 300 sq. ft. breakout rooms. “We are very anxious to see how they get used.”

Dingeldein said that they are not intended to be used as “just as conference rooms” but rather small spaces where students can gather to seek additional instruction or just read and study alone.

The three large rooms are the cafeteria, the main gym and the auxiliary gym. Dingeldein said they are designed to hold events simultaneously through quality sound systems and soundproofing standards.

“This will allow (the district to hold) all kinds of events at the same exact time,” he said.

In addition to the typical classroom, the schools will also have a large media center, music rooms and science labs. Each room will be designed to be in compliance with guidelines through the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Dingeldein said within the next couple of weeks, the designers will be making minor revisions and plan to send in the final plan in November. He said the four build sites are currently undergoing minor activities.

“It’s all underway,” he said. “We have positive progress at all of our sites and things are happening. We’re going to get the dirt moved before winter and the wet season in the spring and we hope to be moving on (with the build) at the first of the year.”

According to the recent timeline, the project is still slated to be complete at the start of the 2022/23 school year. Brookpark will be relocated to the new development at Beulah Park; Finland and Norton will stay at its existing site and Pleasant View will relocate to Holt Road, adjacent to Bolton Crossing Elementary.

Through the build project, which was approved via bond issue by voters in 2018, East Franklin Elementary and Jackson Middle School will also undergo renovations.

In related news, the board discussed renaming Brookpark Middle School and Pleasant View since they are moving to new sites. They said they will gauge the interest and prospective names through staff and community input in the near future.



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