Beautiful Schools

Beautiful Schools
by Tina Manzer

Each year at EDspaces, our industry’s furniture, fixtures and equipment vendors get together with the professionals who design, furnish and manage schools. What results, eventually, from their discussions – along with the innovative products in the exhibit hall and the educational program – are beautiful schools. Each building, though, is more than just a pretty face. They are clever containers of the things that spark imaginations, build lifelong skills, foster positive relationships and radiate knowledge. Even if you don’t sell furniture and equipment specifically, your store provides many of the “things” we’re referring to. You’re part of this, too.

EDspaces attendees have the opportunity to see some beautiful schools in person during facility tours that take place on Tuesday, October 24; Wednesday, October 25; and Friday October 27. Here’s what they look like.

“Flex-Studios” provide a real-world experience

From 5 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, EDspaces participants will visit the Missouri Innovation Campus (MIC) for a short presentation; a panel discussion that includes students, administrators, and architects; and the tour. The 140,000-square-foot Missouri Innovation Campus in Lee’s Summit opened in August. It was designed “to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s workplaces,” says the Kansas City Business Journal. The building houses the Missouri Innovation Campus, a partnership involving the Lee’s Summit district, UCM, Metropolitan Community College and more than 40 businesses; the Lee’s Summit R-7 Summit Technology Academy; the programs currently housed at the UCM-Lee’s Summit campus; and shared spaces that will be used by both UCM and the district. It was designed by local architects DLR Group and Gould Evans.

“The building is designed to be an open, flexible learning environment,” said Megan Krtek, a spokeswoman for Gould Evans, “so we created ‘flex-studios,’ which look more like the workplace than a regular classroom.”

The Missouri Innovation Campus opened in 2012. It focuses on preparing students for high-demand careers, and at the same time, accelerates the time it takes to complete a college degree. The end result is the significantly reduced cost of a college education.

An urban charter school expands its reach

BNIM architects worked with the Crossroads Academy of Kansas City to expand its program from K-5 to K-8, and develop a downtown campus in the urban core. Phase I, completed two years ago, included the renovation of a 30,000-square-foot historic building to accommodate classrooms and multipurpose rooms for the K-8 charter school. The design – with small rooms, individual spaces, huddle rooms, group areas, and pods – facilitates collaboration. Interior de-mountable glass partitions provide openness within the floorplan. Teachers can move between students working in different groups in the spaces, while maintaining line-of-sight to the entire class.

Phase 2, completed in 2016, was the renovation of another existing historic building to include a gym and two classrooms. The 15,000-square-foot facility is across an alleyway from the first building, connected by an elevated glass skywalk. The gym, which doubles as a space for large school functions, youth activities, and an afterschool pick-up location, is connected to the other school at ground level.

Crossroads is located just three blocks from the convention center, in the city’s urban core, to take advantage of downtown amenities.

Three cool schools

The multi-stop bus tour on Friday includes stops at three innovative learning environments; two of which are brand new for the 2017-2018 school year. At each stop, administrators, students and architects will provide an overview of the school’s mission and the process of making these forward-thinking educational facilities a reality.

1. The new Hilltop Learning Center in Overland Park is an adaptive reuse of a former mega-church. The facility was acquired in 2011 by the Blue Valley School District, and PGAV architects directed a major interior renovation and two building additions. Today, it is the district’s early childhood education center and professional development campus.

Hilltop includes indoor and outdoor learning environments and a professional development center for teacher training and continuing education. Much of the interior was completely redesigned to include flexible, technology-rich classrooms and a welcoming entrance lobby.

2. Construction began on the three-story, 375,000-square-foot Olathe West High School in 2014. With a focus on 21st-century learning, the building facilitates the use of technology and features open, modular learning spaces.

The “learning commons” in the three-story entrance area features student gathering spaces. It connects to the open-concept media center and the school’s four wings called “learning communities,” where regular classes are held. Each community consists of active learning spaces, blended learning labs, and a makerspace, explains Stantec. They surround a large instruction space for collaborative group work and large lectures. Technology is provided seamlessly throughout the building.

Olathe West was designed by Hollis+Miller Architects and Stantec to accommodate 2,000 students. The school opened on August 16 with an incoming student body of about 900.

3. “Three weeks into the school year, the Shawnee Mission School District Center for Academic Achievement is starting to become the lively hub of advanced education opportunities administrators envisioned when they proposed the facility back in 2014,” reported the Shawnee Mission Post on September 5. The 130,000-square-foot building was constructed on the site of a former middle school.

The west half of the new building contains administrative offices, a fitness center and a medical clinic where employees can get routine checkups, said the article. The east half is dedicated to state-of-the-art learning environments. The district’s culinary arts program and its bistro are based there, as well as a mock emergency room where medical-health-science students run response scenarios on medical dummies. There’s also an animation and interactive media program that teaches students to code video games, and Project Lead the Way, a program in which students create designs for local builds, including Habitat for Humanity homes.

“These advanced professional classes, called ‘signature programs’ by the district, have been around for two decades in Shawnee Mission,” said the Post. “But they’ve gained serious momentum in the past several years as administrators have looked for ways to create high-value opportunities that not only prepare students for real-world careers, but also get them energized about their education.”

The building was designed by ACI Architects to foster open discussion and idea sharing. The spaces are adaptable to accommodate evolving programs and changing needs. Technology-rich environments feature wireless media collaboration and floor-to-ceiling writable surfaces. Flexible furniture is integrated with power and data connections.

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