Archive for Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Officials wondering whether plans for new junior high are ‘too far out’

July 6, 2005


South Junior High School's unique design will lead to its eventual demise, but that hasn't stopped architects from considering a distinctive replacement.

Among the ideas for a $26.5 million new school: glass, movable classroom doors and movable walls.

In many ways, plans for a new South Junior High to replace the school at 2734 La. counter the problems of the current building, said Tom Bracciano, the Lawrence school district's director of operations and facility planning.

"On the other hand, is it too far out?" Bracciano wondered aloud.

That is what district officials must decide. Architects with Gould Evans Associates will present schematic designs to the district's construction oversight committee today.

"We're at the early stages of this," said Steve Clark, a principal with Gould Evans. "By all means, this is a conceptual design."

The current school was built in the 1960s. Its circular design, considered cutting-edge at the time, has confounded students and teachers alike. Some complain that it's hard to monitor curved hallways that have poor visibility. It lacks natural light. And it's hard to control the temperature. A student might wear a sweater in one classroom and then sweat in another.

This architectural rendering shows a new South Junior High School with movable classroom doors and walls. The school's cost will be $26.5 million.

This architectural rendering shows a new South Junior High School with movable classroom doors and walls. The school's cost will be $26.5 million.

The latest plans would bring natural light where there is little now. And architects have expanded upon the pod design, which clusters classrooms by grade level.

In the plans for SJHS, there would be eight classrooms for both the seventh- and eighth-grade pods.

Each classroom would be fronted by a wall-sized glass doorway, similar to those found on storefronts inside shopping malls.

That glass door could be opened so teachers could expand their classrooms, using a bit of the common area or hallway.

The door would be made of glass to allow natural light from hallway skylights to flow into the classrooms.

"The current South teachers feel like they live in a very oppressive, dark, closed-in space," Clark said. "What we tried to do was turn that around and give them a kind of place that's strikingly different from what they work in now."

The planners also are considering movable walls between classrooms. That would allow space for traditional teaching, but also give teachers added flexibility to expand classroom space or collaborate with other teachers or classrooms, Clark said.

But district officials may be wary of anything too radical.

Bracciano says it's a neat design.

"The question becomes: Is it maybe too radical?" he said. "You don't want to do something that's going to be an issue again."

SJHS English teacher Kathleen Scollon said she trusted the teachers who aided in the design process.

"Anything that we would get - unless it's round - is going to be a huge improvement on what we have," she said.

Ron Garvin, a SJHS physical education teacher, has worked in the building more than 30 years. He said he had many fond memories from coaching games or overseeing classes in the school's gymnasium. He said he was attached to the gymnasium, but he knows that it is time for a new school.

"All things must come to an end," he said. "It's served its purpose and we move on."

He said he didn't think the current design had left teachers so frustrated they couldn't handle a dramatically different new building.

"I think they're still open to ways to make the building as efficient as possible," he said.


wilson 12 years, 10 months ago

Kudos to the school district for supporting the development of an innovative solution. There's a huge difference between "out there" just for the sake of being "out there" (look, it's round!) and innovative solutions to real problems. I hope fear of new ideas doesn't hold the committee back from recognizing the real value of good design.

lunacydetector 12 years, 10 months ago

gee, it sounds like 1969 all over again with the old south jr. high's design.

lunacydetector 12 years, 10 months ago

someone once suggested using the same design that's been used at another school, like southwest jr. high. it made sense. save on paying an architect and have an engineer rework the elevations. it could save tens of thousands of dollars. architects ain't cheap.

i guess THAT makes too much sense.

Susan Harper 12 years, 10 months ago

We, too, wonder why the district doesn't pay more attention to energy efficiency. What about excavating and making earth bermed school--could still have clerestory windows to let in wonderful light, but the earth berming would contribute to energy savings both in winter and in summer. (Do you realize those AC units go all summer long? Think of the electric bill!)

Richard Heckler 12 years, 10 months ago

The more "green" construction the better. Yep absolutely energy efficiency needs to be priority as the utilitity companies will continue to ask for more. They should lay off the CEO's instead.

Lights of light can be very good if the building will be placed at the proper angle. Many times daylight is good for attitude. All lighting including fixtures should be energy star. We went to energy star flourscents in the living room,bathroom,hallway and kitchen...great light and zero flicker.

lawrencegirl 12 years, 10 months ago

It is amazing to me that people of this town are so opposed to original thought and design. We allow developers to come in to Lawrence and throw up the ugliest monstrosities that take away from the charm and beauty of our town. We no longer have beautiful views of the hills around us or views of Lawrence from afar because they are clouded with ugly housing projects and poorly built boxes that are customary to suburban sprawl. I think the originality of the new school is what Lawrence needs to recapture the essence of Lawrence life. Lawrence can be Overland Park or Olathe and put up poor quality sprawl for the sake of putting it up....oh wait, Lawrence is already doing that... OR Lawrence residents can redefine what type of architecture is worthy of being built in Lawrence and support the ORIGINAL efforts and ORIGINAL design by a LOCAL architecture firm who is trying to do just that.

Hoots 12 years, 10 months ago

Why do we always have to reinvent the wheel every time we build a new school? I agree that we should use a good recent design like Southwest and save the huge design cost. I went to West and the H shape of that school was very effective and it was easy to get around in. An older design but it worked well. Energy effeceincy should also be a key for any new structure. When you look at the line item for gas and elecricity it is obvious this is a big number. Effeceincy seems like a place where some real money could be saved considering the state of rising energy cost. Hey, it's just somebody else's money anyway...right?

wilson 12 years, 10 months ago

Who said the proposed design isn't energy efficient? Why wouldn't that be a primary requirement and a real reason to hire an architect to design something new - something that meets this school's unique needs *and creates an energy-efficient space?

Of course they could just cut out those high-falutin architects who are just in it to steal money from hard-working people for their far-out "designs". Who needs design? Just look at the sea of identical generic office parks and subdevelopments that stretch out west of Lawrence as far as the eye can see? Just copy and paste.

Take_a_letter_Maria 9 years, 11 months ago

Hey cool, don't hurt yourself patting yourself on the back. I'm assuming you had something to do with the design since you are dredging up a three year-old article.

trinity 9 years, 11 months ago

either that, maria, or somebody forgot to tend to the flux capacitor again.

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