Architects design new junior high with light touch

A couple years from now, South Junior High won’t be buying many light bulbs.

Though still on the drawing board, the new building’s design will feature ample supplies of natural light.

“One of the goals – and what we’ve heard from the school board, administrators, teachers and site councils – has been to bring in as much daylight as possible,” said Sean Zaudke, project manger with Gould Evans Associates, the architectural firm charged with designing the $26.5 million project.

“We think we’ve done that,” Zaudke said.

The design calls for a skylight running the length of the building. The classrooms’ interior walls will have windows that also will let in the light.

“We’ve put a lot of work and research into this,” Zaudke said. “We’re finding that throughout the day a good portion of the building shouldn’t require any artificial light. There will be more than enough natural light.”

Interior walls of classrooms in the new South Junior High School will have windows to let in light, and a skylight will run the length of the building. Architects say the building will have more

The glass, he said, will be “tempered – sort of like the glass in your car windshield” so it won’t shatter, and it will be “glazed” to let in light without generating too much heat.

Only one of the building’s exterior walls will have windows.

Lawrence school district officials expect to take bids on the project in late February or early March. The building should be ready to use in 2007.

“It should be ready to go in the fall semester of 2007,” said Tom Bracciano, division director of operations and planning for the district.

Ensuring access to natural light has been a high priority because the current facility, built in the 1960s, has almost none.

Studies have shown that natural lighting enhances students’ ability to learn.

Security, too, has been an issue because the current building’s flying-saucer-type design limits visibility to the curve of the hallways.

“With the new design, three people will be able to see the entire building,” Bracciano said. “The sight lines are excellent.”

Some classrooms, he said, will have two exits – one to the building’s interior, the other to an adjoining classroom. Some of the classrooms will have exit-only doors to the outside.

The design will allow for quick “lock downs” or evacuation.

Plans call for steering everyone – students, teachers, staff and visitors – through a main entrance that will be readily accessible to the administrative offices.

The entrance and the office will feature glass walls intended to let in natural light while letting office staff know when someone enters or leaves the building.

“It’s going to be quite a secure facility,” said Will Fernandez, principal at South Junior High, 2734 La.