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Shaping the classrooms of the future

Reynolds begins schools construction -

COURTESY PHOTO - The new Fairview Elementary School features innovative design elements to promote more teacher collaboration and varied ways of teaching students. Plans for one of the three new elementary schools in the Reynolds School District reflect an innovative design that will allow for more flexible instruction for students, and designs show the remodeled Reynolds High School will have a dramatic new entrance.

Plans are moving forward and designs are shaping up for the major remodel of Reynolds High School and the replacement of three district elementary schools, with construction scheduled to begin during the next school year.

Work has already started on the safety and security upgrades at Salish Ponds Elemen

tary School and Reynolds Middle School and will begin soon at Sweetbriar Elementary School.

Reynolds district voters passed a $125 million bond in May of 2015. The money will be used to replace Fairview, Troutdale and Wilkes elementary schools at costs of $32.6 million, $23.9 and $26.4 million respectively. Reynolds High School will be substantially remodeled, adding 18 classrooms, updating the science labs and connecting all current campus buildings into one structure. The projected cost for the high school work is $34.8 million. All district schools will be made safer and more secure

Reynolds students, staff and community all weighed in with their ideas about what improvements they wanted to see at the high school.

“What they came up with is actually embodied in the current design,” said Dan Hess, an architect from the Portland office of DOWA-IBI Group Architects, the firm designing the high school project, at a recent school board meeting.

These ideas included a larger commons and eating area, flexible and small spaces for small group study and work, and some quiet spaces for students.

The most obvious change at Reynolds High School will be at the front part of the school. The entrance will be reconfigured and a soaring glass entry added, which Hess described as “strong and welcoming.”

COURTESY PHOTO - The remodeled Reynolds High School will have a sweeping new plaza leading up to a soaring glass entrance, which is also designed to make the school safer and more secure. A sweeping plaza outside will lead to the entrance and will be “a greeting place and gathering point for students.”

The counseling and administration offices will be on either side of the new entrance and secure vestibule. Moving the counseling area, currently adjacent to the student commons, will allow an expansion of the commons and student eating area.

In addition, Hess said “the whole science wing is being completely blown out, other than the walls and the roof, and a complete new arrangement is being built there.”

The new design also will include several courtyards. The new parts of the building will be brick and compatible with the existing building. Entry points to the building will be reduced to three secured spots for students.

Traffic patterns will be rerouted to allow traffic to move more efficiently, with busses exiting to 257th Ave.

School board member Diane Whitehead said, “I love the look of it. It is sophisticated and brings us into the next century.”

Board members expressed some concerns that most of the construction will be going on during the school year while students are trying to learn. “It can be done, but yes, it needs a lot of thought” and planning, Hess said.

OUTLOOK PHOTO - Adam Swientek, associate principal at Reynolds Middle School, pops out of his office into the stripped down main office and vestibule which is is being reconfigured to make the school safer and more secure. All the Reynolds School District buildings will get safety and security upgrades as part of the $125 million bond voters passed in May 2015. All new Fairview

Richard Higgins, an architect with the Portland office of BLRB Architects, which is designing the new Fairview Elementary School, said the current low-slung building will be replaced with a two-story structure. Building up was necessary, he said, because the site is only a little more than four acres, where most sites for elementary schools are about 10 acres.

The younger students will be housed on the ground floor and the older students upstairs in the new structure. The square footage of the school will go from 63,000 to around 72,000.

The classrooms are a new concept that reflect the fact that every student learns differently and the new building will allow teachers “to connect with kids differently,” Higgins said.

Four L-shaped classrooms in a pod, likely one pod for each grade, will be in a cluster and open out into a commons area that the architects are calling a “kiva.” The word describes a Native American gathering place. The L-shaped classroom “creates, again, more opportunities for different kinds of instruction,” Higgins said.

“The commons area in the middle, or kiva, a place of gathering, is where all those kids can come together or you can pull out kids out into this common area for one-on-one.” Higgins said.

The kivas on the first floor will be connected to the outside through secured doors.

The new Fairview cafeteria will be large enough to hold half the school at a time. The cafeteria and main floor general commons can be opened up to each other and will feature a stage that will allow a big crowd of parents and grandparents to gather comfortably for school events.

Traffic patterns at the school will also be redesigned, keeping busses and car traffic confined to different corners of the campus.

There will be a regulation sized gym, which can be open to the community in the evening and on weekends. The gym will be sunk about five feet below the ground to reduce the height of the building.

The community wanted to preserve Fairview Elementary’s large legacy trees, which will be an important part of the new design, Higgins said. In fact, the architects will use the trees to anchor a parklike area and move some local “monuments” into the new Legacy Park.

“We’ve really attempted to work with the natural elements tastefully,” Higgins said.

The other two new elementary schools will be similar to the new Fairview school design. “All are the same size and have the same accommodations,” despite different sites, Higgins said.

All three will be constructed while the students are going to school in the old buildings. Students will move into the new schools when they are completed, and then the old ones will be demolished and parking lots and playgrounds constructed where the schools once stood.

At all three schools, special education will be housed at each new school, he said. “You’re going to be able to disperse special ed across all three schools, so kids in that neighborhood will be able attend special ed classes in their neighborhood,” he said.

Reynolds district Communications Director Andrea Watson said special education students have not always been able to attend their neighborhood schools.

She added that a huge advantage of building new schools is that the district is able to build them for “how we’d like to deliver services.”