ELYRIA — In the development and construction of the five new elementary and middle schools the Elyria Schools will erect in the coming years, one common phrase often comes up: 21st century learning.
The catch-all expression means the school district has to prepare students, current and future, to communicate and collaborate in class in new ways, which will guide how the district will build each school from wall placement to the development of separate wings for each grade.
Syed S. Abbas, president of Architectural Vision Group, speaks about the turf options that were considered for Elyria’s football stadium during a school board meeting on Wednesday evening. Elyria decided to use longer-lasting pellets for the stadium turf.
KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE Enlarge
On Wednesday evening, the district’s Master Plan Committee offered an update on the visioning process the district just completed and unveiled schematic drawings of two schools — the new Ely Elementary School and Northwood Campus. In addition, the meeting gave residents a more comprehensive overview of the construction of the new athletic complex to begin soon at the current Ely Stadium site.
“When we started this, we started from an aerial image and have run into all kinds of things along the way,” said Syed Abbas, president of Architectural Vision Group, about the stadium. “Surprisingly, everything is coming together pretty well.”
Athletic facility moving along
The design of the athletic complex is further along then any of the schools, and shovels should actually be in the ground on that project by October.
The $13 million facility will house multiple fields for multiple sports and will have visitors follow a pathway leading to a main plaza that will open up to the football field.
“The goal is to build everything that we show,” Abbas said. “This district deserves no less than anyone else. It does not matter what other districts have. Elyria deserves just the same. That’s what this design looks like and it reflects that mindset.”
Loose ends still needs to be finalized, such as the number of restrooms the complex will need.
Former Elyria Schools Superintendent Paul Rigda, a consultant on the project, said the plumbing building code makes no difference between Elyria High School’s stadium and a professional sports arena in determining the needed number of toilets, urinals, sinks and water fountains.
“The rule is called the Cleveland Browns rule because it’s geared toward tailgating, where a lot of beverages are consumed and people need lots of bathroom facilities,” he said. “Because we are building a stadium, we fall under that rule, but getting a waiver would save us hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Abbas said the number of such facilities is determined by seating capacity. The 4,000-seat stadium would require dozens of toilets. If the district could get the waiver based on a capacity of 2,500 people, it would cut the need by half and still have many more facilities than the current stadium.
Forming the vision
In the visioning process, the district asked 47 Elyria students, teachers, parents, community members, building administrators and board members for their thoughts on the new facilities, educational needs and the ways in which each school could best work for students. The buildings, which will be constructed with funds from a $140 million state and local partnership, will have to last for decades to come, so building for tomorrow is just as important as building for today.
The ideas of many were included in an eight-minute video played during the presentation.
“The facilities are really important to a child’s education,” said Frank Whitfield, president and CEO of the Lorain County Urban League. “One that they feel safe. One that it gives them pride so that it’s a clean space, a safe place, but also that is functional for them and flexible. The world is changing at a pace that is unprecedented, so we don’t know what it will look like 30 or 40 years from now. The space needs to be created in a way that’s flexible enough to adapt to what is needed at that time.”
Just about every classroom these days has numerous computers and Smartboards. However, the new schools will have to host more than just brand-new computers.
“Schools across Ohio and across the nation are changing,” said district spokeswoman Amy Higgins. “The facilities themselves are becoming part of the educational experience.”
Buildings boast open and airy spaces, comfortable and adjustable seating, accommodation for high-tech equipment and devices, and spaces that spark the imagination and create conversations without losing the ability for independent study. Higgins said district officials saw examples of 21st century schools in the West Muskingum and New Albany school districts.
But the goal of the visioning sessions was not to design the school, but to look at how school construction will matter in providing education to future students.
“Our teachers are already teaching in that kind of way, but these new spaces, the learning studios and collaboration spaces, will just accentuate those abilities to allow them to move — more flexible,” Higgins said.
But “flexible” will not mean modular the way Westwood Middle School and the old Elyria West High School were.
Schools need walls, and the ability to secure students in separate spaces, Rigda said.
The visioning process took 24 hours over three days, and the broad concepts were given to Architectural Vision Group to begin design. The schematics transformed those concepts into the first real visual elements.
“But this is a very fluid living document that will change from day to day,” said Andrejs Smiltars, AVG’s principal designer and vice president. “This is a process that we go through of refining and redesigning until we get a design that works.”
This process will continue with schematics going to the state. The design phase will then begin.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121
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