ELYRIA — The new Elyria school buildings are finally taking shape in a more visual way.
When school officials asked electors to approve a $140 million building project in 2016, there were few things the district could actually show about the investment. There were no glossy images of gleaming new buildings waiting to be built for the next generation of Elyria students.
That changed with the unveiling of the schematic designs Wednesday of both the new Ely Elementary School — a kindergarten through fourth grade school — and the Northwood Campus, where preschool through eighth grade students will learn on the same footprint. The pair are the first schools the district will build in a multi-phase to bring five new school building to the district in roughly five years.
The old and new will come alive in the buildings.
“We will preserve the arch,” said Ely Principal Jack Dibee. “The staff and students will still walk through the covered Ely arch when they arrive at school. The sandstone block etched with the year the building was built will also remain.”
The new school, with red brick and tan stone to mimic Elyria High School, will be built north of the current building with a floor plan that maximizes the parcel size.
Student will come into a cafeteria common area, and then the building will branch out into different wings.
“It’s very much a building-within-a-building concept with a lot of opportunity to do some of the enhanced learning opportunities that the district is trying,’ Dibee said.
Ely will have a better student drop-off area off Ohio Street. About 60 percent more parking and upgraded two-way security that requires guests to be buzzed into the building to sign in and then buzzed into the building’s main portion.
The new building will be a better utilization of the building space, Dibee said.
“Right now, we have enough hallway space to make 15 classrooms based on the state’s current classroom guidelines,” he said.
The last time school officials talked about the school it was all about visioning and visiting schools in the West Muskingum, New Albany-Plain and North Ridgeville school districts.
“We got to see what the new 21st century learning environment looks like in a school,” said Associate Superintendent Ann Schloss. “We were able to see how learning is changing and how we have to change with it. What we did find out was that things we have started to do here in Elyria could more easily be put in place with the right environment.”
Elyria Early Childhood Village Principal Jackie Palmer said the preschool portion of the Northwood building to be built on the Pioneer Field site off Abbe and Hilliard roads will be a more traditional school design than the rest of the building because preschool is regulated by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The preschool area will be a one-hallway wing with 12 classrooms and space for gross motor skill development. There will be small spaces outside the classrooms for more individual work with students. The entrance will have double-entry security, the building will have a dedicated bus lane and there will be a separate outdoor play space.
Westwood Principal Teresa Lengal, who worked on the Northwood design team, she knows the community was concerned about the separation between younger Pioneers and those going into elementary and middle school. But the new campus building is a two-story structure with the middle school portion split between fifth and sixth grades on the first floor of the middle school wing and seventh and eighth grades on the second floor. Northwood is going to have the red brick known at the high school, but will also have with more bold colors.
“There are some options for some moveable walls and moveable doors to allow the spaces to open up for larger areas,” she said in addition to a full-size middle school competition gym that holds up to 400 people.
Schloss said the district understands that community members may not understand what 21st century learning means in the classroom. Right now, the district is in the planning process of a 21st century night that will be open to the community to showcase how that is implemented in the classroom.
Both buildings also will have a state-required security feature that is a nod to weather disasters — basement-level tornado rooms designed to withstand 250-mph winds and that can hold the entire student body and administration.
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