LISBON - A few dozen parents and residents of the Beaver Local School District received their first look at the progress that has been made in the K-12 school project during a town hall style meeting held Wednesday evening in the BLHS auditorium.
Beaver Local Superintendent Kent Polen told audience members that the combined K-12 school will represent the future of education to serve the students of today and tomorrow, rather than conforming to the idea of school as the parents and grandparents in attendance knew it.
Notable ideas include open, community learning spaces in the elementary school wing, featuring movable walls. Teachers would circulate throughout the area addressing the needs of students at their tables, as featured in a brief video showing a school utilizing the modern layout.
Douglas Abbatiello, an architect with Olsavsky Jaminet Architects in Youngstown, shared drawing detailing the evolution of the design process for the new Beaver Local K-12 school during a town hall meeting held at the BLHS auditorium Wednesday night. (Photo by Richard Sberna)
Polen decried the traditional model of ringing bells ushering children from one separate, walled-off classroom to another as the "cells-and-bells" approach, a factory-style ideal that is out of place in the 21st century. He said discussions with educational planning experts were challenging, but yielded new ways of thinking that especially took into consideration the rapid advance of technology.
"We had to throw away how we learned, why we were learning it, and look at how students are learning now," Polen said.
Guest speakers included John DeFrance, Douglas Abbatiello and Ray Jaminet from Olsavsky Jaminet Architects, which was selected to provide architectural/engineering services, along with Fanning Howey Associates. The progression of the project was shown in a timeline format, detailing the documentation that had to be filed and approved by the Ohio School Facilities Commission (now part of the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission) before each step could be completed.
The commission, which has agreed to cover $32.4 million of the $52.2 million project cost, has authority over many of the decisions undertaken by Beaver Local and its architects. "We have to build what the state says," Polen said.
For example, Polen explained that state estimates forecasting a declining population dictated a building designed to house 1,730 students, despite a current enrollment of approximately 1,985 students. He did assure parents that space for expansion has been factored into the design, should it become necessary.
Wit a 234,000-square-foot floor plan, Ray Jaminet says the new school will have 30 percent more teaching space within its three units (elementary, middle school and high school) than in traditional school buildings. He assured parents that there will be very little interaction amongst students in those three levels due to the layout of the building, such as separate bus loading areas and parent drop-off areas.
The target opening date remains August 2015, with the project currently ahead of schedule, according to Bill Hammond of Hammond Construction, the district's construction firm for the project. Hammond also spoke at the meeting, encouraging owners and employees from local contractors to get in touch with him, as the majority of subcontracts have yet to be filled.
Audience questions ranged from the state of athletic facilities (there will be news baseball, softball and soccer fields but retain present football, track and wrestling facilities) to safety concerns. In light of numerous school shootings throughout the country and a recent bomb threat at the high school, Polen said safety was a top priority in the design of the school. Specifics on evacuation procedures and security measures could not be provided because the design process, as far as it has progressed, it not yet at that stage.
When asked how the teachers felt about the building design and layout presented, Polen asked high school teacher Leslie Gabbert up from the audience to speak. Gabbert was one of many teachers who were included in the creative process over the summer months as a design began to take shape.
Gabbert described her feelings and those of her fellow teachers as those "nervous excitement" and said she is looking forward, literally, experiencing the future of education in the new building. She compared it to the feeling one gets before undertaking a new job opportunity.
"The past is comfortable, but you look to the future with a sense of excitement," she said. "With positive change comes excitement."