Natural lighting, landscape top new school’s goal list

The steering committee toured other schools to set design goals.
Sunday, July 29, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:03 p.m. CDT, Monday, October 27, 2008

Columbia- When Columbia’s third public high school is built, glass will likely play a major role in construction.

Windows in classrooms and good use of natural lighting throughout the building were among the many goals set for the new high school by the High School Construction Steering Committee at Friday’s meeting.

The 18-member committee met to discuss the July 19 visit to Lee’s Summit West and Turner high schools and set goals for the new high school, which will be built near Rangeline and New Haven roads five miles east of U.S. 63. The two schools the group visited were designed by the DLR group, the same architecture firm hired to work on the new high school and new elementary school in Columbia.

Committee member Sarah Read, who visited both Kansas City schools, said the design of the buildings made it clear that the communities they were in cared about children and learning.

“There were so many resources for the kids to learn,” Read said. “It was well-equipped and had lots of space for community involvement and learning.”

Read also appreciated how the design of the buildings incorporated the landscape of the area and used natural light to provide an environmentally-friendly feel. She hopes to see these integrated into the design for the new Columbia high school.

Other goals set by committee members for the new high school include:

* An emphasis on security and safety

* The ability for teacher collaboration, including teacher planning centers

* Increased technology throughout the building

* Reduced operational and maintenance costs

* A welcoming entry into the building

* Building aesthetics that will be sustainable, reflect the community and blend with adjacent structures

* Display areas for student work

Committee members also spent time discussing the differences between a departmental layout (grouping classrooms by subject) or an integrated studies layout (clustering classrooms for grade levels or at-risk students).

Wanda Brown, assistant superintendent and committee chairwoman, said it will be essential for the building and campus to be something comfortable and functional for students.

“Faculty and staff may want to consider a closed campus for lunch,” Brown said during the meeting. “If that’s the case, we need a place for kids to socialize.”

An outdoor courtyard was discussed as a possible location for students to relax and get some fresh air during lunch or between classes.

Brown also said that students should be excited to attend the school.

“Students should feel comfortable and also proud of their school,” she said. “It will be large, but it needs to be designed so that students won’t have to negotiate the entire building to get to a class.”

Eventually, the new high school will include ninth-graders, who under the city’s current configuration attend junior high schools. Committee members were concerned about helping freshmen transition into a much larger school.

“Ninth grade needs to be included but protected from the responsibilities and freedoms of the upperclassmen,” Brown said. “They might have a separate area that they spend most of the day in but then leave to go to extracurriculars and lunch.”

The committee will meet again in September, although no date has been set. The public can look at photographs of the schools visited at the district’s Web site,

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