Cedar Rapids Community School District will hold two open houses in September to gather feedback from the community about the new elementary school to be built at the site of the current Coolidge Elementary.
The first open house will be from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Sept. 16 in the gym at Coolidge Elementary School, 6225 1st Ave SW, Cedar Rapids. The second open house will be from 6 to 8 p.m. at NewBo City Market, 1100 3rd St SE, Cedar Rapids. Both are open to the community.
At each event, community members will be welcome to offer feedback about what the new school and site could look like. Representatives from the district, city of Cedar Rapids, and OPN Architects will be available to answer questions.
These open houses are the next step in the implementation of the first phase of the Cedar Rapids Community School District’s Facility Master Plan, which was approved by the School Board in 2018.
“We’ve always seen this as an opportunity for unprecedented collaboration to consider how new elementary schools can support our community and strengthen the Cedar Rapids we all love,” says Superintendent Noreen Bush. “Coalescing around a vision for the new school is a vital element of this process and it’s important to us that we hear from a variety of community members about their hopes for the new school on the Coolidge site.”
In its current form, the plan calls for construction to begin on the first impacted school, Coolidge Elementary, in the year 2020, with a new elementary school project undertaken each subsequent year over the course of 15 to 20 years.
In May, the Iowa state legislature passed a 20-year extension of Iowa’s Secure and Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE), the optimal funding source for the master plan, with a significant amendment that has the potential to impact the current Facility Master Plan. While the amendments to the SAVE Extension impact the long-term viability of the entire Facility Master Plan, it’s still financially possible to complete Phase One of the schools identified as a Tier 1 priority as initially intended, with a pause at the end of Phase One to assess community and district conditions. Phase One includes the replacement of Coolidge and Jackson Elementary Schools and the repurposing of Truman Elementary School.
In all, the Facility Master Plan calls for the construction and/or reimagining of 13 elementary schools to provide optimal class sizes, allow students with special needs or ELL students a more likely chance to attend their neighborhood school, support the needs of staff, and create community hubs with spaces available to the public outside of school hours. The plan also allows for digital instruction capabilities that do not currently exist in our schools and flexibility of space that aligns with 21st century learning and teaching.
In March, in order to meet the Phase One timeline, the Cedar Rapids Community School District Board unanimously selected OPN Architects to design the new elementary school. Over the past seven months, OPN has met bi-monthly with a district steering committee tasked with guiding the project.
In July, that group along with additional staff and faculty went on a two-day benchmarking trip to Wisconsin and Illinois to tour similar schools.
“It was incredible to see how the architecture of the newer schools so seamlessly and efficiently offered spaces for pods of classrooms, small group work, and peer collaboration,” says Coolidge Principal Greg O’Connell. “Facilities like those that allow for grade-level collaboration between teachers, the abundance of natural light, and space which allows children to more freely create and actively engage with their learning is something I’m excited we’re now able to design for our own students.”
In August, OPN Architects began discussions with Coolidge and district faculty and staff about goals and needs for the new elementary. From these conversations, the architects will begin to develop floor plans that will inform the overall design of the building. The design team is also evaluating the site to determine a strategy for building a new elementary school on the existing site while the school is operational.
“Input from the community will be integral in the evolution of the design. Equally important will be the participation of other district residents whose neighborhood schools are also slated to be transformed into future ready buildings in the years to come. This is a momentous opportunity to showcase for how the entire district can transition to state-of-the-art facilities that will reflect the leading-edge practices already being employed in Cedar Rapids,” says OPN Architects Principal and lead education designer Roger Worm. “As we embark on this first step of a significant educational journey for Cedar Rapids, we see an exciting chance to shape the district’s and community’s visions into a reality.”
The project is expected to be publicly bid in early 2020, with construction starting in spring 2020. The new school will open for the school year in 2021.