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Perkins+Will to unveil new school layout Dec. 20 at WDC Elementary

Photo by Dana Pavek/WDC Schools Reviewing the architectural plans of the new 5-12 grade school, from left, Wadena-Deer Creek School Superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom, and school board members, Peter Hayes and Steve Techam.

Perkins+Will architect Steve Miller will unveil the latest layout design for Wadena-Deer Creek's new school on Monday, Dec. 20 in the WDC Elementary music room 38. The meeting will be held from 6:15 to 7:15 p.m.

The new school will support an enrollment of 800 students, which will include grades 7-12 as well as grades 5-6.

Miller will present an overview of the space allocations for each of the curriculum areas. These space allocations were determined based on a number of factors.

"First, we looked at what facilities there were in the old school; then we decided on the grade-level configuration; the number of students and staff to be accommodated; referring to the Minnesota Department of Education standards; and our experience of designing new schools," said Miller, who has 31 years of architectural experience, 21 of those specializing in education projects.

Over the past several weeks, Miller has met with WDC Superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom, the school board as well as students, staff and the community to discuss what changes are anticipated in curriculum, educational delivery and technology.

"Based on that input, we account for the specific requirements of each space," Miller said. "There has been an effort in the planning to allow ample space for people to move comfortably through the building without congestion and to be able to orient yourself to the exterior from almost any location."

There are many features of the new design that Miller feels will be a pleasant surprise to people. "I think what people will like is the organization of the building on the site and the flow of spaces within the school," Miller said.

Some of those features include:

• An emphasis on entering a central commons space from which everyone moves to academic areas or activity areas. Miller said the school will convey a welcoming, central entrance for students, staff and visitors.

• Separation of the high school and middle school into different areas of the building. For example, the fifth and sixth grades will be separated, as well as seventh and eighth grades and the ninth through 12th grades.

• A focus on energy efficiency, including a geo-thermal heating/cooling system.

• The academic portion of the school will be two stories rather than one.

• Emphasis on bringing in natural light and views into the building.

• Community gardens and a focus on horticulture/agriculture in the science and technology areas.

• Building will initially be 167,000 square feet; the same footage as the former school.

Perkins+Will is currently developing the three-dimensional computer models for the school.

"We are beginning to look at roof forms, exterior and interior materials, window locations, and more detailed design decisions," Miller said.

Ideas, such as a visibly sloping roof, came about after school board members and Superintendent Dahlstrom toured 19 schools around the state. School Board member Steve Techam said touring schools, like the recent Chanhassen High School, was a valuable experience.

"We realized as a school board what a great responsibility this is to plan the right kind of school for our students and staff," Techam said. "At these school visits, we learned what worked and what didn't work. Then we pulled all of our notes together and shared that with Perkins+Will. I think we're on track in planning a school that will serve us well for many years to come."

Miller agreed. There has been much dialogue with the board, administration, staff, students and community members that has helped to guide the design process so far.

"The project is moving forward well, and we believe that we now have the framework established for a very successful project that will represent the vision for Wadena-Deer Creek Schools," Miller said.