District shows off new middle school

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Education > School board tours North Mesa facility

By Tris DeRoma

Though they served the middle school well, it’s probably a sure bet no one is going to miss the portable classrooms.

When the work at the middle school is finally completed, students will be in for a totally different experience.

If there could be only be two words used to sum up the new Los Alamos Middle School, it would be “unity” and “efficiency.” From the boiler rooms to the new courtyard, the building has been designed to provide a more cohesive learning experience for students, and a cohesive working environment for teachers and staff.

One of the more dramatic elements involves the school’s interior which works to keep a group of students with their assigned teachers all day, making for a smooth, uninterrupted learning experience for both the students and teachers.

“It’s all about building camaraderie, teamwork, being together, less travel time during the day for core classes,” said Middle School Principal Rex Kilburn.

He said it will be a new experience for everyone, and hopefully a far better one than last school year, when the school was under construction. Though the portable classrooms valiantly served their purpose in educating students, everyone was very spread out.

“We had teachers spread throughout the portables all the way down the sidewalk and then we had the other teachers in the building,” he said. “But with the new school, this keeps the teachers together for core classes throughout the day which should facilitate staying on top of what’s going on as far as the children are concerned. It’s going to make for a better managed, more positive school day for both the staff and the students.”

The school will also have a central courtyard, which will feature benches and manmade shady areas where students can “hang out” study, and eat lunch if they want.

Once the landscaping is put in, which will feature even more shade, teachers can take their classes outside, if they so desire.

“It’s going to be a lovely place for kids to gather,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt. “It will also be available as an outdoor learning center, and so teachers can choose to bring their classes outdoors.”

Schmidt also said he liked the message the new interior layout sends to the public. “It tells you that learning does not take place in a box,” he said. “Learning can take place in an expanded environment where multiple classes can join together in a common theme.”

Kilburn said he’s excited about the courtyard and the other meeting spaces within the building as well. “It’s probably going to be used a lot; by students hanging out in the morning waiting for classes to begin or by teachers throughout the day,” Kilburn said, adding that people will probably find other uses for the courtyard that haven’t been thought of yet. “I’ve seen many drawings, but it doesn’t all come together until you see it begin and then finished. It’s then that you get a feel for how you can use the space.”

Kilburn is also looking forward to the school lobby/central meeting area as well. Before, he said, they did not have anything like it, which made it hard to keep track of kids coming in and out of the building.

“The fact that we have a lobby, is great,” he said. “It will allow me to greet kids in the morning when they come in. In the old building, we didn’t have that, we kind of hung out outside.”

The new building also features common spaces throughout, which will allow for many new possibilities in education, officials said. Located at the end of each wing will be a space where “teams” can enhance the collaboration concept even further.

“They can have team meetings and have more activities together,” Kilburn said.

The main school building as well as related buildings will feature two stories.

“Decreasing the footprint of the building by two stories is an important feature as well,” Schmidt said. “In today’s world we always look for ways to increase security, and you increase security by decreasing the number of doors.

"That’s an important architectural detail. It gains more playground space for kids, while at the same time it helps adding security to the entire campus by reducing the number of entries and exits people can go in and out of.”