Plans for new school building move full STEAM ahead

CEDAR CITY — The public got their first glimpse of the plans for the new Cedar North Elementary school building this week after the Iron County School District released renderings of the new design.

Contractors will be invited to place bids for construction at the end of February, Superintendent Shannon Dulaney said, adding that the district is planning to break ground some time in early spring when the ground thaws.  

Artist rendering of what the new Cedar North Elementary school will look like, Cedar City, , Utah, Jan. 7, 2016 | Courtesy of Naylor Wentworth Lund Architect and the Iron County School District, St. George News
Artist rendering of what the new Cedar North Elementary school will look like, Cedar City, , Utah, Jan. 7, 2016 | Courtesy of Naylor Wentworth Lund Architect and the Iron County School District, St. George News

Students will attend school in the current building while the new structure is erected where the south playground is now, Iron County School District Building Consultant Hunter Shaheen said. Once the new building is complete, he said, classes will move and demolition of the old school will begin.

Student safety has been strongly evaluated, Principal Ray Whittier said, explaining that there will be a tall fence erected between the construction zone and the existing school and construction traffic is to have a dedicated zone away from any play areas.

At first, the district considered a basic remodel, Shaheen said. But the school was built in 1952, so code requirements that are standard today were not required in the building because it was grandfathered in — meaning, since it was built before the code was created, the code did not apply to the structure.

“The energy code would require some kind of window upgrades and mechanical upgrades and electrical upgrades,” he said. “Everything just started to add up to where we were looking at — if we opened that can of worms — we were looking at approximately a $12 million, probably in that range, expense in remodeling.”

The school district already had money set aside from a previous bond, Dulaney said, to build a new elementary school to support the growth as Cedar City expands. The school board voted to allocate $2 million of those funds to updating Cedar North Elementary, she said.

Artist rendering of what the new Cedar North Elementary school will look like, Cedar City, , Utah, Jan. 7, 2016 | Courtesy of Naylor Wentworth Lund Architect and the Iron County School District, St. George News
Artist rendering of what the new Cedar North Elementary school will look like, Cedar City, , Utah, Jan. 7, 2016 | Courtesy of Naylor Wentworth Lund Architect and the Iron County School District, St. George News

As estimates climbed from added code update expenses, she said, it became obvious that a complete rebuild would be the fiscally responsible route.

Cedar North Elementary has been the home to the Southern Utah University and Iron County School District’s collaborative STEAM program since 2011. A STEAM school is a school that places emphasis on integrated learning that focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

The program began as a way to establish a new learning approach within the district and offer parents options and gives SUU early education majors a dedicated place to fulfill their student teaching requirements.  

The new building will have more space to allow a larger number of students to attend the open-enrollment elementary school. The program is expanding, Whittier said, and it will be nice to have a building to support that growth.

In the four years Cedar North Elementary has housed the STEAM program, one of the greatest challenges has been the building’s ability to support such a technology-heavy teaching style, Whittier said.

“When you’re a STEM school or a STEAM school, you have a lot of need for electricity,” he said. “And when there’s only two outlets in an entire classroom it makes it difficult to plug laptops in and that sort of thing.”

Future technological growth and visually emulating a STEAM environment were heavily considered when designing the new building, said Terrence White, lead architect on the project with the Naylor Wentworth Lund Architect firm.

“We’re going to expose a lot of the utility parts of the building,” White said. “So, a lot of duct work and conduit you’ll see as you walk in the building to kind of reinforce that idea that it’s about technology and science.”

In addition to added infrastructure and visual components of the new building, White said there will be dedicated science and media centers as well as a new stage for the arts portion of the STEAM program.

SUU will also have dedicated space allowing them to have a permanent presence in the school, Whittier said.

“They’ll have their own classroom for their college kids, the preservice teachers,” he said. “And a little office for their professors.”

When remodeling discussions started, Whittier said, he never imagined the board would decide to build a whole new Cedar North Elementary.

“We just did not even expect it,” he said, “and I guess as such, then (we’re) hugely grateful that they decided to go ahead and do that.”

Whittier said he recognizes that Cedar North Elementary holds a nostalgic place in the hearts of many who grew up in Cedar City. To honor that, he said, they plan to hold a public open house for all of those who would like to take one last stroll through the building before it comes down.

A date for that occasion is still unknown, he said, but it is important to give the community a chance to say their goodbyes.

Email: cmiller@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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