Members of USD No. 480’s design team visits with DLR architects outside of a new middle school at a Kansas City suburb using the same design that will be duplicated in Liberal. Members of the design team visited a middle school in Kansas City and then saw the concept of the elementary school in Little Rock, Ark., Thursday. L&T photo/Earl Watt
Design team tours schools
By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
No one buys a house without getting to do a walk-through, and members of USD No. 480’s Design Team were able to take a look at actual schools that are using the same architectural drawings that will be constructed in Liberal following the successful passage of a bond earlier this spring.
Getting to see the schools that will open for classes this fall in Kansas City and Little Rock will help the current phase of design by having a better understanding of how the space will be used and what to modify before the construction phase begins.
By identifying changes now, the district can save big dollars on trying to make modifications later in the process.
“The big benefit of a trip like that is taking a group that has yet to see the buildings,” Superintendent Paul Larkin said. “The more that get into the prototype buildings, the more it will benefit us as we move forward in the developmental design phase.”
The walk-through produced immediate results when design team members were able to identify changes that will be needed in Liberal.
“A perfect example was an elementary principal identifying PE office space,” Larkin said. “We have two PE teachers, and they only had one small office, so immediately we were being able to make an adjustment with the architect. Who knows the kinds of problems that saved down the road.”
The team walked through with the architect that designed the schools, and he was able to take notes to make necessary adjustments from the feedback.
The group was also able to see a new concept that will be implemented in the new schools — discovery areas.
“Looking at those spaces, teachers and principals were able to identify what can we do,” Larkin said. “The possibilities are endless.”
The group was also able to see science labs in the middle schools and determine how many would actually be needed, heading off more expense and creating a school that will meet the needs in Liberal.
The team flew from Liberal to the Kansas City and Little Rock locations in a day, and the flight time also allowed for more collaboration on what was seen.
“We had 12 hours together,” Larkin said. “That is a significant amount of time to talk about things and thinking about things. What is the timeframe like? When will we come up with names? What will the colors be? It was a great opportunity to continue the conversation.”
Having the architect on the walk-throughs was also a significant advantage when the team had questions.
“We can speculate about plans, but when you have the gentleman who designed it, he can talk to you about the intent, why it was designed a certain way,” Larkin said. “A great example was the two different kinds of metal panel exteriors. What are the benefits of a profile panel, what was the intent? He talked to us about shadow lines, and we can talk to him about why we don’t like a certain look in Liberal, and he can understand us and we understand him.”
Another advantage was being able to talk to the contractor building the design and what he learned, and how that could help when the construction phase begins in Liberal.
“I had the opportunity to visit with contractor this time and last time,” Larkin said. “Those discussions were one of the reasons we wanted to go away from polished concrete. It really reinforced it for us. The time we spend now during this planning phase is vital. They were doing some value engineered things there, taking things out. He just reinforced the time and energy you plan upfront is vital. By the time the contractors are in the building you won’t save much, you have to figure it out now to be efficient. That’s just another reason to take this trip and look at those buildings and doing our due diligence.”
Those that took the trip were able to have input and bring ideas back to the entire design team, which was another approach Larkin has appreciated about the entire process.
“They were thankful to have the opportunity to walk those buildings,” Larkin said. “We had building administrators, central office, teachers, and community member representation that aided with the vision and worked on bond. We need to keep our community involved moving forward. It has been successful, and we need to keep everyone working together and informed. They are glad to see it firsthand and to be a part of the planning.”
The group will have another meeting in Liberal with the entire design team and share what was learned before making final recommendations to the architects later this summer.