Beaver architects say school building project on schedule, under budget

ROGERS – As Beaver Local’s new K-12 campus begins to take shape, the building’s architects visited Monday’s board of education meeting to update the community and address questions from the board about the building’s design.

John DeFrance, an architect with the Youngstown firm of Olsavsky Jaminet, reported that the school’s construction was on schedule, but construction had been delayed several times due to the unusually rainy conditions. He also said the firm is under budget at this point in the project.

“We did lose eight days to weather but overall the schedule has been kept,” said DeFrance, who attended the meeting along with fellow architects Dennis Kaplan and Ray Jaminet.

DeFrance told the board steel beams are ready to be installed in the building and the firm’s goal is to have roofs on the facility by Christmas. He said having roofs installed will make it easier for crews to continue construction through the winter months.

DeFrance then turned the focus of his report to the floor plan of the new facility, which he noted has raised some questions from the board and the community.

The floor plan is based around the 21st Century Learning Concept, meaning the interior of the school will feature a primarily open floor plan with few dividing walls. DeFrance noted the board approved the design in May 2013, and said he was unsure why only now concerns were being brought to his attention. He said changes could be made to the design, but only at the risk of seriously delaying the project.

On the subject of the facility’s layout, DeFrance was questioned primarily by Board Member Lance Shultz, who said he has been asking tough questions at every stage of the project and commended DeFrance and his crew for “doing a heck of a job.”

Shultz said his primary concern was the 21st Century Learning Concept and open floor plan design might not work for Beaver Local. He noted a previous board had approved the plans in 2013, and since then he has reviewed the plans and researched 21st Century Learning.

“The 21st Century Learning is a relatively new curriculum,” said Shultz. “Does or doesn’t it work? We’re not really sure yet ,and I think the jury is still out on that.”

He said despite whatever apprehension he and the board might have about this relatively new education concept, it was important to support the district in trying something new. Still, he asked architects how the school’s open floor plan design might be altered if the 21st Century Learning Concept does not succeed in the district.

Shultz cited the fact that students and facility would be literally walking through each other’s classrooms when they move around the school. He said his biggest concerns were on the school’s first- and second-floor where elementary classrooms would be housed in a largely open area. Shultz expressed worry that elementary students moving through the open floor plan would disrupt fellow students.

“You have all of this open space and all of these classrooms with class taking place, how are students supposed to filter through this learning area without disrupting them?” asked Shultz.

DeFrance responded to Shultz’s concerns by saying the firm could alter the building’s floor plan to include less open space, but this would mean having to get the state’s approval, which would likely cause delays.

DeFrance defended the open floor plan saying the building’s interior was purposefully designed with more space than what is needed, so that classrooms will not be disrupted. He also noted the school’s faculty will have to develop rules for students moving throughout the building to minimize distractions. He said movable walls, drywall and furniture are all options that could be installed to help divide the space, should it be a problem.

“Some of your concerns can be allayed by the furniture selections that we’re about to make right now,” said DeFrance, noting that no final decision on furniture had yet been made.

Jaminet said the firm had put tremendous thought into the new school’s design and noted that the 21st Century Learning Concept had been successfully implemented elsewhere.

“21st Century Learning is new to Ohio,” said Jaminet. “There are many schools throughout the United States and many more schools in Europe that have been doing this for 10 or 15 years, and it has been working very well.”

Jaminet said he believed his firm had done a good job of informing faculty and administrators of what all the building’s new design entailed from the outset of the project.