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Design Team of the Year Finalist: Willard Intermediate School-South

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Adding a second intermediate school for Willard Public Schools could not have come soon enough.

“We only had one intermediate school and it was jam-packed,” said Derrick Hutsell, assistant superintendent of operations. “We had 700 students there.”

Hutsell said the district and its fifth- and sixth-grade teachers brainstormed design ideas for the new building. That led to a new, collaborative proposal.

“It’s a very open floor plan with multiple uses for multiple spaces and tech labs for the students,” he said. “The whole area is unique for teaching.”

Lindsay Reichert, project manager with Paragon Architecture LLC, said some classrooms feature large barn doors between them that allow for collaborative learning. And all the school’s furniture is flexible, she said, such as classroom tables with adjustable heights.

“Actually seeing the kids in the space was magical,” Reichert said. “They are finding ways to use things in new and exciting ways that we didn’t think about.”

Brad Erwin, Paragon’s principal architect, said the school design featured a media lab, a centralized office space for teachers, outdoor classroom space, a commons area and plenty of natural light. The plans took a turn from a traditional school by designing classrooms specifically for different learning environments. Erwin said teachers rotate classrooms based on curriculum needs.

“It’s set up very specific for the task at hand. A lot of those things that we do in education, we’re doing in the workplace. Students are just little people that still need a change of pace and setting,” he said, noting the project came in $1 million under budget.

Reichert said safety also was a top priority. The front office has a clear view of the entry of the school and visitors enter through two checkpoints. She added that the multiple areas of the school could be individually locked down from the front office, and classroom windows double as emergency exits.

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