Although the school year is winding down, there is already much excitement and anticipation in the Rushford-Peterson school district for the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year by students, staff and community members as construction on their new school will soon be complete.
Superintendent Chuck Ehler was gracious enough to give me a tour of the facility on Tuesday, April 4, 2017 and to share many interesting facts about the new school.
The large size of the school, 170,000 square feet, is evident as one approaches the building and even more so once inside.
The combined square footage of the Rushford school and the Peterson school currently in use is approximately 167,000 square feet.
Three things the design committee focused on were lots of natural light, functionality and quality of construction and “we are on target to meet all three,” states Ehler.
The design team, consisting of community members and school district staff, worked with the architect and he took all of their thoughts into consideration. “He went around the Rushford area and looked to see what was kind of native to the area” says Ehler, and incorporated natural stone and wood into the design of both the exterior and interior of the building.
There are many special features in the new school that students and staff will appreciate. The students are sure to enjoy spending time on the “learning stairs,” where the students can gather with friends, have class meetings and more.
The gymnasiums will be a hit with community members, students and visiting teams as the elementary/middle school gymnasium holds approximately 500 people and along with the home team locker rooms, there is also a changing room directly off the gymnasium for visiting athletes.
The high school gymnasium is a “top down” gymnasium, states Ehler, “so when you are upstairs you are looking down into the gym,” he explains. The high school gymnasium has seating for 1,100 and features a catwalk all the way around. There is also a commons area with cafe style seating so spectators can view the action in the gym while comfortably having a snack or visiting with friends.
There are numerous “break-out spaces” throughout the school which will give kids a place to quietly get homework done or have student meetings. Conference rooms are located in many areas of the school as well, which will be used for various purposes.
“One of the features of all the classrooms is their ceilings are at angles,” notes Ehler. The reason for this is to allow light to come all the way in to the room because when ceilings are level the light only makes it so far in.
If kids can get excited about ceilings they will be when they see the “cloud ceilings” in different areas of the school. Cloud ceilings are different sized lights at different levels which give the feeling of open space.
The modern kitchen area is large enough to accommodate two serving lines, which will make meal time run smoothly and quickly.
The library/learning center located on the top floor takes full advantage of the natural light with large windows that showcase the view of the Rushford Valley. In this area is also where the reading nook is located. The reading nook is a tri-level area where students can spend time enjoying their favorite book or host a reading group.
An impressive theatre awaits the start of concerts, plays, and many other artistic endeavors with seating for 400. The stage is not the typical stage, as it extends out in a half circle making those on the stage closer to the audience.
Behind the stage is a scenery room for storing scenery and other accessories. Conveniently, there are big double doors leading from the theatre to the metal shop and wood shop just down the hall so if a large piece of scenery is built in the shop it can easily be brought in the scenery room.
Also close to the stage and theatre is the music area, so when there are school concerts kids can come out of their designated music room and be in the theatre or on the stage very quickly.
The chemistry and science rooms feature plenty of very nice cabinetry and the science room has grow windows installed so the students will be growing various plants as part of their learning experience.
What we used to call water fountains are no longer water fountains, but instead are called “hydration stations” as students can fill their water bottles as well as get a drink of water. Several hydration stations are located conveniently around the school.
Ehler states that the school is an “automated” building, meaning the doors will automatically lock at designated times. Visitors will need to stop in to the district office area to state their business before being allowed in the building.
Construction began on the new Rushford-Peterson school in November 2015 and is scheduled to be completed by August 15, 2017. “The classroom area is 90% complete, with basically just flooring left to be done,” notes Ehler, saying that the general contractor, Weiser Brothers of La Crescent, Minn., understood that they wanted them to put the emphasis on the classroom areas of the building so staff could begin moving in.
“We are on target to begin that process in June,” states Ehler, as he says, “staff is welcome to come in this summer to set up their classroom,” which will be an exciting time for everyone.
“Progress has been steady and very good,” says Ehler, adding, “Weiser Brothers have been very good to work with,” and completion of the project is just around the corner. “Two short months here we will be moving” into the new school, says Ehler.
As the flooring needs to be installed and final punch lists completed, tours of the school will not be offered until construction is complete, although there will be an open house sometime in August.