A School for Everyone

Meeker, CO is a small town with limited facilities. It has one elementary school, one junior high and one high school. Recently, however, its 71-year-old elementary school, home to over 50% of the communitys student population was showing some signs of disrepair. It was time for a change. But how to fund a new school that would also act as a community center?

Jason Hightower, principal of Meeker Elementary School and those involved with the schools administration decided to ask the community. Then working with their partners at The Neenan Company and a bonding company, RBC Dain Rauscher, conducted an analysis of facilities they had and needed, the resources involved and access needed to create a proposal for the communitys voters. In 2008, the economy was tanking, but their bond passed at a rate of 2-1 and the community decided to dedicate tax money to fund their school, with some special features.

First, the community wanted to have the school Pre-K certified which required a separate permit and code process for the school generally, and a building built for a diverse population. They also wanted to be able to use its facilities for community events while keeping the classroom wing shut off from the public. Community uses include:

  • Gymnasium is used by the community recreation center
  • Library/Media Center is used for community college classes
  • Cafeteria (the second largest meeting space in town) is used for meetings and celebrations.

They had everyone who needed to be at the table, at the table, Hightower says, describing Neenans design-build process. Everyone worked together to generate ideas and come up with the most beautiful school Ive ever seen. It was really easy. We had no major problems with the building. There was nothing that Neenan was not able to address efficiently and quickly and a lot of that has to do with their philosophy. We got the building we wanted, not what some architect wanted. We also all know that this is the building the community wanted and needed.

To express their thanks for the thoughts and efforts the Neenan crew put into their school, the student body gave an unprompted thank you speech to all involved and presented them with a jigsaw collage.

There is much for them to be pleased with in the school and Hightower hopes that the natural lighting, air quality and physicality of the new building will spur his charges onto even better things. We wanted the best for our kids, he says. The best includes German chairs, which help them pay attention while also allowing them to move without disrupting others. It also includes a warm commons area, which has been unofficially designated the living room of the school and is a firm favorite of all who enter. Then there are the science and art labs designed especially for little ones, an outcome of the schools partnership with Exxon-Mobil.

So as one school year winds to a close, the faculty, students and parents at Meeker Elementary School eagerly await the opening of their new school and community space. Teachers will move in early June, while students move in just after the Open House on August 23. If youre in the community at this time, please make sure you drop by to see the school. Its truly a thing of beauty.

With many thanks to Jason Hightower for his time, everyone at Meeker Elementary for their art work, and JBFoster for the columbines!


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3 Responses

  1. Marc says:

    Not so many people can use the new Meeker Elementary “Everyone School” these days. It has been closed for months due to your firm’s structural errors. Just read this article for the facts – http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_19375912

    But the big question is “What is Neenan doing about it now to make Meeker whole”?

    • Neenan says:

      Marc – Thanks for reading our blog and taking the time to comment. We too are disappointed in the errors we made in constructing Meeker Elementary School, and we want to assure everyone that we will take any and all steps necessary to make it right. We stand behind every building we have constructed, and that will never change. What that means for Meeker Elementary School is that we paid for a third-party engineering firm to review the school design and structure, and we have identified several fixes that we will be making as soon as possible that will solve the issues. We also have taken several steps to make sure that this type of problem does not happen again, including peer reviews of our structural engineering designs and drawings and a new process to formally review and confirm the credentials of all of our licensed employees. We’re doing all this because The Neenan Company is committed to quality, responsibility and accountability throughout the design and construction process.

  2. Marc says:

    I appreciate the replying hope you fully cure your errors in the Meeker school and any others as soon as possible. These small schools cannot afford these costs and vacant new buildings. I also feel that you owe Luke Student a comprehensive public apology due to the negative letters you sent him printed on your letterhead. The efforts of your firm to wrongfully discredit Mr Studer is beyond the pale and simply evil.

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