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!