Moreno Valley High School classroom additions design revealed: next stage underway

By Michelle Duregger — Staff Writer

ANGEL FIRE — Douglas Patterson, Architect for Living Designs Group Architects, presented the much-anticipated schematic design drawings for Moreno Valley High School classroom additions during a MVHS governing council meeting on Monday (Feb. 23).

The updated design included MVHS teacher suggestions to come up with a plan that maximizes storage and space while integrating passive solar and natural lighting into the classroom design.

“They  wanted a highly efficient building and we were able to achieve that with Structural Insulated Panels or SIPS, a per-manufactured building system that integrates structure and insulation in one panel used for walls and roofs,”said Patterson. With the schematic design phase and the big picture of the project complete, MVHS and Patterson are now beginning to design classroom interiors.

MVHS has been in need of permanent classrooms for a long time. English and journalism teacher Alexandra Sternhagen grimly showed off her classroom. “Over here,” she pointed to a window by a computer, “water just pours in when it rains.” She opened a door connecting the two classrooms in the pod and pointed to a crack in the floor. “This gap goes all the way down to the dirt,” she said. “These pods were not meant to last 10 years but, for lasting this long,they have done pretty well.” She led the way to the exterior of the structure and, leaning out the door, pointed to the eroding dirt that was forming gullies underneath the portable building’s floor. Inside her small 20 x 30 foot classroom, homemade bookcases line the south wall — one made of cinder blocks and boards. “Right now three walls of books — it’s very distracting for me and for the students,” said Sternhagen. Wires from a couple of computers were bundled together and ran along the walls from computers to outlets. Power strips dotted the edges of the room for students to hook up computers and other devices.

The science lab was slightly larger and is shared by two teachers. It is used for physics, chemistry and biology. Here again, one wall was lined with shelves containing instruments, beakers, scales and other instruments. Goggles hung inside the pockets of a closet organizer hanging from the door, when, ideally, they should be housed in a sanitizing cabinet. In the back of the room was a shower/safety-rinse station. The only two sinks were located through the door to the tiny hall between the classroom and the lab that comprise the portable pod. Despite these constraints, the class that was in session happily dissected elk hearts with the back door open for better ventilation, under the watchful eye of science teacher Fran Shipley.

Even with the obvious lack in classroom technology, space and organization, the Moreno Valley High School is one of the top ranking public schools in New Mexico. “This shows that education really does come down to the teachers,” said interim director Doug Wine. “When you give the teachers more to work with, they will be able to do even better.”

 Each classroom will have built-in storage walls with doors for books, instruments, etc. There will be electrical outlets placed around rooms and Shipley hopes for four sinks in the science lab as well as more a more-accessible and adequate safety shower/eye wash station.

The design process has been ongoing since July 2014. Each teacher was asked for a big wish list of features they wanted for each of their classrooms. After that was completed, the design firm, Living Designs Group Architects, created several scenarios based on many factors including the usage of the room, what other schools are doing for room sizes/capacity, technology needed, as well as other features that teachers wanted. “The architect did a heck of a job!” said Wine.

“We wanted a lot of solar gain and they were able to give it to us,” said Sternhagen. “I am pretty thrilled with the design!” Big ticket items on her list were solar gain and natural lighting as well as storage solutions. The classroom building will have lots of southern exposure and a key design element with be glass vestibules which heat up through passive solar to provide a more welcoming entrance for students and visitors. As it is now, any entrance into a portable building goes directly into the middle of the classroom. Another key feature is a row of windows lining the top story of the building called the clear story which lets natural light into the classrooms. “The natural lighting creates a beautiful learning environment, which the students deserve,” said Sternhagen.

Another big feature to the design is a high-tech teachers’ wall, which will house a 80 inch LCD screen for teacher presentations as well as student presentations. Even the physical education room will have one—with tempered glass.

“So far we were able to achieve their goals and still meet the budget,” said Patterson. “Next, we will develop the entire building program in more detail, and move to complete construction drawings.”

The architect hopes to complete interior designs, gather permits and start breaking ground in May and June of 2015, as soon as students get out of school.