Creekside Elementary welcomes students with natural setting, high-tech touches

August 17, 2010

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Robin Earl, Creekside Elementary School principal, stands in a balcony hallway overlooking the library core. Large windows bring the outdoor beauty inside. By Christopher Huber

To the tune of hammering and buzzing saws on a hot day at the end of July, Principal Robin Earl walked through the crowded hallways of her new school.

Without a student in sight, the hallways at Creekside Elementary School were still full.

“It’s like Christmas,” Earl said, smiling at the boxes of paper, computers, desks and chairs.

Outside looking in

The school has a nearly identical floor plan to Grand Ridge and Newcastle elementary schools, but the feel of it is markedly different from its predecessors, district Director of Capital Projects Steve Crawford said, walking through the school with Earl.

Tucked at the back of a neighborhood, the school sits apart — its own entity among a large backdrop of trees.

There’s warmth to the building with exposed steel beams giving way to green, taupe and yellow tones, accented by bold splashes of red on the walls. Large windows and skylights bring the beauty of the outdoors inside.

“You can stand in any classroom and you’re going to see gorgeous trees,” Earl said. “The way they brought it together, there is this energy and calmness from outside. To me, it is very inspiring.”

The building’s design was planned around important pieces of nature, like two large cedar trees at the school’s front and back entrances.

“The school was essentially built around the tree,” Earl said of the 50-foot one at the front.

That required extra planning for construction coordinator Mike Archer, but the argument for keeping the tree was simple.

“It was here first,” he said, “and we actually saved even more trees than required by the city.”

The school has plenty of wildlife to see, including deer and ravens, Earl said. Not too long ago, she rescued a curious turtle that wandered near the site.

Built for success

Everything on the inside has been built with student learning in mind, from the teacher platforms to student chairs.

Creekside is the first elementary school in the district built with wireless Internet technology in mind.

The school opted to purchase a combination of desktop and laptop computers and a few netbook computers, Crawford said. Those computers can be taken into outdoor areas to gather scientific data, Earl said.

To save energy, building designers also included light shades, which help capture and reflect light at various times of the day, to infuse the school with more natural light and use less electricity. It also has energy-efficient fans in the ceiling to help circulate air in classrooms, maximizing the amount of air conditioning in use, Crawford said.

Even student chairs are tech savvy. With a slightly space-age feel, they’re ergonomically correct and made from durable, flexible materials that “will let kids get the wiggles out, without disturbing anyone else or taking away from class time,” Earl said.

In little more than a year of construction, Creekside is ready to receive students. Good weather and relatively few bumps in the construction process helped make that possible, Crawford said.

It’s taken a lot of planning, good fortune and determination to get this far this fast, but Earl said she and her faculty has been doggedly working for one purpose — the students.

“We’ve been dreaming up our plans and all of them have been geared toward trying to make the best learning environment possible, so we’re very excited for the kids to be here,” she said.

Sneak peek
Get a behind-the-scenes video tour of Creekside Elementary School here.
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