A two-and-a-half-year journey to rebuild schools destroyed by the EF-5 tornado that tore through Joplin and Duquesne, Missouri on May 22, 2011 reached a milestone on Jan. 9, 2014 with the opening of three new schools: Irving Elementary, Soaring Heights Elementary, and East Middle School. The new schools are home to more than 1,300 students who have been attending classes at temporary facilities since the disaster.
The spaces may be new, but they looked familiar to the students, teachers, parents, and school administrators who came together to provide the architects with a vision for the schools and design ideas to support education. The result of that collaboration: dynamic 21st Century Learning environments filled with colorful, flexible spaces designed to promote learning.
2901 S. McClelland Blvd.
The new Irving Elementary houses both Irving and Emerson students. It was constructed on property donated by Mercy Joplin – the same property where St. John’s Hospital was located until it was destroyed by the tornado. Plans for the Emerson property will be developed by the school district as the community rebuilds and residents return to the neighborhoods that were in the path of the storm.
Soaring Heights Elementary
4594 E. 20th St.
The new Soaring Heights Elementary replaces one of the destroyed elementary schools and serves students from Duquesne and Duenweg, Missouri. Duquesne and Duenweg students were combined into one school after the disaster to provide a temporary space for former Emerson students whose school was destroyed. Soaring Heights Elementary is connected to East Middle School. The two buildings share an auditorium and kitchen but have separate entrances for students, staff, and parents.
East Middle School
4594 E. 20th St.
East Middle School was also among the destroyed schools. East was only two years old at the time of the disaster. A renovated warehouse space in Joplin’s industrial park served as a temporary location for East Middle School students after the tornado. East students have now returned to their rebuilt school.
These new buildings were designed with students in mind. Each school possesses its own unique features to provide students the best opportunities to learn, collaborate, and explore. They also share many similar characteristics.
ADAPTIVE LEARNING SPACES
■ Natural light enhances energy efficiency and boosts learning.
■ Common spaces for both students and staff foster collaborative activities.■ Special rooms for messy projects and outdoor activities offer students appropriate learning environments.■ Unique classrooms for specialized programs allow for staff to share resources and serve students more efficiently. This minimizes the time students spend out of class.■ Windows and glass walls in classrooms increase accountability and display learning for all students and staff to view, including art classes where “art on display” promotes creativity.■ Collapsible seating, movable walls, and learning stairs provide numerous multipurpose spaces.■ The efficient building layout at Irving simplifies student travel between classes and activities. The purposeful design and building layout at Soaring Heights and East reduces square footage, aids student traffic flow, and enables the two schools to share resources.
■ Common spaces for both students and staff
■ New technology-driven learning labs will improve teacher instruction and student presentations. LCD panels ensure student visibility and can display a variety of content.
■ Elementary iPad and laptop carts increase access to mobile technology devices and improve student and teacher flexibility. Community areas for multiclass collaboration mean classes are no longer anchored to classrooms.
■ Apple® TV’s in each classroom simplify presenting and collaborating and offer video and streaming capabilities.
■ Outdoor learning stairs, stages, and classrooms provide functional space for learning and playing outdoors.
■ Walking trails, learning ponds, and activity walls encourage students and staff to spend more time outside.
■ Playgrounds fitted with age-appropriate equipment allow for safe and stimulating play time.
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH■ Large windows and skylights capture daylight and lower energy costs by minimizing the use of artificial lighting.■ A building management system controls fresh air, temperatures, and lighting.■ Energy efficient lighting is used throughout.■ A stronger thermal envelope reduces heating and cooling costs.■ Hydronic HVAC equipment allows for low operational and maintenance costs.■ Water bottle refill and recycling stations decrease waste and teach students responsibility.■ Low-flow plumbing fixtures reduce water consumption and waste.■ No-touch restrooms and hand dryers minimize paper usage.■ Building material selections help reduce ongoing maintenance costs: stainless steel handrails, split face block, brick, aluminum light poles, etc.■ 70% of building materials are regional or Joplin-specific: roofing, concrete block, lighting fixtures, etc.■ The conjoined building at East and Soaring Heights decreases the schools’ carbon footprint by sharing building services.
INSPIRATIONAL CULTURE■ Areas designed for different types of learning offer students a versatile experience at school.■ Thoughtful color choices and architectural elements support inspiration, exploration, and creativity.■ Each building possesses uniquely themed spaces to reflect the culture of the school.■ Prior to flooring installation, parents and staff wrote encouraging messages on the concrete.
■ Commemorative components in the new schools honor the past, including the relocation of the cornerstone from the old Irving to the new school, the relocation of the bell from Duquesne to Soaring Heights, and the large wall graphics at Irving, East, and Soaring Heights depicting images of previous facilities.
■ Each new school features a time capsule that will preserve mementos relevant to the 2013-2014 school year.
■ Separate parent and bus pick-up / drop-off locations allow for safer morning and after-school routines. A new walking trail on 24th Street allows for safer student foot traffic.
■ Separate entrances and exits at Soaring Heights and East ensure students remain in their designated buildings.
■ FEMA safe rooms at each building provide protection to students, staff, and the community during storms. Each school has a safe room solely for students and staff. Irving and Soaring Heights have additional safe rooms open to the community during inclement weather that also serve as gymnasiums.
■ In case of emergency, distress buttons release security doors that isolate classroom wings.
■ Playgrounds and theaters surpass ADA requirements.
■ Accessible features such as hi-lo lifts are included in special education classrooms and bathrooms.