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School officials plan additions to three UCPS elementary schools

Walter Bickett Elementary School Principal Tom Childers, at right, shares his ideas for additions to his school with architects during a charette held Monday (Sept. 15, 2014) at the Professional Development Center. Also pictured, at right is Director of Facilities Don Hughes.

Charette -- a meeting in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to resolve conflicts and map solutions.

With three Union County elementary schools needing additions that are currently funded and slated in the school system’s 2014-15 CIP (capital improvement program), stakeholders met on three separate occasions to look at the specific design needs in each of the three schools. The goal of the meeting was to think of designs that would meet each school’s needs now and in the future.

Seven architects met with more than a dozen school officials to work on needed additions at Walter Bickett, Rock Rest and Wingate elementary schools.

Director of Facilities Don Hughes said the three architectural firms represented in the charettes were Little Diversified in Charlotte, YCH Architects of Concord and RBS Architects of Salisbury.

“This event will retool our belt for future additions to elementary schools and future elementary schools,” Hughes said. “It will also give us food for thought when we get to middle and high school (designs).”

Each of the three schools has its own particular design challenges, but Hughes estimates that each school could get an additional 15 classrooms.

Wingate Elementary has 20 mobile units, Walter Bickett has 15 and Rock Rest has nine. “The intent is to get rid of the mobiles,” he said.

“We need to think specific to the needs now, but we also have to think, ‘What is the future?’ and “What are we designing for so it works,” said Thomas Carlson-Redig an architect with Little Diversified in Charlotte.

“I know the future is impossible to predict but are we getting locked into some specifics about now that might hinder what we’re exploring?” Carlson-Redig said.

School principals Tom Childers (Walter Bickett), Kristy Thomas (Rock Rest) and Dr. Mike Henderson (Wingate) came to participate in the discussions and share their insight into what design elements would best benefit their schools.

Childers noted that it would be helpful to design classrooms that could be flexible. “Can you create a classroom that would be for kindergarten this year and second grade next year?”

“You would have to think about design space that would change,” Childers added. “As we build for the future, that is the change we need to make. I like the idea of being more flexible.”

Thomas said looking at new ideas was exciting. “I want you to keep pushing us outside the box because we wouldn't know what’s happening out there if it wasn’t for you,” she said. “I want us to be very creative with this. I think there are some things you can give us that will accent our programs.”

Hughes said he is very optimistic about the success of the charettes.

“We have three good firms, three good principals and we will have three good programs (for school additions),” Hughes said. “We’re not rushing through this. We’re being time conscious. We’re keeping a good steady pace.”

Hughes said the goal is to have all three additions in place by August 2016.

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Sep 23, 2014 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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