Tag Archives: K-12

The Noah Webster Schools Pima Campus, completed in August, is a charter academy that has made use of the increasingly popular site-adapt trend.

The new class of schools

An apple a day may keep a student in a teacher’s good graces, but there’s more to a healthy learning environment than fruit.

It’s no secret that many school districts have had to do more with less funding and fewer employees. With a rapidly changing learning environment — one with Wi-Fi in every classroom — and one that needs to accommodate more students and shift with the times, construction companies are being called upon to help schools transition into the future while surviving the present.

McCarthy Building Companies is one such contractor that has been using site-adapt approaches to its new school buildings. The approach includes adapting existing school designs to fit a district’s needs. This method reduces design time and allows for construction to occur on an aggressive timeline, says Steve Poulin, project director for McCarthy Building Companies’ educational services.

Riggs elementary school: constructed using similar design prototypes. McCarthy Building Companies and Hda Architects are currently working on a similar site-adapt project in Chandler.

Riggs elementary school: constructed using similar design prototypes. McCarthy Building Companies and Hda Architects are currently working on a similar site-adapt project in Chandler.

For example, McCarthy is working with HDA Architects on a 91KSF K-6 elementary school in Chandler modeled after the city’s Riggs and Carlson elementary schools. This is an increasingly common trend in burgeoning communities, such as Chandler and Gilbert.

Chasse Building is seeing the same trends in Deer Valley and Scottsdale, says Chasse Building Team Project Manager Jeremy Keck.

Chasse’s Deer Valley Elementary School No. 30 is adapted from two previously built schools — Stetson Hills and Norterra Elementary. Site-adapts aren’t a novel concept, points out HDA Architects Principal Pete Barker.

“The original concept for this school configuration took place in the late ‘80s. That is literally how long we have been adapting and re-using this design,” he says.

Carlson elementary school: constructed using similar design prototypes. McCarthy Building Companies and Hda Architects are currently working on a similar site-adapt project in Chandler.

Carlson elementary school: constructed using similar design prototypes. McCarthy Building Companies and Hda Architects are currently working on a similar site-adapt project in Chandler.

Barker estimates that site-adapt designs save a developer about 1 to 2 percent in design costs as a percentage of the construction cost. Poulin adds that the real impact for efficient designs, for the school district, comes in maintenance and operation costs.

“Overall, districts employing the site adapt are seeing improvements on their operations and maintenance budgets and time costs are reduced,” says Poulin. “Permitting on a new design can be substantial, and cutting this to closer to three or four months saves the district (money and time). In addition, when the primary requirement by the district is to decide on minor changes to a design they are familiar with, there is less required on their end, allowing the owner more time to focus on education.”

Working with similar structures, he adds, means construction teams are able to work efficiently on more aggressive timelines. Some of the most common changes to the schools include using metal roofs instead of clay, air-cool chillers in central, on-site plants and concrete parking lots and interior flooring. Concrete floors can be wet mopped and don’t need to be waxed.

Cities with rising populations are turning to renovations and introducing new systems that require lower operating costs. High-efficiency HVAC systems have become more affordable over time and many schools are investing in LED lighting.

“Many schools in use today are well past their life span and the technology with green building practices have accelerated this life cycle,” says Chasse’s Keck. Keck has seen a lot of construction going on in Scottsdale. As more rooftops rise, so does the need for schools. Case in point, homebuilder Taylor Morrison donated 15 acres to the Liberty Elementary School District so it could build a school near its newest housing development, Las Brisas in Goodyear, Ariz.

Some of these schools Keck is referring to start from scratch, built into a neighborhood, for instance. However, renovations are also popular. Lighting and HVAC retrofits, for instance. The complexity of retrofitting a school, Keck says, depends on the project. Some require a bit more creativity than others. He recalls a school Chasse Building worked on for the Catholic Dioceses that used a nearby natural well’s water to cool the school. Schools constructed in the 1950s, though, such as Mohave Middle School in Scottsdale, look so tired, Keck says, that at the end of the day demolishing the low-ceiling, single-pane window facilities is the best option.

Creative design elements include multi-purpose rooms. Keck says that gymnasiums and cafeterias tend to be a single space in new designs. He points out that many schools also use off-site locations for food preparation, while its kitchen is more of a warming and serving space.

“When students are in a nice environment and daylight and fresh air, (administrators) see better classroom performance,” says Keck. There is also an emphasis on bringing outside learning to a K-12 campus. Chasse’s Deer Valley Elementary School No. 30, which broke ground in August, has three interior courtyard spaces that can be used for instruction. The Greater Hearts Academy – Cicero Campus, completed in July, has an outdoor amphitheater in its courtyard.

The Noah Webster Schools Pima Campus, completed in August, and Paideia Academy of South Phoenix, completed about two years ago, are charter schools adapted from a Ken Harris Architecture design. Adolfson & Peterson worked with Fairfield Architects to modify the original design.

“The site-adapt approach saved time and costs associated with design while still allowing for the customization of finishes unique to the school,” says Michael Schroeder, Adolfson & Peterson’s marketing director. This was particularly important for the Noah Webster Schools, which is constructed on tribal land and needed to adhere to standards set by the Salt River Pima Indian Community. The 51KSF school was completed in seven months.

Many are moving into big box retail or industrial spaces. Typically, a charter school is smaller than most K-12 buildings. Traditional schools are also known for having playgrounds, basketball courts and recreational spaces as well as a bus system. When schools are built into a shopping center, the issue of drop-off and pick-up can be tricky, Keck warns. However, repurposing these spaces, despite being a new challenge dependent on location, may get easier with time. Chasse’s Great Hearts Academy is based on a prototype established by two new school sites this year.

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W.J. Maloney Plumbing lands new projects

W.J. Maloney Plumbing, Heating & Cooling has landed two west-side school projects, one for the Glendale Union High School District and one for the Peoria Unified School District.

Noted for its work with school districts, including the Phoenix Union High School District and the Paradise Valley Unified School District, W.J. Maloney Plumbing, Heating & Cooling is now working on projects at Greenway High School and the new Sunset Heights Elementary School in Peoria.

At Greenway High School, W.J. Maloney Plumbing, Heating & Cooling is providing the plumbing, wastewater and gas systems for both the new science and band buildings as part of Phase 3 of construction.

Sunset Heights Elementary School will open in August with kindergarten through seventh-grade students. It is the district’s 33rd elementary school. W.J. Maloney Plumbing, Heating & Cooling’s work has included Buildings 1 and 2 totaling nearly 200,000 square feet.
McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. is the general contractor for both of these school projects.

“Our team has strengthened its expertise in public school projects over the last few years,” said Kathryn “Kitty” Maloney-Langmade, president of W.J. Maloney Plumbing, Heating & Cooling.

“Knowing that districts demand the highest quality construction – we take these projects as excellent examples of the type of work we deliver.”

Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, W.J. Maloney Plumbing, Heating & Cooling has been a leading plumbing and HVAC contractor in the greater metropolitan Phoenix area since 1964. Working with many of the state’s largest general contractors, the company has provided exemplary design-build plumbing, from tenant improvement to complex multi-story projects that include many of the most prominent buildings in the Valley.

Additional projects completed include the new Cubs Park in Mesa, the Orthopedic and Spine Inpatient Surgical (OASIS) Hospital in Phoenix, the solar thermal project at the University of Arizona, the Sky Train Project at Sky Harbor International Airport and the Mariposa Land Port of Entry expansion near Nogales.

W.J. Maloney Plumbing also provides extensive commercial and residential service, maintenance and repair, and is Small Business Enterprise (SBE) and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certified. For more information, call (602) 944-5516 or visit www.wjmaloney.com.


Video Games Go to College for groundbreaking ASU Program

Much is being made over the explosion of video games in the classroom to teach a future generation of K-12 students. But what about the future teachers who will be teaching them?

At Arizona State University, education students are reaching into their virtual future with the click of a mouse to test their teaching skills in typical school scenarios. Playing the video game is part of a first-semester course requirement for undergraduate students in ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Focused on professional success, the video game is being played by 277 teaching students in 396 field experience courses at the university this semester.

“This cutting-edge preparation for future teachers is the first of its kind in the nation,” said Mari Koerner, dean of Teachers College. “Our students may have grown up with technology, but using it to role play as real-life teachers is something new.

“The game is used to enhance their experiences in real classrooms. Our students practice in the virtual world, so they can be more successful in the real world.”

“Teacher Leader: Pursuit of Professionalism” is the first in a series of interactive, three-dimensional video games being designed by the Sanford Inspire Program and ASU’s Center for Games and Impact. Field experience educators and clinical staff recognized the importance of preparing novice teachers with the professional skills they need to be successful in the workplace. Content for the game is rooted in Teach For America’s professional values. A video trailer of the game is available at

As this initial version of the game is implemented in ASU classes, educators and staff are evaluating its success. The public is invited to the official launch of the video game at 8 a.m. March 26 at ASU SkySong in Scottsdale. Those interested can register at
http://sanfordinspire.eventbrite.com/#. This fall, a second video game featuring a different topic but also directed toward teacher candidates is expected to be rolled out.

An ASU student playing “Teacher Leader” first creates a student teacher avatar, selecting the color and style of hair, clothing and shoes. Next, the avatar encounters a couple of scenarios at school and the student has to respond. One scenario involves an uncomfortable situation with the student teacher’s mentor, while the other addresses being diplomatic in the teachers’ lounge. That evening, the avatar must choose how to spend time preparing for the next day’s lesson.

The student is scored as he or she plays, with choices having consequences later in the game as the avatar implements the lesson plan. A video of students playing the game is available at https://asunews.asu.edu/node/26765.

“It’s a different application compared to how we normally are taught,” said Marcy Steiner, an ASU student from Peoria, Ariz. “With the video game, you can see how your decisions shape your image as a teaching professional. There are options that are good and options that are better. It really makes you think.”

During the lesson, teaching students receive immediate feedback on their performance in various situations based on four areas or competencies. The professional competencies were adapted from the Teach For America teacher preparation curriculum:

*    Suspending judgment: Identifying moments when they might be unfairly judging someone
*    Asset-based thinking: Consciously seeking out the positive aspects of a person or situation
*    Locus of control: Focusing on what is within their own ability to control
*    Interpersonal awareness: Recognizing the limits of their own perspective and trying to understand the viewpoints of others

At the same time, the course is designed so that instructors of the field experience courses can build on lessons learned through the video game as part of their classroom instruction. Teachers also can access data on student progress and decision-making.

At the end of the game, the students receive their scores and get a chance to re-play the game so they can improve their responses, Koerner explained.

“The game-based technology allows these students to take their teaching for a test drive, even make mistakes, without causing negative consequences they might experience in a real-life situation,” she said.

The partnership that created the video game underpins a broader effort to refine best practices in teacher education. The end goal is to improve America’s public schools. Known as the Sanford Inspire Program, funding comes from entrepreneur and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford who invested $18.85 million in 2010 to launch the Teachers College-Teach for America partnership. The program has garnered national attention for its innovative approaches to preparing teacher candidates. More information is available at http://sanfordinspireprogram.org/.

Despite its effectiveness in readying future teachers for the classroom, the new technology will not take the place of traditional methods anytime soon, Koerner said.

“It’s not replacing, it’s not instead of,” she said. “It’s enhancing how we teach our students to become professionals.”