A close up of a cross section on a blueprint

WDMCS Reviewing Upgrades to School Buildings

Your student may spend up to seven hours each day in one of our school buildings. So it’s likely no surprise that a school’s “brick and mortar” can affect a child’s learning.

Buildings can create a sense of community and give students space to explore and collaborate.

The West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) is working with Shive-Hattery Architecture and Engineering of West Des Moines to see if our elementary buildings enhance or encumber instruction.  

This summer, Shive-Hattery architects interviewed principals and teachers in our eight elementary schools to understand how they use building space for instruction.

“Looking at the amount of square footage each building has per student is not an accurate measurement,” said Joseph Benesh, senior architect at Shive-Hattery. “How a space is used and its layout are more important.”

The architects learned some of our buildings need space that is more flexible or can support collaboration.

According to Shive-Hattery Architect Michelle Huggins, some of our buildings were designed decades ago primarily for “core instruction,” which is instruction with all students in a general education setting. Today, more students need “core-plus” instruction, such as English language instruction. In some buildings, the space is not designed for this shift, and teachers are meeting with students in hallways or former storage areas.

The architects presented their study to the Board of Education during a workshop session on August 8, 2016. Some of their preliminary suggestions are:

  • reallocation of computer labs, media centers, and common areas
  • special consideration at Westridge Elementary and Crestview School of Inquiry
  • Kids West component of study
  • reallocation of space at Hillside Elementary
  • a preschool center
  • sixth-grade addition to Indian Hills/Stilwell Junior High schools to combine to a grade 6-7 academy and creation of a grade 8-9 academy at Valley Southwoods Freshman High School.
  • relocated preschool and sixth-grade addition to existing buildings
  • building additions at each elementary school

A summary of their findings is available in the workshop meeting minutes. Click on the “10-Year Facilities Plan—Update” agenda item for the full minutes.

The School Board with meet again to discuss the recommendations at a special workshop at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 11.

Schools across Iowa make long-term plans for building maintenance and upgrades due to state funding set aside specifically for building renovations. The money primarily comes from our state’s sales tax. One cent of every dollar collected by the state through  the sales tax goes toward school building maintenance, renovations, or new construction. We can not use these funds for the general costs to operate our schools as they are primarily intended for buildings.