CEDAR FALLS — A building has taken shape on a wide-open landscape just past growing housing developments in the southwest corner of the city.
It’s been nearly a year since construction began on Bess Streeter Aldrich Elementary School west of Erik Road. Students will start school there next fall.
Cedar Falls Community Schools’ officials are expecting it to ease a space crunch in the district’s lower grades with Aldrich’s opening. The school will have four sections of classrooms in first through sixth grade plus preschool and kindergarten rooms. Its capacity will be 650 students.
Now, though, the site is bustling only with construction workers.
Last week, current and former members of the Board of Education got a look at the building under construction during several tours over two days led by Kim Cross. The Southdale Elementary School principal will hold the top post at Aldrich next fall.
“This will be my fifth building in Cedar Falls,” said Cross, when she makes the move. That includes years teaching at Hansen Elementary School where her classroom was in a portable building.
Aldrich was “pretty well enclosed by Thanksgiving,” said Cross. The roof is installed and many windows are in place, with plastic sheeting covering openings without a window. Work continues on the building’s exterior as well as inside the school. Work is underway on wiring and plumbing in the building.
An open area with a high ceiling is near the staff and student entrances. The space will be outfitted with comfortable furniture and serve as a place for students or parents to gather.
“This is what’s called the heart of the building,” said Cross. It is surrounded by administrative offices, art and music classrooms, a maker space and the media center.
To the west, are first- through third-grade and fourth- through sixth-grade classroom wings, jutting out from the building’s core at an angle. Down a hallway east of the administrative offices and music classrooms are five preschool and kindergarten classrooms, which will also serve as the building’s storm shelter. South of the music classrooms are the cafeteria, kitchen and gymnasium.
The building will be equipped with a full kitchen. “The plan is not necessarily that we’ll cook here yet, but if we want to we can,” said Cross.
Work is furthest along in the office area. Drywall has been installed and walls are painted, including some accent walls in individual offices.
Cross said there was a “very conscientious design to allow in a lot of outside lighting.” There are large windows in the office area, a wall of windows in the media center and even windows in the gymnasium.
Windows in the hallways look out onto an interior courtyard that Cross calls an “outdoor education center” to be used by classes. The classrooms on the other side of those halls also have windows to let in the natural lighting.
“The light in the building is great,” said school board member Sasha Wohlpart.
She was joined on a Wednesday tour by board member Joyce Coil, former board members Doug Shaw and Susan Lantz, and Director of Secondary Education Dan Conrad.
Cross said each grade level suite includes a central common area surrounded by classrooms, conference rooms and a room where staff can work together. A garage door will open one of the classrooms to the central area and a movable partition will divide that classroom from a second one. A third classroom will be called the “DaVinci studio.”
“The DaVinci studios will be a little different than other classrooms,” said Cross. They will be larger and include storage for all grade-level teachers. It will feature solid surface flooring, making the space more ideal for such uses as science experiments. Each wing will have DaVinci studios except the preschool and kindergarten classrooms.
With the flexible spaces and the DaVinci studios, students will at times move between classrooms or meet in larger grade level groupings. “It’s really about how the teachers collaborate and decide to use the space,” said Cross.