New North Liberty elementary school's designs revealed

Iowa City board approves unconventional building plans

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NORTH LIBERTY — The planned construction of a new elementary school in North Liberty will “depart from the traditional school” design and play on the site’s natural slopes, according to a recent presentation to the Iowa City Community School District Board of Education.

“We really wanted to do something different,” district Director of Facilities Duane Van Hemert said during the Oct. 10 board meeting. “We have a lot of plans that kind of get repetitive in Iowa City, and we wanted to come up with a different plan, a different site typically than most sites.”

The school’s construction will be funded by the $191.5 million bond Iowa City school district voters approved in September.

The budget for the school is nearly $19 million. Des Moines-based FRK Architects and Engineers set cost estimates at $14,858,000, though that does not include a storm shelter required by North Liberty building code.

Located on a 22-acre site near Centro Inc. and South Slope Communications and scheduled to be completed by fall 2019, the school’s designs show two administrative and classroom wings connected by the building’s “central spine” that will house common areas.

The school board unanimously approved the designs.

In the unconventional building, the wings would be built at different elevations on the sloping site, said Vassil Petrov, an architect with FRK Architects and Engineers. The building would not have an elevator but would meet ADA requirements by installing ramps and stairways to connect the wings.

The building will be oriented on the site to “maximize views of landscaped lawns and playgrounds (and) minimize views to the industrial occupancies to the west,” according to FRK.

Classrooms — for kindergarten through sixth-grade students — will be “organized around more intimate collaboration spaces with direct access from each classroom,” the design plan states.

The school also will have a preschool, according to district officials, as well as a geothermal system and energy-efficient lighting. It will have space for 600 students, and its attendance zone will be determined in 2018.

The name of the school will be determined by a committee that plans to begin meeting next week, district spokeswoman Kristin Pedersen said. Committee members plan to recommend a name to the school board at its Jan. 23 meeting.

The new elementary is one of four projects included in the first phase of facilities work funded by the district’s successful bond vote last month, Pedersen said. The other projects are renovations at both Lincoln and Mann elementary schools in Iowa City, and outdoor athletics facilities at the recently-opened Liberty High School in North Liberty.

Projects at the four schools are all scheduled to be completed by fall 2019.

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