Designing a New School

Building a“new school” brings great excitement to a community. Classroom and related arts teachers want large rooms, more storage, latest technology and equipment, more parking, work room, etc. Administrators want better security, good traffic flow, big office, gym, library, and cafeteria areas, wide hallways, extra classrooms, etc. Support staff wants latest kitchen equipment, easy maintenance, nice office area, storage, etc. Community wants a safe and inviting school, use of building, attractive, etc.


Since 1997, student enrollment in the Corbin School District has increased by more than 500 students, with the largest classes at grades K-3. The average age of the original buildings is 55 years, with renovations and additions at five of the schools in the 1980s and 1990s. All school sites are under state minimum acreage. The total combined land at four elementary-middle-alternative schools is less than 10 acres.


In 2005, the District Facility Planning Committee, with assistance from the state, formulated and approved future building needs. In February 2006, the state board approved the district facility plan for three new schools and major renovation/addition at the high school, with a total unmet need at $43M. Excitement mounted in 2006, when the local board took the steps to build the first of the three new schools. An additional local tax was approved by the board, and this allowed the district to receive additional state equalization funds for school facilities.


Early discussions among Board members, teachers, administrators, and community leaders identified“six guiding principles” to be followed in determining the design for the new school.


1. Instructional needs will be the priority in the building design.

2. Incorporate latest technology devices to support instruction and operations.

3. Use creative design to achieve an inviting school; flexible spaces to be used by students, parents, staff, and community; and capture the City of Corbin history with a railroad theme.

4. Select a site large enough to accommodate future schools, outdoor areas, and location to provide easy accessibility.

5. Actively involve staff and community in the building’s function and design.

6. Building features should provide energy efficiency, quality materials, low maintenance, and room climate control.


These principles provided direction in identifying the selection criteria for an architectural firm to design the building and a construction management firm to oversee construction. There were no pre-design features for the building until teachers and school administrators, along with central office administrators, visited several Kentucky schools. In addition, great ideas, suggestions, and recommendations on all aspects of school buildings were obtained from members and activities of the Kentucky School Plant Management Association.


The architectural firm’s leadership understood that we did not want pre-conceived drawings on what the school would look like until the ideas, concerns, and desires that were expressed in open meetings of teachers, administrators, and community. Following are the suggestions from several meetings.


1. Students in grades K-2 will be organized in families of 75 to 100 students, with three to four teachers.

2. All classrooms need to have close access to computer lab, rest rooms, and media center.

3. Large classrooms are needed to accommodate multi-learning activities, latest technology, and plenty of storage.

4. Teachers in each family/team meet regularly and need a work room to accommodate eight to 10 persons.

5. Media center needs to be a primary focus for the school and have distinct areas for large group instruction, activities, adult meeting space, and reading.

6. Strive to capture Corbin’s railroad history in the design.

7. Build an energy efficient building using quality low maintenance materials.

8. The site must accommodate plenty of parking, with large drop-off area[s] used by parents, and separate drop-off area used by buses.

9. Include a regulation-size gymnasium to allow community use.

10. Design to enhance learning, and make it inviting!


We believe the final design for our K-2 school maintains student instruction as the top priority. The architects did an outstanding job in turning the ideas into a creative floor plan that expressed the “six guiding principles.”


The total cost of the project is $16,808,000, or $227 per sq. ft., which includes site acquisition; site preparation; architect, engineering, and construction manager fees; bond and fiscal agent fees; contingency; equipment and furnishings; and testing and printing.


Central Primary School will open in August 2008. At that time we will begin to measure the degree of success achieved in our building design. Visitors are welcomed!



Ed McNeel is superintendent of Corbin Independent Schools In Corbin, KY. He can be reached at ed.mcneel@corbin.kyschools.us .


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