Longfellow Elementary ushers in a new era of learning

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Students and teachers are seen here in the new Longfellow Elementary School, on the second story of the media center.

By Mimi Vanderhaven

When the 460 students in grades K-5 walk through the doors of their newly constructed Longfellow Elementary School in August, they will be at the crossroads of an end and a beginning.

The highly collaborative process of planning and implementing began in December 2015, with educational visioning sessions made up of staff, students and community members. Then the design phase, headed by ThenDesign Architecture, took place throughout 2016 and early 2017, and construction lasted from mid-2017 until now.

The Mighty Mustangs get out of school a day early this June to allow for demolition of their former school, which was built in 1928.

“The new building’s layout feels completely different,” says Principal Allison Aber.

“There’s no lost space in hallways. Everything feels more open. And the spaces allow for more flexible, student-centered, small-group learning. Technology informs every part of the design, including an interactive board in each room, and touch screen televisions in the upper grades.”

At 80,000 square feet, the new building is larger than the former one, and night-and-day different in terms of design.

According to architect Abby Twarek Rainieri,

“There is a significant amount of collaborative space in the new building compared to the old one. Each grade level has its own dedicated collaborative spaces and small group rooms to serve different instructional purposes. Spaces like the media center and student dining area were designed flexibly as places that can also function for active learning.”

Each section of the school is designated by color. The kindergarten and first grade area is blue for water; second and third grade is green for the forest; fourth and fifth grade is orange for the sun.

Allison says students and teachers were also part of the decision-making for selecting the furniture, providing valuable feedback.

For the past two months, Allison has ushered the teachers over in groups to take a tour of the school and get accustomed to their new classrooms, paving the way for a smooth transition.

“Every time I walk through the doors, I can’t help but realize how lucky we are as teachers, administrators, and, above all, students,” she says.

Visit WESchools.org to learn more.