The Chagrin Falls School District dedicated its newly renovated Intermediate School building, located at 77 East Washington Street, on Saturday, August 17. The school is situated within the historic Village of Chagrin Falls within walkable distance of the Chagrin Falls Historical Society, historic homes and an active business district.
The construction project combines a renovation of the 1914 original high school, 1940’s gymnasium and auditorium with new construction of a three-story classroom wing. The building design retains and restores the most historical elements of the original school while adding modernized classrooms for students and staff and increased accessibility. This new building is not only a center for education, but also a gathering place for the entire community.
A TRUE COMMUNITY EFFORT
It all began in 2013 when the school district embarked upon the creation of a Facility Master Plan to identify and address facility needs and aging buildings. District administration, staff, parents, students, Board of Education members and residents participated in numerous meetings, surveys and discussions in planning for the future of school district facilities. Several options were being considered by the administration and Board of Education when the community, seeking a win-win solution, came forward to convey a strong preference to retain the original, historic and walkable location of the Intermediate School in Chagrin Falls.
A combined bond and operating levy passed with 66% voter approval in the spring of 2017, setting the stage for the ensuing construction project. A groundbreaking ceremony kicked off the start of construction on Saturday, October 14, 2017. In addition to the Board of Education and District staff, representatives from Gilbane Construction and Stantec Architecture, also were present.
Throughout the project, the community, as well as students and staff, had the opportunity to engage with the project by signing a steel beam and going on site tours both in person and through virtual means. Students at various grade levels learned about careers in the industry through virtual reality presentations by construction project managers. Superintendent Robert Hunt even hosted a Facebook Live tour of the building’s construction progress.
PARTNERING WITH COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS
Building on feedback that the Intermediate School on Philomethian Street serves a larger community purpose, the District took an innovative and unprecedented approach and partnered with local arts organizations to apply for an economic development grant from the State of Ohio’s Capital Budget. In partnership with Chagrin Arts, the Valley Art Center, the Chagrin Documentary Film Fest, Chagrin Falls Chamber of Commerce and the Chagrin Falls Historical Society, the District was awarded a $600,000 grant from the State of Ohio’s Capital Budget. These funds helped offset the total cost of the construction project and contributed to the creation of a dynamic facility that supports the educational needs of our students in grades 4-6 during the school day and offers a Center for Community Arts after school hours.
The cafeteria for the school was relocated to the front of the auditorium, serving a dual purpose of cafeteria by day and 300-person event space outside of school hours. Along with the renovated auditorium and some classrooms, the space will be available in the evening, on weekends and during the summer, for classes, performances, concerts, guest speakers, meetings and events.
The funds are a part of SB310, a bill to fund community improvement projects. The School District worked on the proposal for about a year with support from our arts partners and state Representatives Marlene Anielski and Sarah LaTourette, and state Senators John Eklund and Tom Patton.
The District retained the historic 1914 original Chagrin Falls High School as well as the 1940 gym and auditorium. The 1940 wrap-around classroom section was removed and replaced with a new building that connects the 1914 building, the gym and the auditorium with a new three story classroom facility, creating a cohesive and integrated new school situated on the same three acre site within the heart of the Village of Chagrin Falls.
Architects designed a space that provides ample natural lighting, temperature and humidity-controlled fresh air, and acoustically-designed flexible spaces that improve student learning, all based on proven architectural and childhood development research. Teachers, school leaders, parents and community members provided input that was included to develop a meaningful cohesive school design. Key elements that surfaced during these conversations included: technology integration, safety and security, connectedness, flexible learning spaces and outdoor learning.
Technology Integration: Classrooms are equipped with digital screens providing students with open, but safe access to the internet to allow for true collaboration on student work and access to online sources.
Safety and Security: Security consultants and local safety forces provided input into overall design which contributed to advanced security features within the school. Secure entrances, remote door activation, camera systems and other advanced security features work together to create a safe and cohesive learning environment.
Connectedness: Internal spaces like hallways and classrooms had previously been separated from each other by walls and doorways, but the new school has an open layout with glass partitions providing uninterrupted lines of sight, borrowing ideas from the best work environments. Large gathering areas on each floor adjacent to the classrooms were designed so students can collaborate just outside of their classrooms and teachers can still see them. Teachers can even gather larger groups for seminar-style learning in these learning commons.
Flexible Learning Spaces: Many educational spaces were designed with flexibility of usage in mind. The cafeteria serves as a place to eat, but also as a location for large group gatherings and public events. Rooms that were designed for Small Group Instruction (SGI) with a tutor or intervention specialist can also be used for teacher team professional development. Two multi-collaboration spaces in the 1914 building can be used for grade level teacher meetings, small group learning breakout sessions for music class, or a small after-school art seminar.
Outdoor Learning: There are several outdoor learning areas included in the design. First, a roof terrace just outside of the science lab and maker space allows for experiments in renewable energy, biology, microecology and other science related curriculum. Adjacent to the playground is a hardscape area that serves as an outdoor classroom as well as a warm up area for outdoor physical education classes.
On the first floor of the new Intermediate School, there are classrooms, offices, the original auditorium and gymnasium, and a cafeteria. On the second floor are more classrooms, encore rooms (art, world language, Project Lead the Way, and special education learning support rooms). On the third floor, there are more classrooms, the music wing for band, orchestra and general music, a maker space classroom for additional STEM learning and a dedicated science classroom with an outdoor roof terrace.
The building is designed for 21st century-style learning where students can collaborate and learn across many curriculum disciplines. Classrooms have flexible, comfortable seating arrangements. The open-air learning environments provide for increased creativity in learning as students work on team projects and learn to communicate and collaborate more effectively with their peers. All of these skills help prepare students for college and/or the workforce.
The exterior of the building has been designed with outdoor play and safety in mind. Pedestrians and bicyclists have safe approaches to the building, separated from traffic. Three new bike racks adjacent to these pedestrian and bike paths help promote biking to school. The play area is fenced off from the parking area, providing a safe hardscape playground during the school day. A new playground with new play equipment wraps around the exterior of the gymnasium. A large green space lawn was installed on the west side of the school overlooking the village.
Care was taken in the preservation of historical elements. The original 1940 auditorium and lobby were restored to their former glory and retain the marble wainscot, original trim work and historic ticket booth. The original exterior entrance to the auditorium was restored and now sits inside the cafeteria as a doorway to the cafeteria by day and to a beautiful event space in the evening. Salvaged reclaimed wood from the floors from the 1914 building was made into various wood accent elements such as benches, signage, and the main reception desk in the office. The original 1914 exterior steps that collapsed unexpectedly during waterproofing were rebuilt using the salvaged stone landing that has remained in place for over 100 years. The original exterior brick and mortar of the entire 1914 school was cleaned, restored, waterproofed and brought up to modern performance standards. The auditorium was fully restored to the classic design of the 1940s, but with the addition of new seating, HVAC, and upgraded lighting and sound. The 1940 gymnasium retains its original wood flooring, but has new windows that harken to the original design.
This construction project demonstrates great respect for the history and historical surroundings of the Intermediate School. This school is an important part of downtown Chagrin Falls as it is within walking distance to many shops, restaurants, parks, cultural institutions, homes and neighborhoods, and of course, waterfalls. School families, and the community as a whole, come together as “One Chagrin” to live, work and play in the community they call home.
From the levy campaign to the groundbreaking and beam signing to the ribbon cutting dedication of the renovated school, the community has supported building a bright future for our students.
“We wouldn’t be opening this school without the overwhelming support of the entire school community who passed a bond and operating levy with 66% voter support. This allowed us to address the most pressing facility need in the District at the Intermediate School and also invest in facility upgrades in all District buildings,” said School Board President Kathryn Garvey. “With the voter-approved operating and bond proceeds we have not only built this outstanding school for present and future generations, but we also completed much-needed repairs at Gurney, the High School and the Middle School.”
“The construction of this building, as well as the road that led us to today’s ribbon cutting, represents the value this community places on the educating of our children,” said Superintendent Robert Hunt. “This space will support innovation, critical thinking and the development of the whole child now and well into the future. In addition, it also has a place for community organizations to flourish and grow. It will create an opportunity for additional music, performing and visual arts shows, as well as other events, all which will positively impact the local economy.”