Students help in new-school design process

Dennis DalmanNews, Sartell – St. StephenLeave a Comment

by Dennis Dalman

The new Sartell High School will indeed be “new” – not the old-style school that contains nearly identical boxy classrooms lined up on both sides of long nondescript hallways.

The new school spaces will be open, flexible, dynamic, interactive.

“There will be really no set classroom,” said Janagan Ramanathan, a sophomore and member of a student design team. “The classrooms are interconnected, and they can be used for a variety of purposes.”

Ramanathan, the son of Vasugi and Gajen Ramanathan, will be among the students from the new school’s first graduating class in the spring of 2020. He is one of about two dozen students who volunteered to share suggestions during the design phase of the nearly $100-million school project, approved in a referendum by voters in 2016.

The design-team students began meeting last spring to share their ideas with school staff and architects. At their sessions, they offered their ideas on how they wanted the school to “feel” (its architectural ambience) and how they wanted classrooms, activities spaces and outdoor amenities to be useful to them.

“I wanted to make sure there was something for everyone,” Ramanathan said. “And classrooms that fit those interests. I like computers and technology, and I also love soccer, and there will be a lot of soccer places. But I also want there to be places for music and art and other interests.”

In one of their brainstorming sessions, the students were given long lists of words. Then the students chose the words they thought would best define themes for various classrooms. They also viewed artist’s conceptions of the school’s basic layout plans and a “fly-through” 3-D video, which was a virtual bird’s-eye-view tour of the building and grounds as planned by architects and construction experts.

“The commons area will be a massive open space,” Ramanathan said. “There will be a coffee shop on an edge of it and lots of other features. There will be large windows and lots of light.”

The classrooms are going to be ensconced into long finger-like projections stretching out from the main core of the building. That will give the classrooms, all inter-connective, the ambience of “learning neighborhoods.” The mood of the building will be cheerful, upbeat, relaxed and conducive to creative thinking. In the design process by the Cuningham Group, emphasis is placed on openness so learning spaces are connective and visible, allowing learning processes and results to be seen.

Outside there will be plenty of trees and green spaces, as well as athletic fields, tennis courts and big parking spaces.

There will be no central library or media center in the school but rather multiple media spaces throughout the school.

“It’s going to be pretty cool,” Ramanathan said. “It will be fun to see the results of what we (students) have decided.”

A groundbreaking for the school took place May 8. Work has progressed at the site ever since, including plans for roadwork on north Pinecone Road and related roads leading to and from the school. The new Sartell High School is a stone’s throw from Oak Ridge Elementary School.

contributed photo
Students gather ’round to view blueprints of the new Sartell High School. The students provided input on design of the new school – its layout, its aesthetic features and its outdoor spaces. At left is student Janagan Ramanathan, who was interviewed by the Sartell-St. Stephen Newsleader for this story. Showing the blueprints (center, background) is Principal Brenda Steve.

contributed photo
Students are giving their own input into how they want the new Sartell High School to look. About two dozen student volunteers have been meeting occasionally since last spring to come up with ideas for the school.

contributed photo
Students attached words to photos and designs to express which qualities they would like to have incorporated into the design of the new Sartell High School. These concepts include inspiring, engaging, connected, collaborative, comfortable and dynamic.

School website
This is a designer’s conception of the open, airy commons area of the new Sartell High School.

School website
This is an idea of what the performing-arts theater will look like once Sartell High School is built.

Author: Dennis Dalman

Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.

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