Capital district presents conceptual designs for its new middle schools

DOVER — Conceptual plans for two new middle schools designed to house 1,600 students and slated to be under construction next September were presented Tuesday by Capital School District.
The building housing the schools will be built on the former Dover High School property on Patrick Lynn Drive.

“We are in concept,” said Carl Knutson, an architect with Perkins & Will. “So we’re really talking about how the building fits on the site, how it works within the site, and then how some of that school programming starts to work on the site.”

The conceptual stage is looking at creating a U-shaped building, with each side representing a middle school. The schools would be connected through shared spaces, with a 550-seat auditorium, cafeteria, gymnasium and media center.

Each two-level school would house 800 students. In addition core classrooms, preliminary designs include flexible classrooms.
The school would also have a flexible plan for growth and expansion.

“One of the critical things that I think you, as the voters, looked at in funding the school was the thought that it’s great to have all these things in one site so we can share uses, but middle schoolers don’t want to be high schoolers and be in a big massive school,” Mr. Knutson said. “So we want to make sure that these two schools feel like a smaller unit, especially at that grade level.”
Mr. Knutson noted that the planners met with students and faculty to gauge what they were looking for in a new building.

“We had some very articulate students that told us what they wanted to see at this new school,” he said, noting that they asked students to discuss how they learn best and rank different spaces.
Using a model, Mr. Knutson showed Capital staff and area residents some designs that had been discussed, and took feedback from the group for further designing.

The property has one south side entrance. Establishing where the 28 buses will drop students off, and where parents will drop off, was also a point of discussion, and a concern for residents attending.
“For now we’re putting the drop off close to the cafeteria that feeds is the students in there,” Mr. Knutson said.

That would allow students who get breakfast through the school to pick up their food at the cafeteria and head to class, Mr. Knutson said. Some voiced concerns about funneling the population of two schools through one central area.
Residents also expressed feedback on the necessity of having the appearance of two different schools, and how to consider placing entrances.

The early design looks to eliminate a roadway that looped behind the school, to keep children from crossing any roads when accessing the athletic fields on the north end of the property, officials said.
While some of the athletic fields on the 45-acre property may be reorganized, the plan is keep the turf football field, Mr. Knutson said.

In the planning, consideration was given to the wetlands and flood zones in the area, officials noted.
“We’re away from those areas and away from the flood zones and separated,” said Gregory Moore, an engineer from Becker Morgan. “As we get closer and we start to agree on the building layout, we’ll then start doing detailed studies and this thing will get even tighter. We’re just not quite there yet.”

Demolition of the former Dover High School began in 2015, the same year the new high school on Dover High Drive opened.
The middle schools are being constructed to meet enrollment growth for the district.

While Dan Shelton, superintendent of the district, noted that through a population study, the area is pretty built up for now, the district still aims to address growth.
“We’re growing really, really slow and steady over time,” he said. “But there’s no boom where we’re going to have a hundred housing development going out anytime soon.”
In February, another public workshop will address the middle schools, before formal plans are submitted to the city.

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