Capital school board approves plans for two middle schools

A site plan shows the future layout of the two new, interconnected Capital School District middle schools. Designs, done by architecture firm Becker Morgan, were approved by the Capital School Board Wednesday night. (Submitted)

DOVER — The design for Capital School District’s two new middle schools cleared the first hurdle Wednesday.

The Capital school board voted unanimously to approve the plans presented by architecture firm Becker Morgan Group for the site at the former Dover High School on Patrick Lynn Drive. The plans will now go on for approval to the city of Dover and planning commission, tentatively by April, officials said. Construction is slated for next September.

“We’ve gotten wonderful input, and I hope and think that this really reflects everything that we’ve been told by all of the teachers, all of your staff, all of your administrators, and we’re still tweaking it,” said Barbara Crum, an architect with the project. “But I think we really have responded to pretty much everything they’ve told us.”

The middle schools are designed as a 234,538-square-foot interconnected facility that will service 1,600 students in grades six through eight, but will function as two schools, each housing about 800 students with shared spaces.

A rendering shows the entrance of the two new, interconnected Capital School District middle schools. Designs, done by architecture firm Becker Morgan, were approved by the Capital School Board Wednesday night. (Submitted)

The buildings resulted from a successful April 2019 referendum, which sought $99.4 million in combined local and state funds for construction to address enrollment growth.

“When we first approached the design, we wanted to make sure it felt like two schools, was easy to understand [and] worked on the site,” said Carl Knutson, an architect for the project.

The two-story schools will share a 600-seat theater and black box theater, a performance gym and auxiliary gym and a media center.

“The intent of the school is to make sure that the administration stays with the students, so … students get to know their administration as they move from sixth grade, to seventh grade, to eighth grade,” Mr. Knutson said, “making sure that this is not high school, but this is middle school, so it feels like middle school to the students.”

The designs include 60 classrooms for core courses, such as English, math, science; 12 pull-out classrooms, which allows for non-restricted space and potential growth; two art rooms and three music rooms and space intended for pathways or for flexibility.

“Flexibility is key to the success here,” Mr. Knutson said. “We’ll also have several flexible areas to adapt and ebb and flow depending on the needs of the school. So if we have a larger class one year, we can accommodate that growth with the extra flexible space that we’re building.”

Superintendent Dan Shelton noted that the schools will be a “change in culture” compared to the design of Central Middle School.

“Central has a lot of tiny, little spaces. This will not have those,” he said. “There’s a lot of spaces here that are more flexible, that give opportunity for collaboration and inclusion.”

He added that there will be shared rooms — he gave the example of special education teachers in the same room as regular education teachers — but there will be enough space to spread out.

“That may be their home base, but they’ll have flexibility to be able to go into pull-out rooms, move out to that flexible space, potentially even using some of the blocks that are in the media center,” he continued.

The building also will have a courtyard, which, Ms. Crum said, will be enclosed by the cafeteria, art room and agriculture lab. She noted that allows for ease of use for the outdoor space.

“I hope that’ll really enrich all of those academic functions that are out there,” she continued.

The plans will retain the existing track and football field from the former Dover High School. Mr. Knutson said that there were plans to reconsider how the other fields are currently laid out on the property. A concession stand and shed will also be on the property.

Board members raised some concerns for the design before them Wednesday night, including the size of the gym and layout of the cafeteria.

Parent drop off is at the front of the building. Bus drop off and pick up takes place on the east side of the building, where students will enter through a side door that leads into a main corridor that runs between the schools.

With that design, the cafeteria is separated from the kitchen/service by the hall, which board member Anthony DePrima said “should be minimized as a hallway, other than doing the bus drop off” there.

“We felt the absolute same way in the office,” Ms. Crum said, noting that through ceiling and flooring details, they plan to make the spaces feel continuous. “We thought that all, that whole corridor, should feel like the cafeteria.”

The building can take up to 1,600 students — more than the district has needs for currently — but should Capital meet and begin to exceed that number, Dr. Shelton noted that the building is designed to grow.

Designs show additional wings that can be built on the south end of the building, near the main entrance, in addition to space within the building.

“This building grows before we try to add something new,” Dr. Shelton added.