“It’s an incredible facility,” said principal Jason Wayman. “I hope it inspires the community to say, ‘I want that for the rest of our schools.’”
Last week, Wayman agreed to lead The Cortez Journal on a guided tour of the new two-story 152,000-square-foot facility. Asked what impressed him the most, Wayman summed it up with one word: technology.
“There are possibilities inside the school that I never even imagined,” he said.
Not only are each of the school’s 20 standard, six science and 18 specialty classrooms wired with stand-alone Wi-Fi capabilities, they also come equipped with lesson capture software by Frontrow. The technology is designed to help teachers deliver education more effectively and efficiently, Wayman said.
With a voice amplification microphone, the equipment enables teachers to record their lessons in real time. To launch the program, a teacher only has to say, “Begin.” In addition to sound, the system also records all the lessons written on an interactive whiteboard or computer screen. When completed, the teacher says, “Finish.”
Frontrow then automatically titles the video with the right name and subject before posting it onto a server. Students who missed class or need a refresher can catch up immediately by downloading the lesson – on practically any device, including a computer or smartphone.
“It’s going to be beneficial,” said Wayman. “In addition to students, the lessons can be viewed by parents too.”
Continuing with the tour, Wayman pointed out that the building was designed to promote a higher -education and career-focused atmosphere. The goal was reached via the career-technical education classrooms, said Wayman.
For example, cameras are mounted inside an actual ambulance – built into a classroom – so fire emergency management students can view lessons in real time. And culinary students, armed with a full industrial kitchen, are able to catch a chef’s-eye view of every tutorial via movable mirrors over prep stations.
“We want our students to be able to walk out of here with the skills to get a job,” said Wayman.
Wayman was also excited that the art classroom features jewelry vices mounted onto workbenches and a walk-through door into a darkroom. The agriculture classroom was complete with exhausted woodworking stations, a professional paint booth and individual welding rigs. The consumer science classroom includes everything found in a one-bedroom apartment for life-skills students. The double-size science classroom serves the dual purpose of a traditional educational setting with desks as well as an actual working laboratory. The theater classroom can be transformed into a mini-black box theater.
The new school also features an acoustically designed 450-seat performance theater complete with dressing rooms, an auxiliary gym with multipurpose flooring, and a basketball gym with Bluetooth-capable public address system as well as home and visitor locker rooms for boys and girls.
Helping to power the new LEED Gold-certified school is a 50-kilowatt solar system. And aiding to ensure that the climate is controlled in each individual classroom and throughout the building is a geothermal mechanical system. The price tag for the cutting-edge heating and cooling system alone was slightly more than $6.5 million. Officials have forecast that the green geothermal system would pay for itself in 17 years.
Geothermal energy is generated and stored in the earth. Through a system of underground pipes, the system works in the summer by moving heat from the building into the ground. In the winter, it does the opposite, providing pre-warmed air and water to the heating system of the building. Projections indicate the system would save some $285,000 in energy costs and an additional $485,000 in mechanical costs over a 30 years.
Other environmental aspects of the project included recycling 90 percent of all construction waste, using recycled concrete as a base material for parking lots, installing wooden doors that contain recycled materials, utilizing structural steel that contained a quarter of recycled materials and fitting LED light systems throughout the building.
Asked to identify the focal point of the new school, Wayman didn’t hesitate. The view from the second-floor library is magnificent.
“Growing up here, it’s sometimes easy to forget how amazing the landscape is surrounding Cortez,” said Wayman. “The view of the Sleeping Ute Mountain from the library just pops.”
In addition to the vistas from the library, architects also designed the building to include views of the La Plata Mountains and Mesa Verde National Park. Not only do the large windows offer panoramic vistas, but they also provide extensive natural lighting conducive to learning, Wayman said.
Located off a grand staircase below the library is a commons area and cafeteria. Designed like a food court, the cafeteria allows students to pick and choose individual food items. Scores of high and low tables line the indoor commons area with a door to a south-facing courtyard.
Modern features were also considered when purchasing new desks. Instead of each student sitting individually, they are now paired at one table to promote collaboration, Wayman said. Each table includes two white boards that can be used for class work or installed as dividers during tests.
But perhaps of greater importance to students: Where do I charge a phone?
In addition to conventional wall outlets, Wayman said officials specifically purchased furniture with integrated docking stations for charging electronics.
“Even the couches have USB plugs,” said Wayman.
The latest construction costs for the new building is $35.8 million. Combining land acquisition, architectural designs and inspection costs, the project totals almost $41.4 million. The development is funded by a Colorado Department of Education BEST grant of $22.2 million and a local 20-year bond of $18.9 million.