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Middle School No. 8 design progresses with focus on collaborative learning

Middle School No. 8 front entrance
 
Planning of Denton Independent School District’s eighth middle school is progressing in anticipation of a likely fall 2017 opening, with the district’s board of trustees recently receiving a glimpse at the school’s tentative design, which emphasizes collaborative learning.

Middle School No. 8, which will be located between Martop and McCormick roads in the town of Oak Point, will be the first campus to use Denton ISD’s new prototype middle school design. That design, created by architecture firm Corgan, focuses on providing students with quality learning environments with three key concepts in mind: self-contained classroom pods, collaboration spaces and outdoor learning areas.

The ideals behind Corgan’s design came from direct input provided by Denton ISD students, teachers, administrators and community members, as the architecture firm held input meetings in April to gather feedback regarding what stakeholders hope to find in the school. Input ranged from items as minor as types of chairs to major facets such as classroom features and the building’s general layout.

At the district’s July 28 board meeting, Susan Smith, an architect with Corgan, explained that the new school is being designed for flexibility to provide all students with a modern learning environment.

“We built the classroom houses all the same way so they’re identical, interchangeable and can be configured to meet various students’ needs,” she said.
 
Middle School No. 8 plaza and event entrance

Plans for the new middle school provide each grade level – sixth, seventh and eighth – with its own academic space, and each grade-level space features a unique “learning stair” structure. In addition to serving as stairways between floors of the two-story school, this design element doubles as a learning area that includes group collaboration platforms, charging stations, lecture seating and other amenities designed to encourage group learning.

Students will still share common areas such as athletics, fine arts and special programs, making the best use of space for activities common to all grade levels. Additionally, two outdoor courtyards located within the building’s architecture – one to serve for learning and instruction, the other for fine arts performances – will be available for school-wide use.

“I like the idea of each grade having their own self-contained areas but also having access to these common areas that everyone can use,” said Barbara Burns, board president. “I think we’re past the phase of only using lecture halls as a common meeting space.”

Middle School No. 8 will also make use of energy-efficient features such as LED lighting, geothermal heating and cooling, and insulated concrete walls. The potential use of solar or wind energy is also being considered for the school.

With its location in the U.S. Highway 380 corridor, the new campus will become the second middle school for students in the district’s eastern communities and provide Navo Middle School with relief. The U.S. 380 corridor is the fastest-growing portion of Denton ISD, and middle school students are expected to account for almost 7,000 of the district’s enrolled population by 2017.