Committee plans new school

Parents, faculty and students work with architects on design

Gazette-Times reporter

A high school should have clusters of classrooms close together and lots of small, open spaces and coves where students can sit down and relax. Large windows would be nice, too, preferably with ledges where people can peer out at trees or sit and enjoy a good book.

This would be the future of Corvallis High School, according to senior Jake Peterson.

As a student at CHS, Peterson is one of five student representatives on the Corvallis School District's design team, a committee of more than 50 people charged with creating the vision of a new Corvallis High.

Participation in this group required lots of time at meetings and an open mind to consider all the options for where to place school features, including the library, the gymnasium and the counseling center.

"They asked us, "What do you want this school to look like?' " Peterson said, "and, ‘If you were to design a school, what would it have?' "

But planning a new building entails more detail than where to place a stairwell, or two stories or three. For people involved in the CHS design team, the planning also provided an opportunity to think about the educational use of the building.

Although Peterson won't be around when a new school is built, he said he wanted to make sure that students' perspectives were accounted for in developing the school plan.

Corvallis High is one of two school buildings slated to be replaced if voters approve the district's $86.4 million facility bond in November. During the spring and summer, members of the design team met often to talk about a new school.

At a minimum, the team wants the building to provide a safe and secure environment for students and staff and provide appropriate access to all users. The team also established additional criteria for the school:
  • Provide flexibility, adaptability, variety and activity-support in learning settings.
  • Encourage individuality and different ways to learn that is self-initiated by students and staff.
  • Create a greater sense of connection and interaction among students and staff.
  • Encourage and support connections with and learning in the community for students of all ages.
  • Have effective, efficient and environmentally sensitive heating, cooling and lighting.
  • Improve partnerships with post-secondary education, business and industry and community-based organizations.
  • Use the natural resources of the site and community for learning opportunities.

Steve Olson, an architect with the Portland firm Dull Olson and Weeks, is assisting the design team as members mull over the possibilities for the school. The new school would be slightly larger than the existing building, or about 230,000 square-feet. Plans are to build the new school with the entrance facing Buchanan Avenue and place it further east on the property.

That would allow students to continue to use most of the old building until the new school is ready, but it would also disrupt sports facilities on the 30-acre campus for a few years. Using pieces of colored paper, design team members played with the different layouts for the buildings on the properties, then did a similar exercise for the specific components of those buildings.

Olson said he's used this process in other districts that have built new schools. Feedback and input from people who use the building helps the architects develop a plan that will meet the needs of its occupants.

"It gets the design committee involved and they can see the plans and understand the process we go through," Olson said. "But a facility is only one part of what makes a school successful."

To learn more:
WHAT: Corvallis High School design team meeting
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: Cheldelin Middle School, 987 N.E. Conifer Blvd.

Becky Waldrop covers youth and education for the Gazette-Times. She can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 758-9510.

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