WOODS CROSS - Nothing about this school is random.
Not the direction it faces, not the size of its windows, not the patterns on its walls, not the finish on its floor.
The new Odyssey Elementary in Woods Cross is being built to educate. And it’s being built to inspire. And while it’s doing that, it’s being built to provide collaborative space, improve supervision and save energy.
“It’s kind of a remarkable building in a lot of ways,” said Jeanne Jackson, a principal at VCBO architects and designer of the school. “I think one of the things that we as a firm have done in collaboration with the district is to study the way education is changing and to create environments that will enhance that and facilitate that.”
She was quick to compliment leaders in Davis School District for their vision.
“They are the most progressive in their thinking about how to improve the educational process,” she said, “and that extends through every level of their whole idea of education.”
Woods Cross’ Odyssey Elementary is the first of a new prototype the district will be using for future elementary schools.
Because less land is available for schools, she was tasked with designing a two-story structure. She is quick to note other benefits of a two-story building, the first being the ability to adjust its solar orientation to take best advantage of light.
With windows on the north and south, less artificial lighting is necessary and less energy is needed to heat or cool the structure.
A two-story building keeps everybody closer together so it’s easier for supervision, she said, and it’s economical because it requires a third less roof and a third-less footing and foundation.
Bryan Turner is the director of architecture and new construction for Davis School District.
“We get committees together of teachers, students, principals, custodial staff and foods (employees),” he said. “We clear the slate of what we know about elementary schools ... we make a lot of subtle changes, mostly inside the classroom.”
There is a reason for everything from where the sinks are installed to which end of the hall the bathrooms are placed.
On a tour of the facility, he and Jackson pointed out the expansive collaborative space between classrooms and explained how glass doors as big as garage doors can be raised to open classrooms into the open area.
“Learning is going to be project-based learning rather than sitting in a room and listening to a teacher,” said Jackson.
This school has no computer lab, she said, because “the computer is a part of everyday learning and not just some place you go.”
When complete, the $12.2 million building will have 32 classrooms, plus offices and a separate gym and eating/commons area in its 85,000 square feet. It will also have a lifespan of 75 to 100 years, according to Turner.
“One of the other kind of amazing things about this building is it’s going to be the most energy efficient school in Utah when it’s built,” said Jackson.
It is being built to be Net Zero Ready, and they are working to earn a Gold LEED designation for energy efficiency.
Awnings over the south-facing windows will be photovoltaic cells, and they’re hoping grants will help purchase more solar panels.
Circulation comes through large wall panels rather than the floor or ceiling. Temperature controls are in each individual classroom.
The school also features large windows that face front, helping with security, plus skylights in halls and large windows in classrooms.
“Test scores increase substantially if you learn in a room with natural daylight,” said Jackson. “We all feel better when we have daylight.”
Another benefit, adds Turner, is that you don’t have to turn the lights on.
Jackson presented information to the school board last month about the theme selected for the new school: Bodies in Motion.
Each of the classroom pods will focus on things that jump, fly, run and swim such as planets, waves, volcanoes, animals and humans. The focus is also a nod to the importance of healthy and active lifestyles.
The design of exterior walls will show motion and exhibits inside the buildings, some changeable, will feature the theme in words and in pictures.
“Superintendent (Bryan) Bowles likes the schools to be playful and exciting to children,” said Jackson, “something that I think not every district understands. A lot of people think of a little red school with a bell tower, but really, it’s a school that excites children’s imaginations.”