Cherokee Elementary rebuild design plans on display for Scottsdale school board

An artist’s rendering of Cherokee Elementary School after the rebuild project is completed. (Graphic courtesy of Scottsdale Unified School District)

Officials from Orcutt Winslow, an architect firm working on the rebuild of Cherokee Elementary School, stood before the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board Tuesday, Aug. 20 to give an update on their ongoing project.

The update included a design concept, which the firm presented previously at an Aug. 12 community meeting, and tentative dates for the project. The firm plans to submit a guaranteed maximum price in December.

Cherokee is at 8801 N. 56th St. in the Town of Paradise Valley.

Tom O’Neil, Orcutt Winslow senior associate, said the firm is about 80% done with the design phase and will submit its plans to the town in October.

Mr. O’Neil began the presentation with background history on the team’s involvement with the community.

Superintendent Dr. John Kriekard said community involvement is vital to projects like these thus the district and Orcutt Winslow did extensive collaboration with community members.

“We wanted to make sure we didn’t make the same mistakes that had been made before,” he said of the collaborative approach.

“We knew it was going to be a difficult build. The existing building, the layout of the land is very difficult, so we knew there were going to be some tough decisions to make. They (Orcutt Winslow) made those decisions but with a great deal of community input and input from the staff and I think that’s important for the people who will live there both the parents of the kids and the staff itself.”

A tentative plan for the rebuild of Cherokee Elementary School. In the site plan, 56th Street is on the left of the school while residential homes are above, below and to the right of the school. (Graphic courtesy of Scottsdale Unified School District)

Campus design

Scott Sowinski, design architect at Orcutt Winslow, gave an overview of the design, saying the architects wanted to draw inspiration from the area’s culture and history. .

This led the team to develop four strategies in designing the school:

  • Cherokee as a nurse plant, provides students a healthy and safe school experience.
  • Achievement of connection to nature through biophilic design patterns and principles.
  • Maximizing the layout of the design to take advantage of outdoor learning and modern curriculum delivery.
  • Mix of mid-century modern aesthetics with contemporary materials and Sonoran desert context.

These strategies, Mr. Sowinski said, came from what the community believed to be unique to Cherokee. The design plans for several features that will allow for outdoor and indoor learning, regardless of the temperature and time of year.

“Your new Cherokee Elementary is meant to celebrate that Cherokee 2.0 message as an outdoor and indoor learning environment,” Mr. Sowinski said

Overall, plans call for the existing solar panels and bus loop on 56th Street to remain but more parking and a Cherokee history sign to go where the existing campus resides. This will push school buildings further south and fields to go to the east of the parking and campus facilities.

Plans also show four buildings, which include two classroom buildings, an administration building and a multipurpose building. Classrooms are gathered by age group and will feature a collaborative pod area for each grade.

“The current campus also has special areas between buildings that we’re trying to replicate,” Mr. Sowinski said. “The emphasis on the design is not necessarily what’s happening in the buildings but what’s happening throughout the buildings, what’s happening between the buildings, etc.”

The school will also feature a school bus inside one of the buildings as an homage to the children’s book “Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus.” Mr. Sowinski said the book series draw inspiration from Cherokee hence the homage.

Cherokee Elementary School is at 8801 N. 56th St. in Paradise Valley. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

As far as security, Mr. Sowinski said the development team worked with Paradise Valley Police Chief Peter Wingert, SUSD Chief Security Officer James Dorer and other industry experts to design the campus security plan.

The school will feature, Mr. Sowinski said, a layered security system, perimeter security and limited points of entry.

Developers also added more lanes for parents to drop off their children with the hope that will ease traffic back-up on the surrounding streets.

Future timeline

Core Construction plans to do the project in three phases from December 2019 to January 2021.

The first phase will include construction of the classroom buildings on the south as well as the fields on the southeast. This would happen from December 2019 to July 2020.

The second phase, which has plans to run from May 2020 to January 2021, will include demolition of the southernmost buildings of the old campus as well as the construction of the other two buildings.

The third phase will likely run from July 2020 to January 2021 and will include the demolition of the rest of the buildings, the construction of parking and the finishing of the fields.

Core Construction plans on doing any demolition when students are not in school.

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