Faced with the target of engaging students in learning in a classroom situation outside of what is normally expected, the architect for Deer Creek’s new middle school hit his mark.
“I wanted the students to become intrigued with learning and enjoy their surroundings while doing so,” said Socrates Lazaridis, principal architect and director of Renaissance Architects and Engineers who designed the new school.
General contractor for the project was Flintco Inc., and Jeremy Halferty served as program manager throughout the two-year building process.
The school’s doors opened Tuesday to 747 students topping off two years of work on the 157,000-square-foot, $36 million school building. The school is one of the 39 district-wide projects being completed from the 2009 Deer Creek bond package of $142.1 million.
For Lazaridis it is the completion of the story behind the school bringing together Oklahoma’s history with the history behind Deer Creek.
“The school displays the heritage of the area as a farming community with native stone used throughout the school and creeks designed on the terrazzo tile flowing throughout the school,” Laziridis said.
Oklahoma’s history is told through the 12 murals done by Oklahoma artist Scott Charles Henderson of SCH Murals as what looks like clouds on the prairie hang overhead in the hallways and gathering areas hide or act as a backdrop for lighting throughout the school.
“The heritage of Oklahoma is shown through the murals Scott Henderson painted as symbols of the native character of Oklahomans,” Lazaridis said.
From the dash for homesteads through the Oklahoma City skyline with the Devon Tower looming over the other buildings. Each of the murals depicts Oklahoma’s, as well as Deer Creek’s, heritage.
Within the murals as well as on the floor are symbols representing music, math, DNA and and other signs of learning.
Open learning areas are placed throughout the school, setting a casual environment in which the students may study or teachers may hold classes.
“There is a warm feeling with variances of lighting from room to room and throughout the halls,” said Reuben Bellows, principal.
Lazaridis added natural lighting was used whenever possible throughout the school.
The students and teachers were definitely excited to return to school in the new building, Bellows said. “The community has joined in and given much to help make this happen.”
Local businesses donated furniture for the new school, Quail Springs Church of Christ helped sort library books, parents helped decorate the front entry and offices with trees, plants and wall decorations, and the students helped put together band instruments before the opening of school.
“It helps the students to feel like they have an ownership in the school,” Bellows said.
The school facilities include a tornado shelter that can house the school’s population, a football field, tennis courts, softball and baseball fields. The building and facilities came in at under $185 a square foot, Lazaridis said.
“This school is state-of-the-art,” he added. “The unique thing is this is not a typical school building. We wanted to break out of the mold of that type of building, and we believe we have.
“Our goal was to enhance learning areas and capabilities, and we believe we have done that.”
From lounge chairs with desk tops for laptop computers to outdoor learning stations in the courtyards, students will be experiencing learning in a way never before experienced in Deer Creek schools.
“The DNA symbols running throughout the school are subtle signs that it is DNA that makes us brothers and sisters,” Lazaridis said, “and we are all part of humanity, we are one.”
Lazaridis added, “It is a great opportunity to see everyone excited and happy in their new school. This is our greatest reward.”
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