Osceola County school officials will schedule trips to Orlando and Palm Springs in January to visit the top four middle school sites among dozens of prototype designs that were submitted this month for reuse.
The district has had a successful history with Schenkel Shultz, which has designed middle school and high school prototypes for the county. That firm received the highest score Wednesday morning from the district's selection committee, and Purchasing Supervisor Cheryl Jesse told GrowthSpotter the committee members unanimously ranked the Palm Springs Community Middle School as their favorite design.
"Our chief facilities director was familiar with the three Orange County schools because he's from there," she said. "But none of them have seen the one in West Palm, so they're really anxious to see that one."
The school design, which combines Gothic and Art Deco design elements, was a 2007 Architectural Showcase winner. It was built on a compact site using concrete tilt-wall construction, and the styling details were cast into the panels, as explained in this CRSI case study.
Eight architectural firms responded to the district's Request for Information (RFI) published in late October. The firms were invited to provide multiple designs to accommodate both urban and suburban school sites.
Three Orange County middle schools also made the shortlist.
BRPH designed the award-winning Lake Nona Middle School prototype, which earned the second highest score. According to the company website, the firm "pushed the envelope of design and school programming to new heights."
Lake Nona Middle School serves 1,257 students distributed among three "grade-level houses," one per floor. Each house contains satellite guidance spaces, administrative support, classrooms, resource rooms, and skills labs, creating a small school within a larger facility.
Jesse said the design could be tweaked to meet Osceola County's minimum requirement for 1,408 students. "There was discussion about that," she said. "It's just a simple addition – stretching the building so you can get the right number of (classrooms) in the facility."
The committee will make two site visits to Orange County middle schools that are currently under construction and scheduled to open in the fall. Hunton Brady Architects' new Avalon Park Relief Middle School ranked third. Harvard Jolly's Lake Nona Relief Middle School also made the cut.
Jesse said the district currently has a middle school prototype design from Shenkel Shultz that was adapted and used for the Westside K-8 School, but it's about a decade old.
The school board had hoped to have more options to choose from for the next middle school, but they may be cutting it too close to the wire. The Harmony Middle School is scheduled to open in Fall 2019.
"Probably the next school we build will be with (the old) prototype," Jesse said. "To build a middle school is an 18-month process."
The district is already in the early permitting stages for the Harmony campus, so the school board will have to decide whether to keep the Westside prototype or use one of the new designs. The board has a workshop in December to discuss the matter.
"They want to take their time through this process, because they want this to be a good choice," Jesse said.
Even if it's too late to select a new prototype for Harmony, the district will follow through with the selection process. It's likely the district will choose multiple designs to fit both compact and suburban sites.
"We do want to get some additional prototypes gathered so we have more options for when the next one comes up," Jesse said. "This is part of our strategic plan – to be ready. We are planning on going out for a prototype for an elementary soon."