The Elbert School
Hord Coplan Macht (formerly Slaterpaull Architects) was selected to design a new school in Elbert, Colorado. The project was made possible by a Colorado Department of Education B.E.S.T. grant (Building Excellent Schools Today) along with a successful matching bond election from Elbert’s local community. The design phase kicked off with interviews and workshops with students, staff and community members. During the conceptual and schematic phases, the project was guided by the Elbert Design Advisory Group, composed of a select group of school staff and local community members.
The Elbert school site is located on a hillside at the north end of town, about 30 miles southeast of Castle Rock, CO. The new school will be constructed on the same site as the existing current facility. Some materials in the existing facility, and are intended to be reused again in the new school. The site is approximately 10 acres in size, partly on a plateau flattened out of the hillside. The program for the new PK-12 school is defined in the master plan and grant program document as 73,869 square feet in size. 70,869 square feet are assigned to the new school and 3,000 square feet are assigned to a new district maintenance building. The school is being designed to connect the community access to the gymnasiums, cafeteria, and the library. The rest of the school may be secured from access during community use. The program includes classrooms for grades Pre-K through 12, including science labs, computer labs, foreign language, special education, and career and technical education. Also included are music and art classrooms. A weight room, locker rooms and training room support the athletic program along with main and auxiliary gyms. The school will house a full kitchen, cafeteria, concessions kitchen, public library and flex computer lab, or “Idea Room.” The administrative offices will accommodate both school and district offices, plus meeting space and a board room that will expand to allow public attendance. The school will be pursuing LEED for Schools ‘Gold’ certification. Currently, Elbert PK-12 School has an Site Energy Use Intensity (EUI) of 67 kBtu/sf.
Site development includes a small play field, hardscape play areas, an outdoor patio and entry court, an outdoor classroom, as well as a bus loop and parking area. The bus drop off area is separated from the parent drop off area. A major new access road is also planned to access the site across an adjacent property from the nearby highway.
The concept of a “visual chain” is carried through the rest of the school, with generous windows to the classrooms from the corridors. Informal student gathering areas flanking the main office suite look directly out across the entry court, the outdoor classroom, the historic school plaza and across the play areas to the south. Direct views through multiple areas again reinforce a sense of community, this time with the common thread of “student-owned” areas.
The exterior design of the building strives to find its place in the context of Elbert, Colorado. The forms of the building hug the site’s rolling hills, a geography common to the region. The materials and composition of the building are derived from the rustic ranch buildings in the surrounding landscape, taking stone, siding, and some natural wood and concrete for the materials palette and combining them into forms with a more civic nature, expressing the building as both a school and a community center.