The Sun Valley City Council unanimously approved on Thursday, April 3, the private Community School’s plans to demolish its current middle school and replace it with a new middle school and creative arts building.
The existing two-story, 9,376-square-foot building will be replaced with a two-story, 20,500-square-foot structure intended to meet the school’s increasing enrollment needs.
Architect Brendan Connolly explained to the City Council the importance of building a new facility.
“The school is currently facing facility challenges that impede the work they do in terms of their education programs … and flexibility for current teaching practices and curriculum needs,” Connolly said. “In many respects, the school has identified the need for new facilities in order to improve its work.”
Head of School David Holmes said the project will cost about $7.5 million and will take about 10 months to complete. The project is expected to begin in June, after the current school year ends, he said.
Holmes said he is very happy with the emphatic support of both the Sun Valley City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission.
“It’s exhilarating to see the community recognizes the importance of education for the future of our valley,” Holmes said. “The Community School is a critical part of the vitality of our valley, and it’s great to know that people support what we’re trying to do to advance our education.”
The new building is set to be placed in the same location as the old building at the rear portion of the existing campus near Trail Creek, below a bluff leading up to the Sun Valley Horseman’s Center. The project area consists of a 6.37-acre site of Public Institution-zoned property.
The application for the project also includes a master plan to meet the short- and long-term needs of the school. Phase 1 consists of demolition and rebuilding the Dumke Middle School building, a remodel of existing Engl Hall, a new 1,400-square-foot teaching greenhouse, accessory storage structures and temporary classroom structures that will be used for the duration of construction and then removed from the site.
Connolly said during the meeting that environmental considerations to the area have played a major role in the project’s design.
“We’re not only thinking about sensitivity to the environment in terms of the ecology of Trail Creek, but also neighboring views and things of that nature by putting in active programs with more student activity on the north side rather than on the south side,” Connolly said. “We are doing so to keep a natural buffering on those quieter spaces on the south side of the building.”
He said the building will fit in with the rest of the Community School campus.
“This building can be best described as a subdued pallete of materials that are both sympathetic with Community School buildings currently in place and with a larger aesthetic of the Sun Valley community,” Connolly said. “This will include things like larger metal siding, glue-laminated timbers and expressive amounts of transparency that look after this beautiful creek setting. It’s meant to become part of the campus in a very quiet way occupying that spot.”
Councilman Peter Hendricks voiced his strong support shortly before voting to approve the project.
“I think this is a wonderful and great project by a very important and valued member of our community,” Hendricks said. “I wholeheartedly support this.”