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Staff, students tour three Colorado schools, taking notes for Centennial, East builds

Centennial and East principals on school tours in March

Various stakeholders including community members, teachers, students and administrators from District 60, Centennial High School and East High School toured three Colorado schools Friday, taking notes on school features and amenities as the design stage for new Centennial and East high schools gets underway.

Jack Mousseau, a Principal Architect with MOA Architects, which along with HGF Architects are drawing up plans for the new high schools, arranged the tours to give the Pueblo contingent a chance to essentially “window shop” school features.

Tours took place at Vista Peak High School in Aurora, Cherry Creek Innovation Campus in Aurora, and Chinook Trail Middle School in Colorado Springs. Two of those schools, Vista Peak and Chinook Trail, were designed by MOA/HGF.

Vista Peak is a more traditional, comprehensive high school while the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus is a specialty campus for Career and Technical Education (CTE) students. Chinook Hills, while a middle school, was built for 1,000 students, which is the planned capacity for the East and Centennial high schools.

“We wanted to show off a variety of schools,” Mousseau said. “Each school has a different component, and it’s part of showing this group what education looks like today.”

Each building demonstrated current educational trends and approaches in action, and though the schools were nothing alike, they all had similar modern approaches to school security, energy efficiency, natural lighting and architectural style.

Centennial Principal David Craddock and East Principal Andy Clementi examined details of each school, taking notes along the way and thinking about the needs of their students.

“I’m looking at everything,” Clementi said, “looking at the flow of the building and the safety. Also, with us being a neighborhood school, it’s important for us to look at things like competitive gyms, auditoriums, places for our CTE programs. These are things that our community wants.”

Craddock said his biggest takeaway was the focus on shared learning spaces, an emerging trend in education. Larger cooperative classrooms and “pods” that encourage collaboration between classes and students were on display at all three schools.

“I liked the shareable space concept,” Craddock said. “Industries today have a lot of shareable, collaborative space, and to see that and how (the schools) use it in education was a nice thing that I was looking for.”

Centennial freshman Abbie Odell saw eye-to-eye with Craddock on the concept of larger learning spaces. 

“One of the biggest things for me was comfort,” Odell said, “and things that would provide a better learning environment. The bigger learning spaces, better chairs and desks is what’s important for me.”

Comfort and collaboration was also key on East freshman Kayla Valdez’s wishlist. She enjoyed the larger joined spaces at each school, both in and out of the classroom.

“I love the modern looks, the furniture, the higher ceilings and the larger learning spaces,” Valdez said. “A place that is more open and has social spaces for students, that makes me feel more comfortable.”

The features of the schools toured Friday will be one of many items being discussed on Thursday, March 5 at a Community Public Forum about the schools’ designs. The forum beings at 6 p.m. and takes place in the Ryals Room at the Rawlings Pueblo Library.