By Kailey Fisicaro

The Bulletin

Bend-La Pine Schools’ new elementary will be built with the same plan as Silver Rail Elementary School, with a few tweaks by a design team.

This will be the second time Bend-La Pine uses the two-story school design, which includes 24 classrooms, a gym, a library, a special room for science, technology, engineering, arts and math, and a transparent entryway meant to keep students and staff safe.

The work Bend-La Pine Schools did with architects in planning Silver Rail Elementary was significant, said Lora Nordquist, assistant superintendent for the district. Now, the district’s design team has been building on and perfecting that design.

Nordquist was asked by the district to take on the added role of helping design the new schools, including the high school expected to open in fall 2021.

“It’s so exciting; it’s really fun to do this design work,” Nordquist said.

Bend-La Pine Schools originally estimated the new elementary school would cost $33 million, but staff is calculating an updated price tag. The school, expected to open in 2019, will be paid for with a record $268.3 million school bond voters overwhelmingly approved in May. At its most recent school board meeting last month, Bend-La Pine announced it will purchase 10-12 acres, for about $1 million to $1.2 million, at the intersection of O.B. Riley and Cooley roads to build the new elementary.

Some of the new school’s biggest design differences from Silver Rail will actually appear on the exterior of the school, Nordquist said. While Silver Rail Elementary is “very attractive,” it may look like a school for older students at first glance, Nord­quist said. A revised design will “be more inviting for younger children,” Nordquist said, and include a covered entrance with benches near the main office that will be ideal for children waiting to get picked up from school.

There will be a few changes to the interior of the school, Nordquist said.

At Silver Rail, there are four wings with six classrooms in each wing. Each group of six classrooms surrounds its own commons area that can be used for teachers to split up classes into small groups, allow students to have one-on-one time with educational assistants or provide space for students to work on their own. While most of Silver Rail’s classrooms have a good view of the commons area, a couple of its teachers can’t see out to check how work is going.

In the new school, some classrooms will be shifted a few feet or have windows added so teachers inside can better see the commons area.

At Silver Rail, a couple of bathrooms are located outside of doors that can be locked at the push of a button in the event of a lockdown. In the new school design, those doors will be moved to encompass the bathrooms, Nordquist said.

At Bend-La Pine’s last school board meeting, BLRB Architects shared other minor changes planned for the new school. More windows and natural light will be added, a lot more wood will be incorporated in the interior and an upstairs railing will be made more transparent so kids aren’t tempted to climb to what’s below.

Because staff at Silver Rail are happy with the school’s design, there are many aspects they wanted to see duplicated in the new school, Nordquist said.

Like at Silver Rail, one space will be a dedicated gym instead of a combination gym, commons area and cafeteria, which is the case at many other Bend-La Pine elementary schools.

A “STEAM room” — an extra class space set aside for work involving science, technology, engineering, arts and math — will also be included again in the design.

Silver Rail Principal Tammy Doty, who has also served on the design team for the new elementary, said that is a well-loved space at her school. But that, too, will see some tweaking, Doty said. It’s not ideal that the kiln is in the same room as the students and gets hot when it’s baking pottery. In the new school, a small side room will be added to house a kiln.

At the front of the school, an extra office will be added to make space for someone, such as a counselor or school psychologist, Doty said.

Other big plans for the new school, such as finding a principal and giving it a name, are further off. A planning principal is expected to be hired before the end of the current school year, according to Bend-La Pine’s communications director, Julianne Repman. A committee will likely help come up with options for a name, and the school district will take community input closer to the school opening, she confirmed.

— Reporter: 541-383-0325,