CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Side's new $21 million school will be mostly composed of large "exploratory centers" instead of standard classrooms, and will offer a new type of integrated curriculum that emphasizes learning and technology that allows students to direct their own learning.
The new "museum-like," 52,000 square-foot "school of the future" planned near Edgewood Country Club is set to welcome students by fall 2014, and will consolidate the oldest buildings in the district, J.E. Robins and Watts elementary schools.
Four large instructional centers will house 60 to 75 students at a time, with four to five teachers guiding the students.
Two of the exploratory centers will be for second- and third-graders and two for fourth- and fifth-grade students. They'll feature space for art and science projects, a performance arena and a shared library and media center. Each exploratory center also will host three individual classrooms for direct math and reading instruction.
Sliding doors and moveable partitions will allow for flexibility if teachers need to temporarily separate the classrooms.
Pre-kindergarten through first-grade students will remain in a traditional classroom setting in order to focus on early literacy, math and socialization skills.
Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Ron Duerring expects the unique school to be unlike anything the area has seen before.
"Like a children's museum, kids will have a variety of interesting areas to work with and explore. It's different than anything we've done. It's the first time we've actually designed the building to make it fit the curriculum, rather than making it fit the building," he said.
Each student will have access to a personal wireless device to check their daily schedules, participate in online independent studies and provide instructors with immediate feedback of their progress.
"It's about self-directed learning. Kids are going to take primary responsibility, and the teachers will be on the side, guiding them through the processes of researching and experimenting," Duerring said.
The new school will also help students learn about environmental and health issues.
Signs throughout the building will monitor the school's energy use, and students will learn about air quality, efficient HVAC systems, solar power and recycling.