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Lifelong Learning

School Board hears update about initial ideas for rebuilding Moorhead High

March 20, 2019

On March 11, 2019, the Moorhead School Board heard an update about the first meeting of the High School Conceptual Design Task Force. The task force will meet three or four times to review conceptual design details for replacing Moorhead High School before presenting to the School Board later this spring.

The School Board voted Feb. 11 to accept the High School Facilities Task Force recommendation to replace Moorhead High School on the existing site with a career and technical center located on a separate site. The school as recommended would be designed for 2,400 students with common areas designed for 2,600 students. Approximately a quarter of the existing building would be renovated.

Most of the current school will be removed following completion of the first phase of construction. This will eliminate the lack of light, split-level configuration and circulation issues found in the current high school, explained Brian Berg, Zerr Berg Architects, at the Feb. 11 meeting.

At the March 11 board meeting, Berg described the first of the Conceptual Design Task Force meetings held Feb. 20. The task force is considering these design drivers identified by the facilities task force:

  • Provide welcoming, engaging and fully accessible spaces throughout the school in an environment that supports connectivity and social interaction, reinforces positive behavior and identity, and enhances occupant safety and security.
  • Provide flexible, adaptable, versatile learning spaces that can support multiple modes of learning from traditional lecture to small group activities, active learning, collaboration and peer-to-peer learning.
  • Spaces must support personalized, student-centered learning within small learning communities (school within a school).
  • Provide access to natural light throughout with an appropriate level of transparency between common areas and circulation spaces to learning spaces.
  • Provide an entry that projects community and school pride.
  • Provide spaces that support and enhance the eight characteristics in the Portrait of a Moorhead Graduate.
  • Make building systems and finish decisions that support durability, sustainability and operational efficiency.

Other considerations by the Conceptual Design Task Force are building exposure/orientation, approach, parking and entry, event parking and entry, how the building can engage the community, opportunities to show school pride, and other site considerations, constraints or barriers.

“I’m pretty sure there will be a lot of orange and black around this building,” Berg said, noting the discussion of school pride at the task force meeting.

Additionally, the task force discussed that construction will be phased so the existing academic space remains in use during construction of the new academic space.

During their meeting, the task force members worked in small groups with a student at each table. They used cutouts representing the core functions in the school to explore options for building layout on the site. This was a high-level discussion about what spaces should be adjacent to each other, how various spaces could be organized on the site, how the commons could be situated to best serve all aspects of the school, and ideas for re-using the ninth-grade center and existing cafeteria/commons space.

The change in level between the ninth-grade center and a replacement of the rest of the school raised concerns, Berg said. “Because the ninth-grade center follows the split-level model, if the goal is to get all of the building on grade level, it prevents that,” he said. “A number of groups asked why we are holding on to that piece.”

Besides a concern that keeping the ninth-grade center may limit accessibility and restrict the layout of the building, other ideas that emerged from several groups were to have academics spaces to the north, arts on the west, and athletics to the east. One group had a version with the theater in the middle.

“The arts program that Moorhead has is incredibly strong, and we want to really lift that up and make that as prominent as the athletics on the other end,” Berg said in response to a question related to feedback on the theater and music spaces.

School Board Vice Chair Cassidy Bjorklund asked board members to remain open to options as the Conceptual Design Task Force continues to work.

Bjorklund asked if using renewable energy sources could be considered. Berg said they could explore options for solar energy to see whether the cost of including, operating and maintaining makes sense with the payback.

Board members Keith Vogt and Kara Gloe expressed their appreciation for those task force members committing their time to make the design recommendation.

Members of the High School Conceptual Design Task Force work in small groups to determine how cutouts representing the major spaces in the high school could fit together on the site.
Task force members review and discuss the various ideas that the groups developed for the high school building layout. Photo credit: Zerr Berg Architects

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