Friday, September 24, 2021

East Lansing elementary schools see progress on major upgrades

November 16, 2018
<p>Pinecrest Elementary School is pictured on Nov. 1, 2018 in East Lansing, MI.</p>

Pinecrest Elementary School is pictured on Nov. 1, 2018 in East Lansing, MI.

Photo by CJ Weiss | The State News

East Lansing’s Whitehills Elementary School will be up and running with a brand-new building for the fall of 2020.

At a community forum Tuesday night in the elementary school’s library, administrators, engineers, architects and landscapers presented their progress on the plans for the new Whitehills school building. They gave the audience of parents, teachers and community members an update on what to expect as the Whitehills project continues.

That construction project is part of a larger plan to build five new elementary schools, renovate Red Cedar Elementary and rebuild four others, including Whitehills, Pinecrest and Marble Elementary Schools are already under construction.

These plans were approved as part of a 25-year millage approved in the spring of 2017.

According to East Lansing Public Schools Superintendent Dori Leyko, the new Whitehills building will have a more secure, modern design.

“We’re looking at a lot of transparency especially from the office, so we have good views on to our site, to see who’s coming and going onto the site,” Leyko said. “There will be a secure entrance at each of the buildings so that parents will be coming in the front vestibule and straight into the office.”

Leyko said a consideration made when designing the new schools was an efficient pick-up, drop-off and busing system that only allows people to enter through the main office, rather than straight into the school hallways as the current building does.

The schools will have a new lockdown system as well, giving administrators the ability to lock interior and exterior doors automatically in case of a crisis. Architect Jeff Hoag said that individual classrooms and sections of the building could be locked down by pushing a button.

The new schools will be more environmentally friendly as well. Leyko said the school district is planning on ditching single-use styrofoam trays during lunch periods and switching to a reusable option.

“We are also using geothermal energy to heat and cool the buildings,” Leyko said. “All of the buildings will be designed to be solar-ready, so we’ll have the infrastructure to add on solar either at the end of the project if there's money or in the future with sinking fund money.”

Landscaper Nate Bosch said he has three guiding principles when it comes to designing the new schools, which are “enhancing learning experience, prioritizing student safety and designing sustainably."

One point of interest for the crowd was the use of natural and LED lighting, an important provision for children with autism — given that fluorescent lights are prone to humming and flickering, Bosch said. There will also be breakout rooms between each pair of classrooms and calming spaces in each building for children who may need them.

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