On February 12th, Principal Jared Groehler shared the following message with families on the status of construction for the New Bishop Elementary School building.
Dear Bishop Families,
The construction of our new Bishop Elementary School is right on track! We have planned some exciting, pandemic safe opportunities to say farewell to our current school and we are discussing engagement opportunities during the construction of our new school.
You will be receiving regular construction updates once we begin that phase of the project. For now, I want to provide you a background on the design process and decisions that have evolved from various groups of individuals. Those groups are the design team (these are our architects of LHB, Inc. and CRW Architecture), the design committee (these are volunteers of community members, parents, District staff, myself, and students), Rochester Public Schools (RPS) School Board, RPS user groups (these are small groups of individuals with expertise in the content area like curriculum, student nutrition services, facilities, and so on), the City of Rochester’s various departments, and the community through public engagement opportunities.
All four of RPS’s new schools (being constructed as a result of the successful passage of a building referendum in November 2019) followed the same design process that allowed the design committee, user groups, staff, and community members to provide input that helped guide the design of the new schools and the sites.
Our process began with goal-setting exercises between the design team and the design committee, user groups, and School Board. Our architectural design team evaluated and discussed the goals of the District and community, and the provided multiple building and site concepts for additional feedback from the community, including Bishop staff and parents.
The global health pandemic gave us the opportunity to adjust our feedback process to one that was virtual, or online. We were pleased with our engagement and participation levels with our online meetings, and believe that families and others that may not have attended a feedback session in-person were able to take advantage of online opportunities.
Design concepts were presented to the different groups with specific opportunities for the Bishop staff and families in June 2020, and further design presentations occurred in August and October during the School Board’s business meetings. If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to check out the recaps from those meetings on the project website where you will find videos, key points, and presentations used in the meetings.
The input we collected during these meetings, combined with the initial goals, and balanced with City requirements defined the design of the new Bishop Elementary School.
The new Bishop Elementary will be near twice the size of the current Bishop building and will be two-stories. With a bigger school, there come some physical advantages like lots of natural light, brand new classrooms, and separate cafeteria and gymnasium spaces. Also, because the school will be bigger, this means there will be additional parking spaces, parent drop-off areas, bussing needs, plus changes in the fire department access, stormwater management, and buffer yard requirements.
I have had a chance to speak with some of our parents and neighbors regarding the building and site changes. There have been some concerns regarding the physical space and I am going to address those concerns here.
First, our architectural design team, the design committee, and district representatives studied different site and building options to find a balanced solution to address both space and site needs, while working within the constraints of the size of the site. The layout of the new Bishop school was driven by the following goals:
- Maximize daylight in classrooms,
- Maximize the level green space on the site,
- Connect the green space with the playgrounds and the bus loop. The bus loop also serves as hard surface recreation space during the day,
- Have the main entry and parking and bus lot face South to reduce ice and other cold issues during the winter months,
- Connect the parent drop-off area and the bus drop-off area directly and safely to the playgrounds and outdoor green space for safety concerns, and
- Maintain a portion of the sledding hill.
We feel our design team delivered the best design possible given the goals for the District, goals of the site, and restrictions within the square footage of the property.
If You Want to Read More
Due to topography and the residential properties on the North and South sides of the school property, the Rochester Fire Department required an access road in order to allow a fire truck to reach all sides of the building and to turn around once on the site. Due to this requirement, the loading dock was positioned on the east side of the building to separate it from the outdoor student recreation areas and to utilize the fire department access road.
PARKING AND BUSSING
On-site parking, parent drop-off, on-site vehicle circulation, and bus drop-off areas were other critical factors that had to be considered and incorporated as the design was established. Neighborhood concerns regarding drop-off traffic and street parking were brought forward as issues that needed to be resolved with the new design. Current city zoning requires one off-street parking stall per one employee on-site. Based on the expected numbers of staff working at the new school, there is a minimum requirement of 116parking stalls on-site compared to the existing 75 stalls currently on the site. Along with the increased requirement for on-site parking, there was also a city requirement to maximize the number of vehicles stacking on-site for parent drop-off in order to avoid vehicles stacking onto the street. The City also requires that the bus drop-off area is incorporated on-site.
As part of the design and City of Rochester approval process, a Traffic Impact Study was required to evaluate current and future traffic conditions once the new school is constructed. The traffic study indicated that stop signs and stop lights are not warranted at either the parking lot driveway or the bus lot driveway and discussions are continuing with the City about the intersection with the bus lot driveway.
Stormwater control is another important factor that has to be designed into current projects and also typically requires additional space on the site. Based on budgets, we currently have a system that utilizes both an underground filtration system and an area on the site that helps collect stormwater. We are studying making adjustments to have the entire system underground, which will help maximize the useable green space on-site.
The District and design team has made considerable accommodations to retain the SE corner portion of the sledding hill and add additional green space. Unfortunately, with the previously mentioned building and city codes, along with limitations of the site’s footprint, the District will only retain a portion of the sledding hill.
Again, we are very excited about the changes that are in store for Bishop and our community. I look forward to sharing details of the farewell to Bishop come as they come together.
Thank you for your partnership in education,
Principal Jared Groehler