The Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) has completed the first step—schematic design of spaces—in the development of the upcoming multi-school and park project on the former Agnews Development Property.
SCUSD is currently performing site demolition and clean-up for the upcoming project, an 81-acre lot located at 3500 Zanker Rd. in San Jose. The completed campus will consist of three schools: an elementary, a middle and a high school, as well as a separate community park. SCUSD and the City of San Jose jointly purchased the property in 2014. The City of San Jose paid $16 million for 21.6 acres and SCUSD paid $64 million for 59.4 acres, less mitigation costs.
The board envisions this project to be a school of the future, a model that the rest of California can follow. Research for designing the schools took into account details including “color, temperature, acoustics, so children can take advantage of the best environment for them,” said SCUSD Superintendent Dr. Stanley Rose III.
SCUSD hired San Jose-based architectural firm, LPA, Inc., which focuses on sustainable architecture, to design the project. “LPA has been doing a lot of outreach to the community,” said Andrew Ratermann, President of the SCUSD’s Board of Education. “We want the facilities to last at least 50 years and be a prototype for the rest of California.”
LPA’s architects have collaborated with district staff, the School Board, science teachers and art teachers and has held student workshops to get a picture of what the ideal educational environment would be, said Rosiella Ileto-Defensor, Project Manager of the Bond Department.
Other design goals of the project include energy efficiency and using materials with an environmental impact. As an example, polished concrete will be used instead of carpet. In addition to never requiring replacement, polished concrete is more sustainable and will not need to be stripped and waxed every year, said Michal Healy, SCUSD’s Director of Facility Development and Planning.
The designs of the Agnews schools do not stop at the physical aspects however. The School Board has also used the services of a neuroscientist, Dr. Melina Uncapher, to incorporate modern concepts of how children learn to design the spaces. Dr. Uncapher’s experience includes being associate professor at UCSF Department of Neurology and a research associate at Stanford University’s Department of Psychology. In education, her focus is designing, implementing, and assessing education innovations that are grounded in the science of learning.
“The entire education landscape is changing,“ Rose said. “Technology is different now. Teachers learn to teach different now,” choosing to facilitate their classes rather than lecture.
Ratermann emphasized cross-curriculum as a key focus for this new school system. “Spaces designed now are collaborative spaces,” designed to break up into groups to provide project-based learning that includes both STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) curriculum and the arts.
“A lot of classrooms are set up to break up into groups or collaborate,” said Ileto-Defensor.
In total, the schools have capacity for 3,200 students. To maximize its space, the project will use an urban school design with each school being multiple stories. The elementary school, with a capacity of 600 students, will be one to two stories high. The middle school, with a capacity for 1,000 students, will be two stories high, and the high school, with a capacity for 1,600 students, will be three stories high. To compare, both Santa Clara High School and Wilcox High School have capacity for 1,300 to 1,400 students each, though actual current enrollment is close to 2,000 in each school.
Each school on the Agnews property will feature a large interior quad and will be separated by physical and natural barriers, although there may be mentorship programs in the future to bring together students from each school.
With the schematics complete, the next phase, design development and construction, is projected to take an additional eight months, after which, it will go before the State Architect in Sacramento for approval. Construction is expected to start in 2019 for the elementary school. The elementary school and middle school have a target opening date of Fall 2020, and the high school is expected to open its doors in Fall of 2021. Priority enrollment will go to students in North San Jose and Santa Clara, but anyone within the school district may register, provided there is space available.