Viola Gibson Elementary School
The Cedar Rapids Community School District was seeing increased elementary school enrollment on the city’s northeast side. To meet this growing demand, they decided to build a new elementary school, the district’s first new facility in more than 30 years. The new school needed to be state-of-the-art, reflecting the changes in education and technology, and it needed to be flexible to accommodate its continuing evolution. It also needed to provide a secure yet comfortable environment for educational purposes and be easily accessible to the many community groups who would use the facility.
The solution was to create a two-story building with four small, classroom “neighborhood” wings radiating from a central lobby. The two-story concept minimized the impact of the building footprint on the small, 12-acre site and also provides inherent energy efficiencies. The small classroom neighborhoods group similar age groups together creating a sense of identity and security for the students. The central lobby itself provides a powerful orientation and security point for all "zones" of the building. From this central location, administrators can directly supervise the main entrance and view activity in all directions. The central lobby also serves as the access point for community use of the gym, media center, cafeteria, and art room allowing the classroom wings to be locked off when the facility is used by the public. Creative exterior masonry detailing and color easily identifies the facility as an elementary school, and also pays homage to world-famous, local artist, Grant Wood. Using abuse resistant gypsum to construct non-load bearing partitions provides a durable, yet easily adaptable interior.
The collaboration between school and community provided a safe, state-of-the-art educational facility for the district and a focal point for the local community. The strategic site selection, in conjunction with the community’s walking trail development allows a large percentage of the 500 student population, and the public, to walk or bike to school and community functions. The smaller building footprint maximized the area available for playground and green space. This, coupled with the walking trails and the multiple basketball standards installed around the perimeter of the staff parking lot, provides the community with a very inviting neighborhood park for all ages.