Eagle Valley Middle School Principal Lee Conley never thought he’d get a greenhouse for one of his campuses, a long-awaited dream as an educator. But come August, he’ll be more excited to see what his students will do in their new classrooms when they’re fully built and open. “Twelve, 13 years ago, we were able to get some kind of an increase in student achievement, and to be honest that achievement hasn’t been able to stay where I wanted,” Conley said in a presentation Thursday. “This (addition) is going to be a big factor to turn the tide and do something different.” Eagle Valley’s new building, with its STEM labs and facilities accommodating the school’s Career and Technical Education and music programs, is about 75% complete and is expected to open in August.
Conley, in a tour with the district’s Bond Oversight Committee last week, a group of district staff members and local partners that meets quarterly to discuss ongoing capital needs, potential upgrades and funding, demonstrated he is eager to make it the best-looking school with one of the best-told stories in Carson City. “This is going to allow Eagle Valley to change what we’re doing instructionally,” Conley said. The addition’s beginnings are as unique as its contemporary look. It’s built on a fault line that runs north and south of the entire distance of the structure. As the Carson City School District worked with local architects Brad Van Woert and Angela Bigotti, they would run across their own challenges to accommodate certain parameters before settling on the final site for the addition. They came up with two sites originally, then flipped the building around during the design stages and eventually couldn’t match the original materials of the existing building, Bigotti said. They were always mindful of codes, requirements and residents’ privacy, she said. The final result ultimately will be a two-story, 24,000-square-foot building that offers awe-inspiring views south of the campus that most students never have seen to the property that makes Eagle Valley a valley. “You build something new and people aren’t used to it being there, and they like things the way they are and nobody likes change, especially when something’s kind of going to be in their backyard,” Bigotti said. “And so we’ve tried to be respectful of that as far as where windows were. Hopefully, you don’t want to be looking down at neighbors.” CORE’s workers now are installing solar panels, finishing drywall and painting on the first floor and completing glasswork on the exterior. Other projects, such as the amphitheater, are still in process and depend on when materials become available, Ronnie Treglia, project superintendent of CORE Construction said. But progress continues on to bring in features for roller shade systems, honeycomb panels, common areas and security systems. “It’s a hell of a time to be trying to get materials,” he said. “We were waiting a month and a half for what? Solar lights?” Eagle Valley’s work has been of considerable significance at the middle school level with elementary principals looking forward to easing some of the burdens at the two current sites in Carson City. The ultimate goal of Eagle Valley’s growth is to help absorb some of the overcrowding from Carson Middle School. Conley explains Eagle Valley will be able to take on about 850 to 900 students when the project is done, making the CMS site more manageable. But a great advantage to the enlarged campus, once it’s complete, is its curriculum options, which finally are taking shape physically in the walls and piping. When the classrooms and STEM labs are set, Conley said he would be able to team teachers and improve academic achievement, reinforcing what children are learning daily in classrooms. Lessons will intersect from math to science and from social studies to English incorporating skills, themes and vocabulary students will be exposed to on a constant basis rather than one-time lessons they learned in previous classes months ago. “I think that’s what we’re missing in education,” Conley told the committee. “We’re missing the, ‘Why are we doing this and how does it connect to your future?’ I think that’s becoming stronger now.”
Ronnie Treglia, project superintendent for CORE Construction, center, explains the interactive, inquiry-based aspects of the building include showing students how construction and pipelines work. The pipes eventually will be labeled and provide STEM activities for students to learn about design, planning and engineering about their own school buildings. (Photo: Jessica Garcia/Nevada Appeal)
In several classes this year, Conley told the Appeal, students already have engaged in sustainability projects and assignments, and he credited English/Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) teacher Teneya Cramer and science teachers Lauren Cimino and Kimberly Tucker’s STEM classes for learning about passive cooling and heating. Direction of operations Mark Korinek has served as a guest speaker in classes, and CORE has taken students on tours to explain the heating, cooling and water systems as well as why certain design elements were used in the build. Bigotti said the school’s science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) program in the project’s design has made it a “vibrant core” in its concept. The two rooms are stacked on one another in the building, and the social aspects for the students in their learning spaces were made a priority. “They really wanted to make sure they created an environment that was conducive to excellence and learning,” she said. She also spoke highly of working with Conley and his staff as well as the district as a whole. “Carson City School District trusts the people they hire and they’re very careful through the qualifications process, and they trust the process,” Bigotti said. “They trust the professionals, the design team, the engineers, the contractors. They’re very clear with their limits, and so I’d say they’re very clear with their budgetary requirements, their clarity and willingness to support creativity and professionalism. They’re really wonderful to work with.” Bigotti said the existing building maintains a “certain character,” but the add-on would be a chance to create something new with contemporary materials and aesthetics. It would have been difficult to try to match the site precisely as it was anyway, she noted in her presentation. “Thank God,” Conley joked. “It just unfolds,” Bigotti said. “It ended up happening we would capitalize on this space in between the old and the new.” For Conley, who says his frequent routine of speaking with students, staff, parents and community members about the ongoing work means many ongoing questions and answers about the work, the ultimate impact is not lost on him. “I've found that my daily life is like a Seinfeld episode, but not nearly as funny (but enjoyable)!” Conley told the Appeal on Friday. “I have many different conversations with kids, parents, staff members, district members, construction, etc., and they appear to be isolated conversations. But when I reflect on my week, it seems that all of these different conversations are somehow related, somehow affect and work with each other.”